It really shouldn't be a surprise that Turkey is thinking about the future at the 2007 U20 European Championship Men competition.
After all, in just three years time, the country will be hosting the globe in the 2010 FIBA World Championship. And senior national team coach Bogdan Tanjevic is using the championship in Nova Gorica and Gorizia in an attempt to push what they feel may be the gems of the next generation in Turkey.
While the tournament is for players born in 1987 or later, U20 coach Nihat Izic has brought with him to Slovenia and Italy two players from the 1990 generation - 17-year-olds Melih Mahmutoglu, a guard, and forward Birkan Batuk.
|Oguz Savas' performances so far have left his coach unimpressed|
Mahmutoglu has grabbed just one rebound and missed his only shot attempt in 14 minutes of action over the first three games. But Batuk has averaged 6.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.7 steals and 19 minutes over the first three games.
"This is the end of our program, and all of our youth teams are working to produce one or more players for the senior national team. For this reason we took these 1990 guys to give them a chance to play against stronger competiion to maybe get them ready for 2010," Izic said.
"This is just the first step of their program. After this tournament, they will also play juniors (UMCOR U18 European Championship Men) in Madrid as well. With a double program, we hope they can be ready quicker for 2010."
Tanjevic was on hand Saturday in Nova Gorica to see how the U20 group is progressing.
The Turks have the luxury of bringing in Mahmutoglu and Batuk - perhaps more out of necessity - because a number of players in this age group not on hand in Slovenia and Italy.
Dogus Balbay and Baris Hersek (both 1988) are among the players who would qualify for the U20 tournament but are playing for Turkey at the U19 World Championship in Novi Sad, which runs from July 12-22. Also missing are top-notch players from the age group like Ersan Ilyasova, Cenk Akyol and center Emre Bayav.
"The U19 team has taken at least four or five players from this team. Plus guys like Akyol and Ilyasova are in the NBA. So there are five or six players missing. But that's life. We have this team and we have to fight with it," said Izic.
One of this generation's more promising talents at the U20 event is Oguz Savas. But Izic has not been pleased with the Fenerbahce center, who was named captain of the squad.
"I'm not happy with him. He's not really here yet. I'm trying to tell him that in some ways it's an advantage playing with a top team, playing with and against top players. But in other ways, it's a disadvantage. He's not playing a lot of basketball. And he has to adapt to the level of aggressiveness played here. He's crying like a girl," said the expressive coach.
After scoring 21 points and grabbing five rebounds but fouling out in 20 minutes against Lithuania, Savas was a non-factor in Turkey's Saturday loss against Greece with just two points on one-of-seven shooting and six rebounds in 24 minutes. On Sunday, he had 12 points and three rebounds.
Savas's main problem, according to Izic, is his failure to adapt from the Turkish league and European club action to the international game, adding: "He has to know that that competition is there and this one is different. He has to adapt to these conditions."
The coach also questioned the hunger of some of Turkey's more successful younger players - especially those who have signed big contracts - without naming any particular players.
"Some of the players I see are not hungry anymore. They signed big contracts and have all the money. You have to be hungry to fight for a victory - to show your character.
"So sometimes it's a disadvantage. Some think: I have the contract, Life is beautiful. Why do I have to fight with somebody?"
Turkey are here obviously to bring home a medal, regardless of who is on the roster. But Tanjevic, Izic and company are also looking ahead to 2010.