Sebnem Kimyacioglu is accustomed to big-time basketball, having played for the Stanford Cardinal in the United States.
Turkey are hoping to cash in on that experience when they host the EuroBasket Women, which gets underway on Friday in Bursa and Izmir.
The 1.82m tall Sebnem, who is 22 years old, will be in action for her country against Serbia & Montenegro on the opening night.
She took time out to answer questions from PA Sport on behalf of FIBA Europe.
FIBA Europe: What can you tell us about your time at Stanford?
Sebnem: My experience at Stanford was rewarding is many different ways. In terms of the academic environment, the quality of education and the atmosphere in which it is contained made it exciting and challenging to attend lectures. I was able to work one on one with world-renowned Nobel Peace Prize winning professors. It was surreal in many ways, but it also
showed me what sort of work is necessary to be at the top. This also permeated to the athletic environment. My coach, Tara Vanderveer, has experienced success at the highest level and she was able to convey to me my team-mates what is necessary to achieve this success individually and as a team. So being at Stanford was an educational experience from every aspect.
I am thankful for such an experience because it has prepared me for my future, where ever it may take me.
FIBA Europe: "How difficult is it to leave California to embark on a professional career in Turkey?
|Sebnem in action with the national team|
Sebnem: "It was a difficult in some ways because, yes, my life is based in California. My friends were celebrating their college graduations and planning their post-graduation vacations while I was on a plane to Turkey.
But at the same time, coming to Turkey is not such a drastic move for me. Most of my family members still reside here and I have come to vacation here every summer of my life. And let's not forget the amazing opportunity in front of me; I am representing my country and have the opportunity to be a part of something that is unprecedented for women's basketball in Turkey. There is no place I would rather be right now."
FIBA Europe: "What did you study at university and how did you spend your free time?"
Sebnem: "I majored in economics. It was an in-between major, meaning that it was demanding and consumed much of my time, but not to an extent where I was unable to balance school, basketball, and time for myself. In my free time I loved to eat out with my friends. We would usually end up at a Mexican or Thai restaurant and just enjoy the good food and company. Besides that, I love to go to movies, watch my weekly shows, and meet up with my sisters at Starbucks and catch up on our lives."
FIBA Europe: "Turkey have the luxury of playing in front of their own fans. How significant is this?"
Sebnem: "I believe it is going to be a considerable advantage for us. Turkish fans are amazing in terms of their support for us. I was able to experience a glimpse of this when were in the small French town of Amneville des Thermes for a few preparation games. I think every Turkish citizen in the area must have come out. They wore red and white and brought their Turkish flags. The outcome of the games were inconsequential; they were cheering their hearts out for us. If such excitement can be achieved with a small concentration of Turkish citizens, I am excited to see the support we receive from the people in Izmir, who have already proven their enormous support for their country during the World University Games. It should be fun."
FIBA Europe: "From your experience so far, how does the EuroBasket compare to the NCAA?"
Sebnem: "The competition is similar to the NCAA's, but more so the NCAA tournament. The teams competing in the European Championships are composed of the best players in their respective countries. Everybody is an all-star.
During the regular season in the NCAA, you come across teams with five great players or one great player. It's not certain. But by the time the NCAA tournament narrows down to 16 teams, that is when every person on each team plays a considerable role and cannot be overlooked. I feel that the level of competition is analogous to that - the `Sweet 16'.
FIBA Europe: "Who were some of the top players you faced while at Stanford?"
Sebnem: "I have played against some great players. A few off the top of my head would be Kelly Mazzante, Janelle McCarville, Nicole Powell, Nicole Ohlde... They are all great players that teams look to at crunch time and the players I have faced in Europe are of the same calibre."
FIBA Europe: "How far can Turkey go in the EuroBasket, but also in the future?"
Sebnem: "I believe the possibilities are endless for this team this year. As mentioned before, we have a home court advantage and also these tournaments are so unpredictable. It really comes down to who wants it more badly. And believe me, this team is hungry. For the future... I believe that a foundation has been set for the future. This year's team is showing that success can be achieved for women's basketball. It is no longer an unattainable goal for us to compete with the best of Europe. Coupled with the success that was achieved by the junior national team, I believe it shows that women's basketball in Turkey has a bright future."
FIBA Europe: "How much of a setback is it to lose a player to injury like forward Gulsah Akkaya?"
Sebnem: "I was able to practice with Gulsah for a very limited time. We only participated in a few preparation games together, but in that short time I was able to see her quality as a player. Her absence is a loss to our team and the contribution she would have had to the team if she were well is undeniable, but we have had considerable time to overcome this setback and are fully prepared for our games ahead."
FIBA Europe: "Who do you believe has the best chance to win the EuroBasket?"
Sebnem: "I believe the favourites are France or Russia, but it is so hard to tell in a tournament setting. Any team can win on any given day."
FIBA Europe: "What is the atmosphere like in the Turkish squad?"
Sebnem: "The friendships on this team are extremely close. The atmosphere created is one of an idyllic college team. Everyone is close and plays for the success of the team."
FIBA Europe: "Who are your favourite players in both women's and men's basketball?"
Sebnem: "My favourite players for women's and men's basketball are Tamika Catchings and Kevin Garnett, respectively. They are both players who dominate with ease and carry themselves in a very composed manner."
FIBA Europe: "How did you get your start in the game?"
Sebnem: "I started playing basketball in the school playground with the boys when I was in third grade. I loved sports and the girls in my school did not play sports. So I played whatever sports the boys did. We played soccer, baseball, American football, dodgeball, handball, and basketball. Basketball turned out to be my favourite and my father signed me up for a league the next year."
FIBA Europe: "Sebnem, if you were not a basketball player, what would career would you be in?"
Sebnem: "If I were not a basketball player, I think I would continue school right away and get my Masters in business and administration (MBA). After that, I would have pursued a career in the business world. I still consider getting my MBA in the future.
FIBA Europe: "One more question about Stanford. Looking back, what is your best memory of your time there?"
Sebnem: "My best memory of Stanford would have to be the amazing friendships I have found with truly extraordinary people both on and off the court."