When Tofas Bursa tip off their Turkish season in less than two weeks one of the most-watched players will be point guard Kenan Sipahi.
“He’s a leader. He only needs to work on his body. He’s too skinny. Once he gets some muscles he will be a great player,” said Tofas coach Nihat Izic.
Izic, who also serves as the Turkish national team’s youth coordinator knows Sipahi well. He has worked with the now 16-year-old for the past five years.
“He’s really a great talent. He has a great head and he understands basketball. He enjoys the game and I hope that he will go the right way and not the wrong way,” added Izic.
Sipahi – a tall point guard at already 1.95m – is supremely talented but also knows that. And that something which can quickly be viewed as cockiness by opponents and lead to disputes, such as the one at the end of the game between Turkey and Serbia at this summer’s U18 European Championship, in which Sipahi got into a shouting match with the Serb players and a ball was throw as well.
Sipahi had turned just 16 years shortly at the event in Wroclaw, Poland, where he guided Turkey to the bronze medal in averaging 9.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game.
Izic gladly recalls the story how Sipahi – a native of the capital of Kosovo, Pristina – came to him.
“He came to Turkey at 11 years. He sat on the bus and came to Bursa and said I want to be a basketball player, will you take me,” said Izic.
The coach started Sipahi with the club’s youth teams and then brought him to the cadet side when he was looking at the 1993 generation players – Sipahi however was born in 1995. And Sipahi played three years with Tofas’s cadets.
Izic last season called him up to the top flight club and played up to 10 minutes a game but then was sent back to the youth team.
“All the people and managers around were trying to attack him and he started to fly in the head a little bit. So I said this is not how you will be a player,” recalled the coach.
Izic said a Barcelona scout came to see Sipahi two or three years ago but that he convinced the player and his family that he should stay in Turkey and continue to develop.
“He was too young, too talented of a player. He should stay two or three years to become the player he can be. After that, he will be one more great player for Turkey and Europe,” said Izic.
When asked how good Sipahi can be, his coach said: “He can be excellent. He’s now 1.95m. He plays 1-3 positions. He has to save his head to be a good guy and good sportsman. And then after that not to fly too early.”
Izic told heinnews that he expects Sipahi to be a big part of his first division Tofas team this season.
“I’m sure that I will give him at least 10-15 minutes to play for sure,” concluded Izic.