|14 August 2013|
|Winning MVP at U18 European Championship Men may only be the beginning of summer for Sipahi, not the end |
When Kenan Sipahi led Turkey to the top of the podium at the U18 European Championship on 28 July and earned tournament MVP honours, he probably thought he was living the highlight of his summer.
Only a few days later though, the 18-year-old tall point guard is about to experience a potentially bigger euphoria, as he received a call from Bogdan Tanjevic to join the senior Turkish national team in training camp for EuroBasket 2013.
Tanjevic was aware of the outstanding performances of the 1.97m playmaker in the tournament in Latvia, but the call-up has arrived sooner in the career of Sipahi than anyone anticipated because of an unforeseen setback.
Veteran point guard Ender Arslan, who had been with the national team since the beginning of preparations and featured in all of Turkey's early warm-up games, is nursing an Achilles heel injury which only seems to get worse with time.
Arslan only stayed on the court for three minutes in Turkey's last friendly game, against Ukraine on Sunday in the Belgrade Trophy.
Upon the return of the Turkish team to Istanbul on Monday, national team manager Harun Erdenay was not optimistic about the 30-year-old playmaker's condition.
"Ender Arslan's heel has a severe problem and he is submitted to ongoing treatment, but the pain keeps bothering him.
"Other players are battling with minor injuries but Ender's condition is more serious.
"He is a very important player to us and I hope he joins us soon again completely healthy.
"The results of friendlies concern us much less than the health of our players," Erdenay added.
For the time being, Sipahi will replace Arslan on the Turkish roster in the two back-to-back warm-up games against the Czech Republic at home, on 16 and 17 August.
If Arslan's rehabilitation however does not conclude in time to allow him to board the plane to Slovenia, Sipahi has strong chances of staying on the team and making his EuroBasket debut already in September.
The 34-year-old Kerem Tunçeri, who was Turkey's starting point guard in recent big tournaments, has retired from international duty and will not take part at the EuroBasket, which leaves Dogus Balbay as the main option for Tanjevic at the '1' spot at the moment.
Turkey were drawn in First Round Group D at EuroBasket 2013, together with Sweden, Italy, Greece, Russia and Finland.