Asik On The Rise For Turkey

15 March 2010

If there was a revelation in Turkey's national team at last summer's EuroBasket in Poland, it had to be Ömer Asik.

A 2.14m center, the 23-year-old Asik not only started in his first Final Round with his national team but also averaged 12.8 points and 6.3 boards per contest - second only to Ersan Ilyasova.

And he was a man for the big occasion, too.

9. Semih Erden (Turkey)
Semih Erden is another promising big man for Turkey.
Going up against Poland's Marcin Gortat in the Preliminary Round, Asik poured in 22 points, brought down eight rebounds and swatted a shot.

Despite Spain's Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, being fully aware of the problems he would pose in the very next game in the Quarter-Final Qualifying Round, Asik was virtually unstoppable early on and finished with 13 points and four rebounds as Turkey followed up the win over the Poles by upsetting the world champions.

No one was more impressed than his captain, Hedo Turkoglu.

"It was really great," Turkoglu said to FIBA Europe.

"He wanted to take the challenge against good players like Pau Gasol, who's been in the NBA for many years, and Marc Gasol, who's been in the NBA.

"I think it was a chance for him to play against good players to see how well he can do against those guys.

"I was happy for him."

Asik isn't the only promising big man in the Turkey national team set-up.

An equally slender Semih Erden, who stands 2.11m in height, and Ogus Savaz, who is a more beefy 2.08m, also log big minutes for Turkey.

But Asik, the 36th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft by Portland who possesses a wingspan of 2.24m, may be the one with the most potential.

Turkoglu, who played in the NBA Finals last year with Orlando and now competes for Toronto, believes that one day Asik will join him in the NBA.

"Asik is so athletic strong," Turkoglu said.

"He's still young as a basketball player. He started a little late playing basketball. I think he started when he was like 15 or 16. But he's a hard worker and tries to get better every time.

"He just listens, and watches DVDs, (game) films.

"He's the kind of guy that looks like he's hungry."

The Chicago Bulls now own Asik's draft rights, but Fenerbahce Ulker will not be in a rush to see him leave anytime soon.

His play does indicate, though, that one day, he'll cross the Atlantic.

"What I like about him is that he's setting the goals for himself," Turkoglu said.

"He wants to play in the NBA himself. He's close to reaching his goal. Hopefully he'll come there and will become one of us, too."

Bogdan Tanjevic is Asik's coach both with Turkey and Fenerbahce and he marvels at Asik's ability and determination.

"Asik is somebody that is the biggest improvement in Turkish basketball in probably the last 20 years," Tanjevic said.

"He learns so quick and shows a great mentality and toughness. He's probably the toughest player in the team."

Asik will, no doubt, be a key player this summer for Tanjevic when he leads Turkey at the FIBA World Championship.

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