Our former New Zealand basketball player Mark Dickel, who wore Fenerbahçe jersey in 2002-03 and 2003-04, told Erdi Tiran from the Salon Tribünü crew about his performance in our club, his years in Turkey and his regrets.
• Mr. Dickel, first of all, I would like to thank you on behalf of the Salon Tribünü crew for accepting our request for an interview and for taking the time to spend with us.You were born in New Zealand on December 21, 1976, can you tell us how you started playing basketball and your childhood and youth years?
My father was the coach of our New Zealand National team. I grew up around the game and fell in love with it very early. I was small until I was 15 and then I grew a whole lot. It was then that I started believing I could be a good player. Two years later at 17 years old I was in our national team.
• You became a star in the New Zealand national basketball team, which came in fourth at the 2002 FIBA World Basketball Championship, can you tell us about this success and your personal performance?
As a team, it was a great experience. To finish top four at that tournament speaks for itself. Personally I was very disappointed in how I played in the semi final against Yugoslavia. I felt if I had played better we would have won that game.
• You were transferred to Fenerbahçe in the 2002-03 season. With 14,8 points, 4 rebounds and 5,7 point pass averages, you had a great share in the team’s quarter-final play-off finish by finishing the league in sixth place. Is it possible for you to tell us about your performance?
I had a great first experience win Turkey. Forging relationships with players and coaches that I still cherish today. I still talk with İlker Belgutay (Conditioner of Fenerbahce Men’s Basketball Team) often. I was just really young and it was my first year in Europe. So I did not really understand the history of Fenerbahce yet. This came later. Basketball wise it was fun and we had a great group of guys and a good coach (Murat Özgül).
• In the same season, on May 7, 2003, in the play-off game against Galatasaray for 45 minutes, he passed 16 points, 13 rebounds, 11 points, and you became the first basketball player in Turkey to have a triple-double, can you tell us about this game?
I remember we lost the game and I strained my quadriceps muscle in my leg badly at the start of the second half. I was angry the whole second half at playing the whole season to make the playoffs versus our rival to only get hurt.
• In the 2003-04 season, our team managed to stay in the last four in the Southern Conference and won the third place in the EuroCup Challenge. Can you explain this process to us?
The second year at Fenerbahçe was very frustrating for me as I rolled my ankle badly when I returned and was never quite the same the whole season. I could never catch my rhythm. We also had a lot of new players who did not fit as well together that season.
• Could you tell us the importance of Galatasaray, Efes Pilsen and Beşiktaş matches for the team and the fans?
We knew that in these games everyone would be watching and paying special attention to what happened in the game. My focus was pretty good for every game but in these games I would prepare better because I knew the importance to our fans and the management.
• Could you share with us the Abdi İpekçi Sports Hall and the atmosphere created by the Fenerbahçe stands at that time?
Playing at the Abdi İpekçi against Galatasaray was a different energy than the other games. You could feel the spirit of the clubs when they played each other. And if was always special to beat them.
• After leaving Fenerbahçe, you played in Erdemirspor and Selçuk University, what would you like to tell about the period you played in these teams?
Erdemir was a great basketball season for me. I was healthy and motivated. Playing with a good coach and great guys on the team. I am actually coaching Tremel Derdens son now in Las Vegas.
Selçuk University was a frustrating year being injured a lot of the season. Konya was interesting city. It really made me miss İstanbul.
• What was it like to play against Fenerbahce when they were opponents?
I never enjoyed playing Fenerbahçe teams after I left. They were always well coached and had great players. So the games were going to be hard. If I had known that Fenerbahçe was going to turn into the huge club they are now I would never have left.
• As you know, Fenerbahçe has made a great leap forward in the last fifteen years, bringing the EuroLeague trophy to our museum and has become one of the giants of Europe. How do you see the progress, status and overall performance of our team this season?
They are a top four club in Europe now. Year after year. They have high level players all the way through their roster. When I was at Fenerbahçe we were just fighting to make the play-offs each year. Now they are fighting to win EuroLeague championships. It’s a whole different organization. This year is no different. They are struggling right now in EuroLeague but they have lost close games to excellent teams. I expect them to turn it around and make it out of their group.
• We love you Mark Dickel. Finally, what is your message to us Fenerbahçe fans?
I loved playing for Fenerbahçe. And I really enjoyed my time in Turkey. If I had known what Fenerbahçe was going to be just a couple of short years after I left I never would have gone. I still follow the team and get happy whenever they beat Galatasaray at anything.