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News » Rebounding strong Ilyasova makes most of his second chance

Rebounding strong Ilyasova makes most of his second chance

Rebounding strong  Ilyasova makes most of his second chance By CHARLES F. GARDNER

Ersan Ilyasova is only a second-year player in the National Basketball Association.

But if it seems the 6-foot-10 forward has been around longer than that, he has.

It's just that Ilyasova was plying his trade with FC Regal Barcelona in Spain for the past two seasons, preparing himself for the day he would return.

Now, he's back with the Milwaukee Bucks and making a true impact as a starting power forward. Ilyasova posted a double-double with 20 points and a career-best 16 rebounds in the Bucks' 100-98 loss to Orlando on Saturday night at the Bradley Center.

And he nearly was the hero of the game but missed an open three-point shot that would have given the Bucks a one-point lead in the final minute.

"Ers played well again," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said of Ilyasova's effort, which helped make up for the absence of injured center Andrew Bogut.

"We did a nice job of spreading the floor, and we found him a few times. He's able to make shots. Other than Bogues, he's been our most consistent rebounder."

The Bucks will need more of that as they try to halt a four-game losing streak when they meet the Chicago Bulls on Monday night. It will be the end of a quick two-game home stand before the Bucks leave again for games in Washington and Detroit this week.

Against Orlando, Ilyasova recorded his fourth double-double of the season and his third in the last five games. He was 8 of 18 from the field, including 2 of 5 from three-point range, and he grabbed seven offensive rebounds.

"We didn't bring the win, but we played hard and aggressive," Ilyasova said. "It's part of my game; I try to get second opportunities for my teammates and try to get to the offensive glass as hard as I can."

Ilyasova was selected by the Bucks in the second round of the 2005 draft, and his only previous NBA experience came during the 2006-'07 season, when he played in 66 games at the age of 19.

The Turkish player has benefited from his time in Barcelona as well as his work with his country's national team.

"Obviously, he has spent a lot of time working on his skills," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "That's one thing they have a lot more time for over there (in Europe); they don't play as many games.

"His skill level has gone up a great deal, plus he's matured physically, which is a big thing for young guys. He's stronger now and has a chance to compete more in this league.

"Before he always played hard. He just didn't have the physical maturity at that point to play in the league as effectively as he's playing now."

Skiles also pointed out that Ilyasova is developing a comfort level after battling some of the top big men in the league early in the season, including Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Orlando's Dwight Howard.

Ilyasova actually ranks fifth in rebounding among NBA players classified as sophomores. He has averaged 7.5 rebounds, putting him ahead of Indiana's Roy Hibbert, Golden State's Anthony Randolph and Miami's Michael Beasley.

The top sophomore rebounder is Memphis center Marc Gasol at 10.8 per game, followed by Sacramento's Jason Thompson (9.3), New Jersey's Brook Lopez (8.9) and Portland's Greg Oden (8.2).

Ilyasova is averaging 15.2 rebounds per 40 minutes, second among sophs only to Oden's 15.9 mark.

His 20-point performance was only two shy of his career high established against the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 17, 2007, but his rebound total topped the mark of 13 he established earlier this season against the New York Knicks.

The Bucks have struggled to rebound the ball in the absence of Bogut and injured small forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, so Ilyasova's efforts in that area have been vital.

"He plays with great energy, runs the court, attacks the glass, shoots the three," Van Gundy said. "Sometimes you forget that guys are able to make improvement after they come into the league. You tend to go with first impression on guys.

"He's not even the same guy that was here before. He's a tough guy who plays real hard."

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

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