|Semih Erden: "I love my team and I love my country, so when I play for my country it makes me happy." |
By Dimitris Kontos
'One must be utterly modern', Arthur Rimbaud wrote in 1873 and more than a century later, Semih Erden could perhaps be the embodiment of what the French poet had in mind.
Regardless of his capacity as a top athlete, the Turkish international is the very definition of a successful and confident 26-year-old European male, right here, right now.
In terms of personality alone, from the way he dresses, to the way he talks, or thinks and lives in the moment, the 2.11m center is utterly modern.
When it comes to basketball, one of the consequences of this trait is that the past does not weigh on his shoulders; Every day, every game, every competition starts with a completely clean slate.
Erden will play in his fourth EuroBasket next September, having already represented Turkey in 2005, 2007 and 2009.
He has been on, or watched as a youngster, successive Turkey teams that started out as tournament favourites and failed to meet expectations.
Yet when asked by FIBAEurope.com whether Turkey can finally, this time around, challenge for EuroBasket gold, he reacts with surprise.
"Why not?" he asks back.
"It's my hope, that's my expectation.
"It's too early right now to say something for sure, but I hope that's what it will be for us, you know, the gold medal.
"Of course we are going to see this in the summer, but it's more than possible."
Erden is having a very hectic season with Anadolu Efes in both the Turkish BEKO Ligi and the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, where his team stands at 5-1 in Top 16 Group A and is looking good for a place in the play-offs.
None the less, he reacts again with disbelief at the suggestion fans could be worried he might choose to rest in the summer rather than boarding the plane to Slovenia.
"Of course I choose the EuroBasket," he says with conviction.
"I love my team and I love my country, so when I play for my country it makes me happy, and if I can help them it's good for both me and for my country."
Turkey were drawn in EuroBasket 2013 Group D, along with Russia, Italy, Greece, Finland and Sweden.
It is universally considered to be one of the most difficult First Round groups, but Erden is as calm and confident as ever about Turkey's chances.
"This is how this championship is, I mean every game is going to be tough.
"But it doesn't matter to us, because we are going to be better, we will play better and try to win every game."
|Erden was Turkey's top scorer and top rebounder during last summer's EuroBasket Qualification Round|
By better, the center means that he expects Turkey to improve further on their performances in last summer's Qualification Round, where Turkey finished second in Group F, behind Italy, despite missing several of their biggest stars.
"We just tried to play well, we were a very young team but we had an experienced coach (Bogdan Tanjevic) and staff, and we just tried to play the best we could in every game," he explains.
Erden was in fantastic form for Turkey in the summer, leading the team in scoring (14.9 ppg), rebounds (6.8 rpg) and blocks (1.5 per game).
"I think we have good quality young players and for the EuroBasket our good NBA players will also be together with us [they will join the team].
"So I hope we will play even better and play in the final."
One very important pending issue for Turkey is whether Tanjevic will continue at the helm of the Turkish national team or, as rumoured, Italian coach Ettore Messina will be handed the reins.
As the quintessential modern man, Erden is used to set trends, rather than follow them, but on this subject he is perfectly aware of what his position as a player should be.
"It's not my decision, it's the president's and the federation's decision, we will just have to wait and see," he said.
"My opinion [on Messina] is that he is a good coach, a great coach.
"We will see, I hope a great coach will be with us."