On the heels of a gold medal at last year’s U18 European Championship Men, Turkey has its eyes on the podium.
On July 8 Turkey’s U20 Men’s National Team begins its quest for the podium at the U20 European Championship Men in Crete, Greece. The team boasts a talented core of players, several of whom won gold at the U18 European Championship Men last summer in Latvia.
Turkey opens the competition in Group C, with games against Croatia, Czech Republic, Montenegro, and Italy. The top three teams from the group will advance to the second round.
“I think we have a team that, when it plays defense and when it fights hard, doesn’t give up points easily,” Men’s National Team Administrative Manager Barbaros Akkaş said. “We have a very experienced roster.”
The U20 comes out of a strong training camp that, despite the absence of some key players due to injury, included an encouraging 3rd place finish at the 19th annual Turgut Atakol Tournament in Istanbul. Turkey earned a thrilling 75–73 victory over France in the consolation game after falling to Bulgaria in the semi-finals.
“When I evaluate the games [at the Turgut Atakol Tournament], I think the team is just starting to come together,” Akkaş said.
Among the players to watch in Crete are Cedi Osman, Tayfun Erülkü, and Metecan Birsen.
Osman, a 2.04m forward who plays for Anadolu Efes, is a natural athlete with great length and defensive instincts. He possesses the ability to deliver game-changing performances.
In the second quarter against Montenegro at the Turgut Atakol Tournament on June 27 he forced three turnovers on three consecutive possessions, sparking a 16–4 run for the Turkish side.
"For me, the most important thing isn’t my numbers, but the team winning a championship,” Osman told FIBA.com earlier this year. “Numbers may not always accurately reflect a player’s worth. . . . What’s critical is being devoted to the game and what you give your team."
Erülkü, a 1.92m point guard, was a force to be reckoned with at the Turgut Atakol Tournament. He posted 30 points and 7 assists against Montenegro on June 27 and two days later scored 24 critical points in the win over France.
Birsen was one of four European players selected to participate in the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Oregon in April. A 2.05m forward, he plays for Fenerbahçe Ülker and boasts a broad skill set for a player his size. At the U18 European Championship Men last summer he led the entire tournament in 3-point shooting, hitting 56 percent of his attempts from behind the line.
Emircan Koşut and Kerem Kanter sat out the Turgut Atakol Tournamnet with injuries, but Akkaş indicated that they will both be ready to play come July 8. Fenerbahçe Ülker guard Kenan Sipahi, who was MVP of last years U18 European Championship Men, will be unavailable as he continues to recover from an injury.
Turkey’s quest for the podium kicks off at 13:45 on Tuesday against Croatia.