by Semih Tuna / firstname.lastname@example.org
Leaving Maccabi Tel Aviv in the summer of 2022 to join Dimitris Itoudis’ Fenerbahce, Scottie Wilbekin is now ready to begin his second straight season in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague with the yellow-and-blue powerhouse.
After averaging 11.1 points and 2.6 assists per game with the Turkish team in last year’s EuroLeague, he was supposed to join Turkey’s training camp for the upcoming 2023 FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament in the summer. However, things got complicated during the summer, and both Scottie Wilbekin and Shane Larkin’s situations with the Turkish national team are now problematic.
During Fenerbahce‘s EuroLeague Media Day, the 30-year-old experienced guard, who moved overseas back in 2015 to join AEK, before moving on to Darussafaka, Maccabi Tel Aviv, and finally Fener, spoke about the controversial situation with the national team, among other topics.
What happened with Turkey?
Asked to give his perspective on what happened with the Turkish national team, Scottie Wilbekin opened the conversation. “I just found out right before this interview that they’re making a decision on my appeal process very soon. I don’t want to talk too much about it but I will say that the situation we are in is unfortunate”, he first said. “I think some of the actions that were taken are a little bit unnecessary because I feel like there were valid reasons for everything that transpired”, he added.
Among the accusations Turkey stated throughout the summer, it was also said both he and Shane Larkin didn’t answer the phone when called up for the national team. “If there is anything that I want to clarify, it is that I did answer the phone. There was no time that they were not able to reach me. I even offered to reach out to specific people within the federation, even reaching out on my own to specific people. I won’t say any names but I have the text messages to prove it. I was the one that ignored it”, he explained.
“Hopefully, everything will be resolved soon and the right decision will be made, so we can put all of this behind us”, Scottie Wilbekin also said before touching on Shane Larkin, who’s also involved in this controversy. “I don’t want to talk too much about it but hearing Shane’s comments… I didn’t talk to him personally but hearing his comments, it seems like the same thing happened to him. He experienced one reality and saw a different one presented to the media and everyone on social media. I don’t want to talk too much about it”, he added.
Averaging 10.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, the current Fenerbahce guard proved to care about Turkey more than once. “I’m sure that if things don’t go the way that I think they should, then more stuff will probably come out. But if not, there is no reason for me to talk about it. I have a love for the national team. I gave my blood, my sweat, my tears to fight for wins for Turkey in the national team. I hope to continue to do that. I was not hard to reach in the summer. They know that because they were the ones in contact with me”, Scottie Wilbekin also said.
“Public perception is an important thing in today’s culture. They wanted to get ahead of it or something, I’m not sure. I don’t hold it against them. I know that they have their own jobs and they are under pressure to do what they need to do. Hopefully, in the future, this doesn’t show itself as an attack on my character. This is really the only thing that I had a big issue with, saying I did something that I didn’t do in public”, he finally stated.
Us waiting for the season to start ⏰ pic.twitter.com/vWx0eYUqjz
— Turkish Airlines EuroLeague (@EuroLeague) September 26, 2023
Another EuroLeague season with Fenerbahce
Moving on from the Turkish national team’s agenda, the 30-year-old guard talked about the injury problems that forced him to miss some games in last year’s EuroLeague. “I’m feeling good. I’m getting closer to be hundred percent. My main focus is staying healthy. Last year was rough, not being available for my teammates was not easy. This year, the work that I’ve been putting in the summer will pay off”, he said about preparing for this year’s competitions.
Next to a well-built core of players who stayed together from 2022-23, Fenerbahce added some more weapons to its roster this summer. Asked what they would bring to the table, Scottie Wilbekin kept it clear. “Hopefully more wins. I hope that these changes will lead to more wins”, he first said laughing. “I think we will play differently in times because we have different types of players on the team this year. It is going to be interesting that how the coach will work the rotations. Also, we obviously have a deep roster”, he added.
“There are a lot of guys that can play. Hopefully, we can get everybody to click, play well together, and bring out each other’s best”, he then added about his year’s squad, which includes also Sertac Sanli, with whom he played in the national team. “He can spread the floor, he is a great shooter. He’s smart, he knows how to play the game. It is easy to play with somebody who can shoot and has a high IQ”, Scottie Wilbekin said about the former Anadolu Efes and Barcelona center.
Another addition brought to the new Fenerbahce has been Yam Madar, with whom he will share the backcourt. “We can expect Yam to terrorize whoever he is guarding”, he joked. “Beyond that, we will see. I know from personal experience that Yam really gets into the opponent’s space and makes it uncomfortable for them. You can definitely expect that”, Scottie Wilbekin commented on the Israeli guard.
Among newcomers, the head coach will still be Dimitris Itoudis, who joined the Turkish team a little earlier this summer compared to last year’s after EuroBasket 2022 with the Greek national team. “It has been easier with more time with him. He is getting us where he wants us to be, fine-tuning plays here and there, and also on defense”, the 30-year-old Gainesville native commented on Itoudis.
“It is hard to compare because we have a different team this year and the guys who are coming back. We have new guys, so we are playing a little bit differently at some times. I think having him for an extra week or two will help us in the long run”, he finally said about the differences in the EuroLeague preseason between last year and this one, with the Greek head coach on board for a longer time.
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