BAMBERG (EuroBasket 2011) - Two years may not seem like a long time, but it's eternity for a young basketball player. Just ask Turkey's 19-year-old star power forward Enes Kanter.
"It's been really hard. I went to America to play in the NCAAs. But it was frustrating," Kanter said at the recent EuroBasket 2011 warm-up tournament in Bamberg, Germany.
Kanter had committed to play at the University of Kentucky for last season but was ruled ineligible for receiving excessive benefits as an amateur while playing for Turkish club Fenerbahce.
Kanter remained in Lexington, Kentucky and worked on his game individually, also because of his desire to be drafted in the NBA. And despite knowing Kanter had not played since high school in the U.S., the Utah Jazz drafted the 6-foot-11 rebounding machine with the third pick overall of the 2011 NBA Draft.
Now Kanter is back in a uniform and playing again - for his native Turkey.
"I didn't play any game in two years. I am not in game shape. I am trying to get in game shape," said Kanter.
Kanter last played for Turkey at the 2009 U18 European Championship, where he was a man among boys, being named MVP with 18.6 points, 16.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks as a 17-year-old.
"It's great," said Kanter about having the Turkish jersey back on again.
"Right now I'm playing with NBA players and they are really helping me a lot. And the EuroBasket will make me ready for the NBA."
The Turkish coaching staff meanwhile is trying to find out how to best utilize Kanter and his talents while working him back into game shape.
"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.
"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."
With NBA center Semih Erden not being able to play with an injury, Kanter will be called upon that much more in Lithuania, where Turkey will be challenged in Group A with Spain, Lithuania, Great Britain and Portugal.
"He has to play a big role in at least three or four games," added Turkey assistant coach Nihat Izic.
"We need him to help us in defense and rebounding. We don't expect miracles from him - just do his part in some important games and take some responsibility on his shoulders."
Kanter, himself, is just looking to play his part 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," said Kanter.
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