By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
After an enormous performance that propelled Turkey to the 2022 EuroBasket. 18-year-old center Alperen Sengun was still thinking of things to correct in his game while looking ahead to the next fight.
“I did my best. As an individual I think I shot badly from the free-throw line,” Sengun said after Turkey’s 88 – 80 win over Sweden. “I gave the fight I could. I want to fight the same in the game against Croatia. I want to be useful to the team.”
“Useful” is a really modest word to describe Sengun’s role and impact in the do-or-die game against Sweden. Despite the burden of a must-win situation that can weigh even heavier for player of his age, or his lack of experience from truly high-pressured battles, Turkey’s teenage rising star produced a double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds (both game-highs) as his squad prevailed over the Swedish side. He and Shane Larkin were the only players of the Turkish team to play more than 30 minutes.
Sengun himself underlined his struggles (7-14) from the charity stripe but it was a pair of free throws by his hands with eight seconds to play that helped Turkey ultimately get the tie-breaking eight-point margin. Anything less than that would just prolong the drama for the “12 Giant Men” who officially punched their EuroBasket ticket thanks to the Netherlands’ win over already-qualified Croatia.
In some ways, Sengun’s top game with the senior squad of the Turkish national team was simply another testament of the leadership that he’s been amply demonstrating during his breakthrough season on a club level with Besiktas. So far in 2020-2021, he’s almost averaging a double-double in the Turkish BSL by posting league’s second-highest 19.0 points and 9.7 rebounds in just 28:07 minutes over 21 games.
After putting his stamp on Turkey’s qualification to the EuroBasket, Sengun’s next mission and opportunity to further display that he may be the man of the future for his national team will come in June and the Olympic Qualifiers. It will be a much more difficult task compared to the EuroBasket Qualifiers, but Sengun has already made a strong case of how he thrives on and feeds off a challenge.