A conversation with Samer Şenbayrak, Youth Development Director at TBF

Oct 03, 2013
The mission of the 12 Giant Men Basketball Academies is to build the necessary infrastructure for Turkish basketball.

One of the unheralded success stories of TBF in the last decade has been the strengthening of youth basketball development, and few people have played as important of a role in this process as Samer Şenbayrak, TBF’s Youth Development Director. Born in Istanbul, Şenbayrak’s professional basketball career spanned 12 years in Turkey’s top professional league with teams such as Efes Pilsen, Karşıyaka, Galatasaray, Beşiktaş and Kayseri Meysu. He also suited up for the Turkish national team 67 times. He has been with TBF since 2002.

1)            What is the mission of the 12 Giant Men Basketball Academies and where did this idea originate?

The mission of the 12 Giant Men Basketball Academies is to build the necessary infrastructure for Turkish basketball. The mission is also to develop alternative basketball hubs in Anatolia—outside of the major cities—as an additional resource. By building a strong foundation, in the years ahead we can develop world-class players and coaches. In line with these objectives we have brought basketball schools to all four corners of Turkey, and we have introduced a love of basketball to our kids. Finally, we want children to adopt the philosophy of sport, so that above all else they know what it takes to be a good person.

As for the concept, at the 2001 European Basketball Championships, which were hosted in Turkey, our Men’s National Team finished second and the 12 Giant Men became a national brand. Our Federation’s president, Turgay Demirel, wanted us to work on how we could harness the strength of the 12 Giant Men to spread basketball all across Turkey. The 12 Giant Men Basketball Academies project came from recognizing that there were regions where basketball was little known and rarely played, and that’s where the schools were needed most.

2)            How do you run the camps? Who are the coaches and what values do you try to communicate to the kids?


The camps consist of about 200–250 athletes from the host region who are selected to participate based on talent, academic success and good social skills. Additionally, as many as thirty local coaches are joined by four guest experts from America who prepare the training program. The camps last a total of six days. With morning and evening sessions the players get about seven hours of instruction per day. The camps generally take place on university campuses, and the university dorms meet our lodging needs. The practices take place in gyms and on outdoor courts, and there are classroom sessions as well.


What we’re trying to do is instil in children a love of sport, developing the habits that basketball and sport can teach. We want the young athletes to develop a sense of individual responsibility, an ambition for success, passion, leadership and self-confidence. We hope the players embrace concepts like helping one-another and solidarity.


3)            What impact has the 12 Giant Men Basketball Academies had on youth basketball and young people in Turkey?


In every season—camps are conducted in the summer and winter—about 2,000 kids in the 7–12 age group receive basketball education through the 12 Giant Men Basketball Academies project. The yearly average is 4,000. All the newest developments and practices in the world of basketball, all the opportunities that are available to players in major cities, are brought to Anatolia through this project. It’s worth emphasizing that the number of people introduced to basketball and the number of people aware of basketball has increased every day.


From 2002 until today about 50,000 children have participated in total. One of the most important things has been to reach children all across Turkey regardless of their socio-economic status. For the 2013–2014 winter season schools have been planned for 72 provincial capitals or sub-districts, together with sessions in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.


4)    Is there an international dimension to the camps, or do you just focus on Turkey?

The camps are generally organized in Turkey. Every summer two camps are organized, and we prefer to do one in Turkey’s East and one in Turkey’s West. Sometimes we are able to welcome participants from abroad—for example, in 2012 players and coaches from Dubai and Afghanistan participated—and every year we invite athletes from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Also, the Children of the World basketball camp was organized around the 2010 World Championship in Turkey, and 250 athletes and 125 coaches from 106 different countries participated.


5)        Do you have a favorite moment or a favorite story from your work at the camps?


Every camp has a different story. At every camp we attend we have the opportunity to work with different athletes and different coaches. These are also new experiences for us. Our athletes who come from different cultures and different geographies bring with them the same goals and levels of discipline. Sharing our experiences with them makes for an unforgettable experience. Of course we don’t expect every athlete at our camps to be a top-notch basketball player. Professional players will definitely come out of these camps, but the real objective is for the player to carry this special experience and the philosophy of basketball with them for the rest of their lives.


Also in the October Newsletter:

Message from the President

3X3 Final Comes to Istanbul

EuroBasket U18 All-Star Game

The Road to 2014