Turkish basketball hit a turning point in 2001 at the EuroBasket tournament. After defeating Croatia and Germany in the playoffs, Turkey faced Yugoslavia in the European finals and finished their campaign in silver medals. Last year, in their qualification run for the Eurobasket tournament, Turkey’s roster had almost all of their players under the age of 20. With only some veterans to guide them, the young generation of players stepped up to take responsibility for their country’s basketball welfare. Turkey’s National Team, nicknamed the ‘12 Giant Men’ (12 Dev Adam), has entered the global stage of basketball. ‘12 Giant Men’ transformed into a project that united and developed Turkey’s love for basketball.

In 2002, the Turkish Basketball Federation (TBF) sowed the seeds for Turkey’s future generation of basketball-lovers. Teaming up with Garanti Bank, Turgay Demirel, TBF President, commenced the ‘12 Giant Men Basketball School System’ (12 DABO), which has reached 75 city/town centers in mainland Turkey and in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This expansive youth development initiative wants to spread the passion for basketball to the curious children nationwide. The goal of the TBF with these schools is to create a conscious basketball family in Turkey. Even though the schools work on the skills and technique of youth players, the TBF prioritizes the lessons of teamwork, communication, and cross-cultural understanding. With schools around Anatolia, 12 DABO gives girls in Eastern Turkey, the opportunity to reconstruct gender norms and enjoy the sport they love. Students attend social events to expand their views on diversity and multiculturalism. Unlike most other youth system, 12 DABO realizes that basketball is a tool to teach children awareness about cultural difference. Local coaches operate the schools in both summer and winter. The TBF understands the importance of strong mentors in a child’s life and ensures the professional training of these local coaches. Moreover, the success of the 12 DABO is outstanding, with over 45,000 participants in ten years and 4,000 children joining each year. Samer senbayrak, director of 12 DABO, declared, “12 DABO is like the ‘Ford Model T’ of youth basketball schools. We value feedback from players and families. While we teach the basketball skills, we want to teach kids life lessons. Given this task, we know that we have the responsibility to help these kids. The success of the project comes from non-stop working of 12 DABO professionals in summer and winter.” 12 DABO gives all kids an equal chance to join the camp; there is no discrimination based on height, technique, or personal background. Former TBF youth players have graduated to become BBL (men’s league), TKBL (women’s league), NBA, and Turkish National Team players. Notable 12 DABO male alumni include Ugur Dokuyan (Tofas), Anil Türen (Turk Telekom), Burak Can Yildizli (Pertevniyal Istanbul), Ramazan Özkan (Syracuse Academy of Science Charter School), and Enes Kanter (Utah Jazz). Notable female alumni include Doga Comba (Samsun) and Aygün Ayyildiz (Tekkeköy Belediye). President Demirel stated, “This project is very important for me and it has served as one of our goals since the TBF’s origin. We have worked with Garanti Bank since 2002 to spread basketball to Turkey. Already, we have begun to see the fruits of their labor. Several national federations have used this project as an example for their own youth schools.”