BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Hedo Türkoglu has linked his name with Turkey's two silver medals in the 21st century |
A talismanic figure of Turkish and European basketball, Hedo (Hidayet) Türkoglu, announced on Monday his decision to retire from international duty, thus terminating an almost two-decade long career with the national team.
Türkoglu, who just turned 35 on 19 March and was once nicknamed the 'Turkish Michael Jordan', has participated in eight EuroBasket tournaments, a record among active players.
"I would like to announce my retirement from the Turkish Team, of which I have been a member since 1998, in order to make way for young players as my fans would understand," Turkoglu said in a statement, as reported by news agency Anadolu.
"I will always be proud to have been a Turkish basketball international and of representing my country," the Los Angeles Clippers player added.
Turkoglu's decision was made public only 48 hours after Turkey had announced that Ergin Ataman was to succeed long-serving Bogdan Tanjevic as the head coach of the national team.
"He has made a team (Galatasaray) into champions in the last two years, we are supporting him and I hope the national team will improve under him," Turkoglu said of the new coach in charge of Turkey.
The charismatic all-round forward first suited up for Turkey at the 1995 European Championship for Cadets and four years late he assumed immediately a protagonistic role on the senior national team upon his first appearance at the big stage, averaging 12.4 points and 3.4 rebounds at EuroBasket 1999.
The first big moment in Turkoglu's international career however came two years later, when in tandem with sharp-shooting guard Ibrahim Kutluay, he led Turkey to the final of EuroBasket 2001 on home soil.
The hosts lost 78-69 to the all-mighty Yugoslavia of the time, but this silver medal constituted a success of biblical proportions, as Turkey were stepping on the podium in a major basketball tournament for the first time in history.
|Türkoglu (right), together with Kerem Gönlüm and Ender Arslan during Turkey's dissapointing campaign at EuroBasket 2013, the Turkish legend's last tourtnament with the national team |
Turkoglu was also paramount in the second big success of Turkish basketball in the 21st century, which came about in 2010, also at home.
Turkey defeated Serbia in a memorable semi-final at the World Championship and claimed silver after falling 81-64 to the USA in the final.
Turkoglu's dedication to the national team never prevented him from setting the bar high on club level for future generations and taking over from Kutluay as basketball's de facto household name in Turkey.
The Istanbul-born guard forward became the first Turkish-born player in NBA history after being selected with the 16th overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2000 NBA draft.
The excellent rookie season of the Turkish legend (he was named to the 2000/01 All-Rookie Second Team) facilitated the arrival to the NBA of other Turkish players such as his friend and fellow former international Mehmet Okur, while younger players such as Omer Asik, Ersan Ilyasova and Enes Kanter followed suit later.
Turkoglu earned the NBA's Most Improved Player Award in 2007/08 as he finished the regular season on a career-best 19.5 points per game and then averaged 16.8 points per contest the following season to help the Orlando Magic win the Eastern Conference title and play in the Finals.