Who said it wasn’t cool to be in school? Apparently not Enes Kanter who has decided to leave the friendly confines of Turkey and come to the rule laden land of America. Kanter has decided to pave his own trail by going to high school at Findlay Prep outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Kanter could have continued playing professional basketball in Turkey, but now American rules will make him wait until a year after he has graduated high school to enter the NBA Draft. So in an age when Americans are doing everything they can to wriggle free of the NCAA’s chokehold, Kanter is willingly doing just the opposite. What’s the upside in this? Let us discuss…
At 17 years old Kanter has already dominated his peers in Europe. Earlier this month he was named MVP of the Under-18 European Championships for a Turkish team that finished third. He put up devastating numbers throughout the tournament averaging 18.6 points and 16.4 rebounds including a 32 points and 24 rebound performance in the semi-finals and a 35 points and 19 rebound performance in the bronze medal game. If that isn’t remarkable enough Kanter played two Euroleague games this past year for Fenerbahce Ulker at the age of 16.
With players like Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Tyler skipping college for the capital gains and professional play in Europe, Kanter’s move is very interesting. With reports that he had multi-million dollar contract offers from team in Europe Kanter decided that an American education and exposure was more important.
“I came here because it’s a bigger arena,” Kanter told Scout.com after aworkout earlier this week. “I think I accomplished all I could in Europe. I didn’t want to turn pro at 17. I wanted to come here and experience the NCAA and I believe I can play in the NBA.”
Maybe Enes watched too much of the movie “Animal House“ and really wanted to try out the American college party scene. Another reason could be that he wanted to hangout with fellow Turk Dogus Balbay. Balbay has taken a similar path that Kanter is now on. He went to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire for a year to refine his game before going to play at the University of Texas. Yes, you heard right: New Hampshire basketball. And yes I did see Balbay play in high school multiple times, and it was clear that he was at another level than most of the players on the court. He ran the point for Brewster (one of the best private high school teams in the US) where he was always a pass, dribble, or cut ahead of the opposition. He saw the game a little differently than anyone else on the court because of the high level experience he got in Turkey before leaving for the states.
So why would Kanter and Balbay–who could be making money as we speak–leave Turkey for America’s rigid amateur structure? Because they double their exposure. While most European prospects arrive in the NBA as virtual unknowns to the casual fan, Kanter and Balbay will be familiar names to American fans and scouts alike–not to mention the additional comfort they’ll have playing the American brand of basketball. And though their playing styles are night and day–Balbay is a high energy point guard who thrives in a more fast paced offense, whereas Kanter is a thick power forward with a smooth face-up game–the circumstances of their arrival seem eerily similar: They’re just two Turks on American hardwood who have turned their backs on immediate money for an education, a little publicity, and the hopes of future gains a few years down the road.