How an 18-year-old stepped up to lead Turkey to the EuroBasket with the performance of a veteran.
Following a huge performance that propelled Turkey into the EuroBasket of 2022. While looking ahead to the next fight, 18-year-old center Alperen Sengun was still thinking of things to correct in his game.
“Useful” is a really modest word to describe the role and effect of Sengun in the do-or-die game against Sweden. Despite the burden of a must-win situation that can weigh even heavier for players of his age, or his lack of experience in truly high-pressure battles, as his squad prevailed over the Swedish side, Turkey’s teenage rising star produced a double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds (both game-highs). He and Shane Larkin were the Turkish team’s only players to play for more than 30 minutes.
Sengun himself emphasized his battles (7-14) from the charity strip, but with eight seconds to play, it was a couple of free throws by his hands that ultimately helped Turkey get the tie-breaking eight-point margin. Anything less than that would just prolong the drama for the “12 Giant Men” who, thanks to the Netherlands’ win over already qualified Croatia, officially punched their EuroBasket ticket.
Sengun’s top game with the senior squad of the Turkish national team in some ways was just another testament to the leadership he demonstrated extensively during his breakthrough season with Besiktas at club level. He’s almost averaged a double-double in the Turkish BSL so far in 2020-2021, posting the second-highest 19.0 points and 9.7 rebounds in just 28:07 minutes over 21 matches in the league.
Sengun’s next mission and opportunity to further demonstrate that he may be the man of the future for his national team will come in June and the Olympic Qualifiers, after putting his stamp on Turkey’s EuroBasket qualification. Compared to the EuroBasket Qualifiers, it will be a much harder task, but Sengun has already made a strong case of how he thrives on and feeds off a challenge.