Ömer Asik can be big for Turkey, Chicago Bulls

Bogdan Tanjevic doesn’t mince his words when the subject of Ömer Asik comes up. The veteran coach works with Asik at Fenerbahce, and with Turkey’s national team.

“Asik is somebody that is the biggest improvement in Turkish basketball in probably the last 20 years,” Tanjevic said to FIBA.com. “He learns so quickly and shows a great mentality and toughness. He’s probably the toughest player in the team.”

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That assessment is certainly something for Turkish basketball fans to get excited about ahead of the 2010 FIBA World Championship.

Asik played for Turkey’s senior team for the first time last summer in Poland. A 2.14m center, the 23-year-old started and averaged 12.8 points and 6.3 boards per contest – numbers that were second on the team only to Ersan Ilyasova.

There weren’t many players better than him for the first five games of the tournament, when Turkey went undefeated with victories over Lithuania, Bulgaria, Poland, Spain and Serbia.

Most of the attention on Turkey before EuroBasket 2009 had been reserved for Hedo Turkoglu and Ilyasova, and for good reason.

The two players were coming off big seasons with their respective teams.

Turkoglu had reached the NBA Finals with the Orlando Magic, while Ilyasova had helped Barcelona capture the ACB title.

But Asik made everyone sit up and take notice in Poland, including Turkoglu.

“Asik is so athletically strong,” Turkoglu said. “He’s still young as a basketball player. He started a little late playing basketball. I think he started when he was like 15 or 16. But he’s a hard worker and tries to get better every time. He just listens, and watches DVDs, (game) films.”

“He’s the kind of guy that looks like he’s hungry.”

A Very Bright Future
Asik will have the perfect stage to show what he’s made of this summer when he competes at the FIBA World Championship.

Turkey host the tournament and play their Preliminary Round games against Greece, Russia, Ivory Coast, China and Puerto Rico in Ankara.

If, as expected, they advance to the next stage of the competition in Istanbul, Asik could will help Tanjevic’s side go up against other powerhouse sides.

They could end up facing a Team USA side loaded with NBA players.

Why is that significant?

Asik was the 36th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft by Portland.

A good FIBA World Championship should take Asik, who has a wingspan of 2.24m, closer to his dream of playing in the NBA.

“What I like about him is that he’s setting goals for himself,” Turkoglu said. “He wants to play in the NBA himself. He’s close to reaching his goal.”

The Chicago Bulls now own Asik’s draft rights.

The club appreciates young, European talent, as demonstrated by their approach to give Great Britain’s Luol Deng and France’s Joakim Noah plenty of playing time.

Turkey has already given the NBA three outstanding players in recent times with Turkoglu, who is now with Toronto, Utah’s Mehmet Okur and Milwaukee’s Ilyasova.

“Hopefully he’ll come there and will become one of us, too,” Turkoglu said.

Read the original article at FIBA.com.

1 Comment

  • Lakers will this final! Game 1 is in the pocket and Kobe has surely proven himself. Gooo Lakers!
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