Along with France, Turkey will be one of the favourites at the Under 18 European Championships this summer in Greece.
The two countries have built up a terrific rivalry in recent years.
Les Francais beat Turkey in the semi-final of the 2004 Under 16 European Championships in 2004 and the Turks returned the favour in the final of the U16 tournament one year later.
The two went head-to-head twice this month in the Albert Schweitzer Tournament in Mannheim, Germany, and France prevailed both times - including a convincing 78-56 triumph in the title game.
There is every chance they could meet again this July in Greece.
One of the most promising players in the Mannheim event was Turkish point guard Dogus Balbay, a 17-year-old playmaker with Fenerbahce.
|Dogus Balbay led Turkey to U16 gold in 2005 |
Balbay has been an integral part of the Turkish youth set-up since Spain 2004, and has even taken his first steps into the Fener senior team, playing in 26 games.
The native of Kadikoy, Istanbul played in two games for Fenerbahce during the 2005 FIBA Europe League campaign, though he didn't play this season in the EuroCup.
Balbay spoke to PA Sport at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament.
FIBA Europe: Dogus Balbay, Turkey have once again put in a very strong performance at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament, beating Croatia in the semi-finals after winning the tournament in 2004. How important is this tournament for you and your team?
Dogus Balbay: It's a very important tournament for us. We always want to focus on each game. We won every game besides against France. So this has been a very successful tournament.
FIBA Europe: What would it have meant to have beaten France in the final after losing to them in the qualification round two days earlier, especially given the rivalry between the teams?
Dogus Balbay: Two years we were champions here at this tournament. We wanted to win the championships here again. But it didn't work out.
FIBA Europe: What does it mean for you to play at this level and give such a strong performance against the rest of the world?
Dogus Balbay: It's very important for me. But I am also a Turkish team member. So we want to just continue winning.
FIBA Europe: In this tournament, Turkey played against teams like France, Croatia and Lithuania - all contenders for the U-18 European Championships title in Greece in July. How good a warm-up is this for the team?
Dogus Balbay: They're all good teams. But two years ago we were third place at the European Championships for U-16. So we want to improve on that and be first or second maybe. This is a warm-up for the tournament. And it will help us be at our best at the European Championships.
FIBA Europe: How do you see the Turkish team compared to the rest of the world?
Dogus Balbay: I can say that the Turkish team is one of the best three in the world. We also want to bring this to the senior level as well.
FIBA Europe: Speaking of the senior national team, how close are you to making that squad?
Dogus Balbay: I still have to work very hard to make that team. But of course my aim is to play for the national team one day. And I think I have a good chance.
FIBA Europe: What do you think you need to work on most to get there?
Dogus Balbay: I have to work on my shooting and also grow stronger.
FIBA Europe: At the club level, you've already earned playing time in 26 Turkish league games with Fenerbahce. Where do you see your development with the club?
Dogus Balbay: It's very good for me because I play against older players. So I work harder at practice with the senior team because they're better than me. I will keep progressing. And hopefully soon I can play even more.