by Dan Casey
|Metecan Birsen is doing a little bit of everything for Turkey, averaging 10.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game|
Turkey face Spain in Friday's Quarter-Final, and Turkish forward Metecan Birsen says that his team are ready for the challenge.
Turkey are 4-2 so far in this year's U16 European Championship Men, with narrow losses to two of the tournament's best teams, Croatia and France. Since winning the gold medal in 2005, Turkey have collected two 3rd-place finishes.
But to be in the medal hunt this year, Turkey will need to beat Spain in Friday's Quarter-Final in Pardubice. The Spanish team have looked impressive in the competition, and Turkey will be relying on big performances from their star players.
Metecan Birsen will be one of Turkey's most important players. He was part of last year's bronze medal winning team in Bar, Montenegro and has upped his performance in every sense.
A 2.03m-tall forward who does a lot of ball-handling also, he is quick to identify the colleagues who will help him. "I like Cedi (Osman), he plays with good style. And my friends on the team, Kartal (Özmizrak) and Ayberk (Güleryüz) - we go to the same school and I know they are very strong players."
Osman leads the team with 13.3 points per game, and Özmizrak has emerged as one of the top point-guards in the competition with 4.7 assists per game.
Turkey will be taking on the tournament's top defense. Turkey themselves are ranked 4th, allowing 65.3 points per game, but Spain are more than 10 points per game ahead of that mark (the Spanish defense has allowed 54.0 points per game so far). Birsen said that the coaches have been working hard on offense: "Our focus has been on sharing the ball more, and trusting each other. Personally, I'd like to improve my shooting, but I'm happy to contribute to the team with rebounds, assists, whatever is necessary for the team."
"We also want to improve our own defense, we want to be tougher," said Birsen. Thursday is a rest day for the teams in Hradec Kralove and Pardubice. "We will rest and we will practise, a quiet day preparing for the Quarter-Final on Friday." Birsen cheekily asked his coach if the team will be having dinner at McDonald's on Thursday, but in reality, they will settle for an afternoon walk: "We'll probably go for a coffee or something in small groups, nothing special. It's good to relax and be fresh for the important game on Friday."
Birsen is averaging 10.5 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game for the tournament, although he also leads the tournament in turnovers and he will want to work to improve this side of his game. Otherwise, he says that the tournament has been a useful experience, and an experience he hopes to repeat often in the future.
"It's a great experience for us, for me, for my future," said Birsen. "My ultimate goal is to play on the senior national team, and competitions like this help our education for that target."