|17-year-old Metecan Birsen will compete at an U18 European Championship for the first time, but that doesn't limit his expectations |
By David Hein
James Metecan Birsen is not afraid to set high goals and included in those expectations is helping Turkey win gold at the U18 European Championship and making the NBA within three years.
Turkey were drawn into Group C of the 2012 tournament in Lithuania and Latvia, with co-hosts Latvia, France and Bulgaria.
"I think we can pass that group. But we aren't just thinking about that. We are thinking about the quarter-finals and the semi-finals," said Birsen.
"We want to be champions."
When asked what Turkey need to do to achieve their goal, Birsen answered: "We just have to focus and work hard."
Turkey went through a good preparation for the U18 European Champioship, which runs from August 9-19, as they finished third at the 2012 Albert Schweitzer Tournament (AST).
The Turks lost to eventual champions Spain in the semis and then beat host nation Germany for third place.
"It was a great experience for this summer," Birsen said of the AST event.
"We learned that when we are behind we need to work hard on defense and that can lead us back into games. That we need to concentrate on defense and anything can happen."
The 17-year-old Birsen struggled a bit at the U18 Albert Schweitzer, especially with his shooting, hitting just 39 percent from the field in averaging a third-best 9.4 points to go along with a team-high 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists, but also 2.6 turnovers.
"This level (U18) is a lot tougher. It's hard, but I think I can be better. I wasn't that good at this tournament. I missed a lot of shots and turned the ball over. But I will be better in the summer," said Birsen, who played the past two summers at the U16 European Championship, winning bronze in 2010 and taking seventh last year.
|Birsen already has a bronze medal in his collection, from the 2010 U16 European Championship|
FIRST FENERBAHCE, THEN THE WORLD
Birsen's game was much better at the 2012 Nike International Junior Tournament as he was named MVP and helped bring Fenerbahce to the final at the Euroleague Final Four in Istanbul - though they lost to Lietuvos Rytas for the title.
Birsen averaged 21 points on 49 percent shooting, including 11 of 21 from long range, while also collecting 5.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.3 steals in four games.
At 2.03 meters, Birsen is tall like a small forward but can also handle and pass the ball like a point guard.
But he admits that he still wants to improve his shooting and work on penetrating more to the basket.
When asked about his personal goals, the Kadikoy native said he hopes to play for Fenerbahce's senior team next season.
"I want maybe 10 minutes in the league next year," he said.
"I hope to play in the summer with the senior team at training camp and work hard. If I play well there, I think the coach will give me a chance."
And the long-term goal?
"In three years, I want to be in the NBA."
One cannot say James Metecan Birsen doesn't set high goals.