Nihat Izic

Basketball is flourishing in Turkey at the moment with the country working its way up to a world powerhouse at the youth level – winning medals on the global and European stages.

This summer has already seen Turkey take third place behind the United States and Croatia at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship. Turkey claimed the same podium spot at the 2015 FIBA Europe U20 Championship. They have good chances of capturing their third straight title at the FIBA Europe U18 Championship – something that hasn’t been done since the Soviet Union won four straight from 1978 to 1984. And Turkey have two elite prospects leading the team at the FIBA Europe U16 Championship in August.

Even with all of that success, Turkish basketball leaders are expecting the Beykoz Elite Basketball Center to take the country to an even higher level.

“This is the next step in Turkish basketball,” Nihat Izic, the Turkish Basketball Federation (TBF) Youth National Teams Technical Coordinator, told heinnews.

“It’s going to help a lot to develop the new great stars in Turkish basketball.”

But all that is on hold because of a group of pesky residents.

Turkish youth basketball coaches and staff were supposed to be spending their second year with the elite of the elite in Turkish prospects in 2015. The Beykoz Elite Basketball Center was supposed to open by the end of 2013, according to “Strategic plan 2012-2016: Project Powerhouse” – Turkish basketball’s extensive groundwork concept for the future.

But the whole Beykoz Center project is on ice because there remain some people living on the property allocated for the project.

“If you look at the federation side, we have done everything needed to finish by 2013. But unfortunately there are things we couldn’t count on – some court stuff and people still living on that land. So we cannot get the land,” said Izic.

With the money approved and the government packing the plan, the TBF youth boss remains optimistic that things will work themselves out.

“When we get the land I’m sure we can finish all the contracts in eight months. This is very, very important and the government is trying to help us to solve this problem. And I believe that in the end of this year we will solve the problem.”

Izic hopes Beykoz will be open in time for the TBF to start the next part of its long-term vision.

The TBF’s stated goal in “Project Powerhouse” is as follows: “Our vision is to become the number one basketball nation in the world and the best sports federation in terms of international sports success, grassroots development, event hosting and governance.”

Project Powerhouse

And Beykoz plays a central role in that vision. Planned is a complex with three courts, including one main court. There will also be two hotels – one for the senior national team and one hotel for the young teams.

Izic said the current plan is to have about 40 players starting from 13 or 14 years old and put them all through the program for four years – after which 40 more players will enter the program. The youngsters will practice in the morning and evening and then go to school in between.

“They will stay until 18 and then we give them to the clubs. (The players) must be ready to start in the first division. The clubs will then take them and finish them along with the national teams to make them real stars,” said Izic.

If this sounds a lot like the INSEP program, it should since the French institution was the model the TBF was following when they planned the Beykoz project.

Izic said it’s still unclear in which league the team will play.

“Maybe with 18 they would be good enough to play in the second league in turkey and then also play in international competitions and European Championships. We will work on getting them better. When you have the players morning and evening in your hands you can work with them. We will try to teach them how to play basketball and force the talented players to play – not to sit.”

Izic believes that recent rule changes in the Turkish Basketball League had a negative effect on the Turkish team at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship.

“The federation and I don’t like the Turkish clubs bringing rules into Turkish basketball league that six foreign players can play in the league. There is not much room for these (younger) guys to reach the level that we want to bring them,” Izic said.

“We will for sure have a problem in the senior national team. It’s not so easy to be a big star without playing and taking responsibility in the clubs and in Europe.”

Many of Turkey’s top players at the recent FIBA U19 World Championship came into the tournament with very little game experience, having sat on the bench for much of the season – including all the way to the end of the season.

Three leading Turkish players – Okben Ulubay and Furkan Korkmaz from Anadolu Efes Istanbul and Pinar Karsiyaka’s Egeman Güven – were still with their respective clubs until six days before the U19 Worlds were to start.

“For first time, we couldn’t really make preparation for these guys. They are sitting on the bench and not playing. And we cannot take them and prepare them for this competition (the U19 World Championship),” Izic said on the day of the U19 Worlds quarter-finals.

“Until now I am not so satisfied. This is not how we can play. This is the first time without a long preparation, without playing together, without preparing everything that we have to prepare.”

Izic compared the U19 team to a summer league.

“We are like a summer league. We collect the players and then go play the game. I don’t believe in such a kind of program,” Izic said about bringing the players together for the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship.

Turkey did end up winning their first ever medal at the U19 Worlds in Heraklion – in their first appearance in the tournament since 2007. And there is a major chance for more glory again in Greece when Turkey go for the U18 European Championship three-peat.

Izic said getting the third straight title is not the main goal for the team in Volos.

“I always think that if you work hard and do something valuable in the end you will be rewarded,” he said.

“If that happens, it would be excellent. But it’s not our first goal. The first goal is to prepare all of these players for the senior national team and to become world champion.”

Perhaps the biggest step to lead Turkey to their goal is on hold – because of a few steadfast residents.

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