By David Hein
|Semih Erden returns for Turkey after sitting out with an injury in 2011 but finds a completely new tem around him|
If Turkey plan on playing next summer at EuroBasket 2013, they will have to get through the Qualification Round without their big guns as several of their top stars turned their backs on the national team, leaving a young group to get the job done.
Those looking for the likes of Hedo Turkoglu, Enes Kanter, Ersan Ilyasova, Ömer Asik, Ömer Onan, Kerem Tunceri and Oguz Savas on Turkey's current roster will not find them.
The only returnees from EuroBasket 2011 are Cenk Akyol, Ender Arslan, Sinan Güler, Emir Preldzic and Izzet Türkyilmaz.
EuroBasket 2011 left a bad taste in Turkey's mouth. After taking silver at the 2010 FIBA World Championship at home, the Turks beat eventual winners Spain before crashing to miss out on the Quarter-Finals and finishing 11th.
While veterans Semih Erden and Kerem Gönlum are also back on the Turkish team after missing EuroBasket 2011 injured, the torch is being passed to the next generation of Turks.
And one of the new leaders will likely be Furkan Aldemir. The Konak-born power forward, who just turned 21 on 9 August, averaged a double-double at each of the last two U20 European Championships.
"Everybody trusts us. We are a new team. We have to have a good morale if we want to make it to EuroBasket next summer," said Aldemir, who will be playing his second club season with Galatasaray.
When asked if he and the team feel any pressure to qualify, Aldemir said: "Actually no. In 2010 we beat everybody except the Americans and took second at the World Championship. This year it is a very different team. We have to show our game and play good. That's it really. We don't have the pressure."
|Furkan Aldemir is stepping out for the first time for Turkey's senior team, having impressed at youth level and for Galatasaray|
Aldemir's first senior team experience will come against Italy, Czech Republic, Belarus and Portugal in the Qualification Round Group F. The top two of the six groups advance to Slovenia 2013 as well as the best four third placed finishers.
"We know that we are a young team, but we know each other well because we have played together a lot in the youth ranks. We believe in each other. And all Turkish people believe that we can do this," said Aldemir.
The Turks face a big first game on Saturday, 18 August when they host Belarus in their Group F opener in Ankara. The next contest will be in Italy next Tuesday 21 August.
"Italy is a good team and our second game is against them. So Belarus will be an important game for us because we want to go to Italy with one win," said Aldemir.
But the big man and his teammates will want to forget this past weekend in Bamberg, Germany, where they lost 95-69 to Poland and then 98-82 against Finland in the SuperCup in the last two test games.
"This tournament was a bad experience for us. We have to forget these games," said Aldemir.
One help the more-experienced players could have given the youngsters would be to put losses behind them. But that's also part of becoming an international veteran - as the young Turks are now learning.