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Friday, August 7, 2009
Meet Enes Kanter


Ismail Senol is a Turkish play-by-play announcer for NTV SPOR and NBA TV Turkey, and he weighs in with a report on a young Turkish player whose name you ought to learn now.

Enes Kanter is an impressive prospect from a physical standpoint. He is a 6-10 low post player who was born in 1992, which makes him two years younger than any current NBA player. He may grow a couple of inches, but he doesn't need to in order to dominate. In the rebounding department, he already assumes every shot will be missed, and has a special sense where the ball will end up, and he has no trouble rebounding out of his area.

Last October, Kanter became the first player born in 1992 to play in the Euroleague. "I was on the roster because Semih [Erden] and Ömer [Asik] were injured" he remembers. "Sitting on the side, I was so nervous. I was joking with my teammates on the bench. Then Mirsad [Turkcan] got into foul problems. Coach [Bogdan Tanjevic] called my name. I was so excited. I felt like I was a roster-filler for that game, so I didn't expect to play any minutes. I didn't even tie my knee-pads until I sat down on the substitution chair."

Then the game stopped. Enes Kanter was in.

"In the first two minutes, I was freaking out. Then Mirsad and Damir [Mrsic, 38 year-old team captain] helped me a lot from the bench. After that I scored my first bucket and remembered that was the game I love to play. I felt great!"

The result wasn't that bad. Kanter's Fenerbahçe Ülker beat German powerhouse Alba Berlin 82-73, and Kanter got his first Euroleague action in front of his home crowd. He scored five points, along with three rebounds and a steal in a dream-like 10 minutes.

Kanter is a clever defender. He is good at positioning himself to guard drop steps and up-and-under moves in the paint. His foot speed is enough to hedge pick and rolls effectively and guard smaller players when forced to switch. Since Kanter is very strong, he can defend the post one-on-one. He is not afraid of contact, and he doesn't fall for fakes.

On offense, Kanter uses his body very well. He knows where to stand, and he excels scoring alongside a quick point guard. Kanter makes a guard's work easier. He is strong on his size-17 feet, and has a great feeling for the game. Even if the opponents double-team, he always keeps the ball safely up high. Because of his physical dominance, coaches play him close to the rim, yet, he has a nice, high arcing jumper from the foul line. Nevertheless in youth tournaments Kanter mostly overpowers his opponents. He's like Wilt Chamberlain playing against a high school JV team. He is the "Kanterlain" for his age.

He was MVP of the U18 European Championship, even as he played against prospects a year older than him. In the semi-final game, he posted 32 points, 25 rebounds and two blocks in 39 minutes against the tournament champion Serbia team. The bronze medal game was even better. In 36 minutes, Kanter scored 35 points on 16/22 shooting. He also grabbed 19 rebounds, stole three balls and blocked four shots against the Lithuanian team and big man prospect named Jonas Valanciunas. His overall tournament statistics were 18.6 points, 16.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.8 blocks.

"People try to make some comparisons about my game. I respect all the great players that people compare me to, but I don't want to be like someone else." Enes says. "This is Enes Kanter. I have my own name, I just want to be respected."

Talking to Enes, a person can feel that the kid knows himself very well. "I need to work on my left hand," says Kanter, who is the son of a professor, and seems to have inherited an analytical mind that belies his age. "I need to build on my face-up game, try to dribble more and get my shooting range up to the three point line."

Playing for Fenerbahçe Ülker's team this season, he'll share the frontcourt with all-time Euroleague rebound leader Mirsad Turkcan, Celtics' draftee Semih Erden, Bulls' draftee Omer Asik and undrafted center Oguz Savas. He is expected to be the fifth big man on the roster. Sharpshooter Gordan Giricek, guards Will Solomon and Lynn Greer are Kanter's other teammates. Training with that talent around him, and working under prospect-booster coach Bogdan Tanjevic will help Kanter's improvement.

Turkish prospect Enes Kanter will be 18 years old during the next year's World Championships which will be hosted by Turkey. If he continues to improve at this accelerated rate, he may earn a roster spot on the Turkish team led by Hidayet Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur. Having other experienced frontcourt prospects like Asik, Erden and Savas may hurt his chances. If he earns that spot, and scores over the likes of Pau Gasol or Dwight Howard, don't say I never told you about Enes Kanter.