Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova had high expectations coming into the 2012-13 NBA season after signing a four-year, $31.6 million deal before the start of the year. The 25-year-old got off to a rough start but is certainly playing at a higher level as of late.
Ilyasova is one of several Bucks players that have begun to perform better since head coach Scott Skiles mutually parted ways with the team. The reason for Ilyasova is due to confidence. When he was not hitting his shots or playing with an up tempo, Skiles decided to play him less.
The decision was a costly one for Ilyasova because even when he was in games he could not make shots that were usually all but guaranteed to go in. That all changed with Jim Boylan, who decided to give Ilyasova a pep talk when he became the interim head coach.
“I told Ersan we have a strong backcourt, but we need more than that,” Boylan said. “We need guys up front contributing. Larry Sanders is doing what he does well and Ersan needs to do what he does best and that’s making his perimeter shots, stretching the floor, being active on the glass and playing with a lot of heart and desire. Ersan can do all those things.”
It is rare for someone who is 6-foot-10 to consistently make three-pointers, but Ilyasova manages to do it every night. In fact, as of right now he has converted 43.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc this season, and that is a down number for him. Boylan wants him to keep taking these shots even if he misses because it will continue to build confidence, something that Ilyasova needs to be successful.
Since Boylan took over as the head coach of the Bucks, the team is 7-3 and several players have begun playing their best basketball of the season. In that 10-game span, Ilyasova is averaging 15.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor and an astonishing 51 percent from three-point range. The last four games are even more impressive in which he has averaged 25.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He has also made 55 percent of his field goals and 63.2 percent from beyond the arc in that four-game stretch.
It is remarkable that all it took was someone to show a little confidence for him to explode onto the scene once again. There is no question this is the high point of Ilyasova’s season thus far, and hopefully it only continues to get better from here. It could not come at a better time when Milwaukee needs to keep winning games to keep pace in the competitive Eastern Conference.