Enes Kanter did not play a competitive game for two years. And it has cost the 19-year-old Turkish power forward quite a bit in his development. Members of the Turkish coaching staff have even said the Utah Jazz draft pick is not ready to play in the NBA.

In April 2010, Kanter had committed to play at the University of Kentucky for this past collegiate season. But the NCAA ruled him ineligible for receiving excessive benefits as an amateur while playing for Turkish club Fenerbahce.

Kanter remained in Lexington, Kentucky to work on his game and despite having not played a game since high school in the U.S. the Jazz selected Kanter third overall in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Kanter now is back in Europe for the first time since 2009 competing for his native Turkey at the 2011 EuroBasket, where the 2010 world championship silver medalists are hoping to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

Turkey face Spain, Lithuania, Portugal, Great Britain and Poland in Group A in Lithuania.

Kanter, meanwhile, will not just try to help Turkey get to their first Olympics since 1952. The 6-foot-11 power forward is also desperately trying to get his game back to its previous level.

“It’s been really hard. I went to America to play in the NCAAs. But it was frustrating,” Kanter told heinnews at the recent EuroBasket 2011 warm-up tournament in Bamberg, Germany.

“I didn’t play any game in two years. I am not in game shape. I am trying to get in game shape.”

When on his game, Kanter is generally considered one of the world’s elite talents. At the 2009 U18 European Championship, Kanter was a man among boys as he was named MVP after averaging 18.6 points, 16.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks as just a 17-year-old.

And then at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit, Kanter collected 34 points and 13 rebounds for the international team, breaking the previous scoring record at the event held by Dirk Nowitzki of 33 points in 1998.

The Turkish coaching staff has done all it can to get Kanter back to that level while implementing him into the core of a team that won Worlds silver last summer.

“It’s not easy. He didn’t play two years. He was by himself for those two years. And it’s affected him a lot,” said Turkey coach Orhun Ene at the Bamberg tournament.

“He’s a very talented player. He has high potential. And I believe he will find his way. We are helping him. He will be in the big man rotation but he needs time.”

Turkey assistant coach Nihat Izic said Kanter now realizes the implications of his ordeal.

“Now he pays the price,” said Izic.

“It’s not very easy when you do not play for two years. And now he is crying. He understood that it would be much better if he had played all year. He would be a better player and we would have more chance to use him. But still he is a young guy, a clever guy.”

Izic said the Turks tried as much as possible to cut Kanter’s deficits during the build-up to EuroBasket.

“We are trying to close that two years in these last 15 days. At least maybe close the two years down to one year,” said Izic.

Kanter will likely be called on to play a big role in Lithuania as NBA center Semih Erden has been ruled out of the tournament injured.

Kanter, himself, does not know what role he will play in Lithuania.

“I just want to help my teammates however I can. I know that this team last year did a great job. And we just want to go to the Olympic Games,” he said.

Kanter also said the training camp and test games with and against NBA players will also be helping him advance his game.

“Right now I am playing with NBA players and they are really helping me. The EuroBasket will make me ready for the NBA,” said Kanter.

Izic meanwhile said his young star has loads of work still to do.

When asked if Kanter is ready for the NBA, Izic said: “How it looks now, no he’s not. I hope we will help him in this period and that he will improve and be better. But they have to do a big job in the NBA.”

Izic said Turkey have nothing against him going to college and the NBA but admitted perhaps it would have been better for him to stay in Europe.

“He could be twice as good as he is now. Playing in the Turkish league and the Euroleague, he would be at a much higher level than he is now. If you want to go to the NBA, go to the NBA. There’s no problem. But it’s too early. He has to go to the NBA as a player. Nobody is going to teach him to play basketball in the NBA. You have to be a star. And then you go there.”

It will be interesting to see how Kanter develops his game over the next three weeks in Lithuania to see if he can be that star already.

 

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