Turkey guard Kenan Sipahi is the only player born in 1995 at the U18 European Championship in Wroclaw, Poland – a tournament for players from the 1993 age group. heinnews’s David Hein talked to the Turkish playmaker and his U18 national team and club coach Erhan Toker about the young promising and quite confident prospect.
Two days after Turkey failed to capitalize on Germany basically wanting to give up the lead in the final five minutes, Sipahi stepped up big time against Serbia to beat the U18 champions in three of the last six years 82-75 but still finished second in Group B of the U18 European Championship.
Sipahi forced a turnover by Serbian star Vasilje Micic with three minutes left and his team down three points. Sipahi then assisted on Tayfun Erulku’s basket on Turkey’s ensuing possession. Sipahi then nailed two three-pointers to push his team ahead 76-71with 46 seconds – securing his team the victory.
“I trust him. Everyone wants him to be their son. I know him and I know what he can do,” said Turkey coach Erhan Toker, who is also his coach at Turkish club Tofas.
When asked what qualities Sipahi excels at, Toker answered: “He sees everything on the court. He can shoot. He can penetrate. He has maybe a little bit of a problem on defense, especially against quick players. But he knows all that and what he can’t do. He has a goal. He has a dream. He works every day.”
Toker still sees plenty of room for Sipahi to improve.
“He is maybe 40 percent of what he can be. He still has 60 percent. But he is still a great player with lots of quality. He’s a smart guy,” said Toker.
“He is the leader for this team.”
Sipahi, for his part, knows what he has to work on: “Shooting and fundamentals of dribbling. Defensively, I play very bad defense, I know that. I have to work on that.”
Sipahi said he has plenty of motivation at the U18s, especially since he is two year groups younger than most of the player.
“It’s not difficult for me. I can play under 16 but thanks to my coach he took me here. And I’m going to play better still,” said Sipahi.
When asked what it means to be younger than everyone else at the tournament – Sipahi is the only 1995-born player at the U18s – he said: “For me I want to beat them. They know that I am younger and they pressure me but I am not afraid. I want to beat them.”
Sipahi played last season with Turkish side Tofas and their development team. But the point guard also played in five games in the Turkish top division, averaging 0.8 points, 0.8 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 31 total minutes, including a 17-minute appearance against Fenerbahce on Christmas Day 2010.
He is at the moment without a contract for next season. When asked about his future he said: “I think I can play in the Euroleague. My team took me in the first division and said to improve myself in the first division. I thank them for that.”
And when asked he was going back to Tofas he said: “I don’t know about that. Playing in the first division is very important for me.”
Sipahi also said Tofas tried to extend their contract with him but that he wanted to wait until after this summer with the national team.