Iran coach Hakan Demir believes FIBA should ban use of naturalized players

2023-09-04T11:24:28+00:00 2023-09-11T15:53:20+00:00.

Antonis Stroggylakis

04/Sep/23 11:24

Hakan Demir, Iran’s Turkish coach, is completely against the use of naturalized players, believing it creates an unfair competition and hurts the development of domestic players

By Antonis Stroggylakis /

Jakarta, Indonesia – You can count Iran head coach Hakan Demir among those who are not fans of seeing national teams using naturalized players.

“I’m totally against it. It should be banned,” Demir said. “Everybody has to play with original passport players. or players who were born in the country at least. This is the way.”

Demir sees the use of naturalized players as something that negatively affects the development of young players. He also believes that it’s a rule that gives an unfair advantage to some national teams.

“It’s a decision that FIBA can take regarding national teams. Probably many coaches from many countries are complaining about the situation,” Demir said after the last practice for the Iranian national team in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. “For example, we have a game today against Lebanon and they have this player that we don’t have.”

Demir is referring to Lebanon’s naturalized big man Omari Rasulala Spellman, a former NBA big man who currently plays in South Korea.

“How can we say that this is a fair competition? I don’t believe this,” Demir added. “FIBA can take the decision that they don’t accept naturalized players anymore. That it’s finished.”

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There are some national teams that can’t afford to use a naturalized player since they are under pressure to succeed. Demir believes that it will take time and everyone must be patient to accept a potential change in the rules.

“If it’s equal and mutual between the countries, it can be applied,” Demir said. “Everybody will have some problems and everybody will fix their problems. For some guys, it will be about a point guard, for others about a big guy. But if there is such a problem, it will be a common problem. It’s not a common problem.”

“For example, Turkey can’t say that they aren’t using naturalized players anymore now. Even Spain won the EuroBasket with a naturalized player. Unfortunately, you are doing it if you want to stay at a high level. Only FIBA can take that decision.”

Demir has a lot of thoughts on the matter also because of something related to naturalized players in his native Turkey

Turkey’s options of naturalized players, American-born EuroLeague stars Shane Larkin of Anadolu Efes and Scottie Wilbekin of Fenerbahce Beko, both turned down the call to join the national team in the Olympic pre-qualifying tournament in Istanbul. Larkin made an announcement explaining why he didn’t play, citing health reasons.

The tournament ended with a win of Croatia over Turkey in the Final and the latter missed the opportunity to compete for a place in the Olympics. In the aftermath of this disappointing result, the Turkish Federation said that it had decided to take away the Turkish passports of both Wilbekin and Larkin.

“I can understand the disappointment of the Turkish Basketball Federation,” Demir said. “This tournament was very important for Turkish basketball. Until 2025, there are no international competitions for Turkey. Young players want to play at the international level but there’s no competition for them”.

“It’s a sad story for both sides, the players [Larkin and Wilbekin] and the Federation, “Demir mentioned. “One should’ve appeared and the result could’ve been different.”

Turkey had Houston Rockets‘ emerging star Alperen Sengun and Philadelphia 76ers wing Furkan Korkmaz on board in a tournament held in the country. But couldn’t manage to beat a Dario Saric-led Croatia in the final.

“Turkey failed to qualify because first of all, they lost one game against Croatia,” Demir said. “Until that time they went well in the tournament. In the World Cup elimination, we failed in the last second against Serbia two times and unfortunately, Turkey couldn’t advance to the World Cup.”

“But we already knew we needed a point guard. This is why we naturalized two players for the point guard position and these two players didn’t appear on their national team. This wasn’t expected actually. We have very good big guys like Turkey and also good perimeter guys. But when it comes to the point guard position we couldn’t present any good point guards last year.”

“This is the reason for this non-success. It’s a result of the lack of a point guard. If you don’t have a point guard, the others can’t show themselves always. Alperen carried the team in the last games but in the last game, we needed the brain of the point guard. That’s my observation.”

Demir analyzed further his position on naturalized players in when it comes to the Turkish national team and not only.

“Overall, I’m against it. Because that time I told you are hiding a country’s basketball deficits. For example, one country can’t produce a point guard. But if the countries are in the same condition you can work on it, talk about it and you can do something.”

“But right now it’s not just about Turkey. All countries have one. Last year Spain won a European championship because they naturalized a point guard. Now they don’t look to have the same sharpness because they don’t have that point guard.”

Demir admitted that one player can be the key to the vast improvement of a national team: “Of course, one player makes a big difference. For me, I’m totally against it. It should be banned. Everybody has to play with original passport players. or who was born in the country at least. This is the way. In Turkey of course we try to show something and then like other teams. And put two naturalized players and unfortunately couldn’t play.”