By Paul Nilsen
|2012 bronze medal winner Merve Aydin will be back for more on home soil|
There's a real buzz within Turkish women's basketball at present and the U20 European Championship Women hosts will be expected to continue the momentum, with Merve Aydin carrying a large chunk of home hopes in her hands.
A smart playmaker, Aydin caught the eye last summer when she played with many of her older team-mates at the U20 European Championship in Debrecen.
She produced some excellent cameo performances to help catapult her nation onto a youth podium for the very first time.
And, with a bronze medal safely tucked away, Aydin believes further success would taste that little bit sweeter on home soil.
"It would be awesome to get a silver or gold medal and register a historical success in our country" said the 1994-born guard.
"We are a team that have a chemistry and quality players. We have also all been playing together for a long time now.
"Many players from last year are still playing this year too.
"We had a big step up last year and this year, we want to use our home court advantage and be champion" insisted a determined Aydin.
It wasn't all smooth running last summer. Turkey were tipped for success at the U18 European Championship in Bucharest, but fell short of landing a place at the FIBA U19 World Championship.
But, Aydin was able to jump from the Romanian capital to Hungary to quickly put the disappointment to bed - even if it was challenging mentally.
"After the disappointment at the U18 tournament, it wasn't easy to start to a new tournament with new goals" recalled Aydin.
"But we all supported each other, including our coaches and we attained a big success due to the big heart we showed."
Aydin headed into effectively her first full club season with Mersin and was central to a superb season as they edged out EuroCup Women finalists Kayseri Kaski spor and EuroLeague Women participants Tarsus Belediye for third spot.
She is able to reflect with great satisfaction on the accomplishment, acknowledging the vital support she had in trying to develop her blossoming game.
She said, "Each time I get onto the court , I try to see my weak sides and work on them.
"But at the same time, I see that working with the right coach and living as an athlete is just as important.
"During this first year, my coach and my team-mates helped me a lot for me to get better, so I would like to thank them."
Her performances have also led to her being called up into the senior camp for the first time recently, along with fellow bronze medal winners Olcay Cakir and Ozge Kavurmacioglu.
|Olcay Cakir in another young prospect who was invited to train with the senior team|
The trio are all likely to be involved in Samsun and are considered vital to the long-term success of the senior team.
"We have been playing together for five years and since day one when we first started to play, we had the goal for the medal and we made it last year.
"In the future, we all want to play on the senior national team and win a medal at EuroBasket Women, the Olympics and World Championships."
Being involved in the EuroBasket Women 2013 preparation camp has whetted her appetite for future call-ups and she's just trying to merely soak up a priceless experience.
Additionally, whilst making the final roster looks a long-shot this time, simply hearing the news she had been invited gave her a great confidence boost.
"I was so happy and excited when I first hear about it" smiled Aydin.
"As an athlete, we set goals. One of mine is to eventually be a point-guard on the senior national team and now I want to get all the experience I can get so I can become one of the important players in the Turkish League and for the national team.
"When my family heard they were so happy and proud - especially my mum who was so excited and happy.
"It made me remember the time she was late for my first ever practice with a pair of basketball shoes which I was worried were never going to arrive."
Women's basketball fans should be thankful her mum did finally make it to practice that day - otherwise we may not have been able to enjoy the court smarts and mature displays already posted by one of Turkey's brightest young talents.