Kanter far from Turkey, but Okur Making Him Feel at Home

Image Imagine being thousands of miles from home and starting a new life for yourself ... at age 19. You're about to start a new high-level job training seminar and every time your boss yells at you, you barely understand what he's saying. Welcome to Enes Kanter's world.

Kanter, the No. 3 overall pick in this year's NBA draft, is happily in training camp with the Utah Jazz. And they're happy to have him, even though he's young, inexperienced and far from his native Turkey.

See, at 6-foot-11, he is said to have incredible raw skill for his size. Basketball people first began taking note of him a few years back, when, in his early teens, he began playing with grown men in Turkish pro leagues. He eventually made his way to Kentucky, where he was going to get a great American basketball education, but the NCAA ruled him ineligible because he'd play professionally in Turkey.

He could have gone back home, but Kanter stayed in the United States and continued to hone his skills. Those skills, combined with his size and strength were just too much to pass up, so the Jazz took him with the first of two lottery picks they owned.

Kanter probably isn't going to be the savior of the Jazz franchise, just a solid piece to the puzzle that probably won't truly fit into place for a few years.

"This is going to be great for him," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said. "We explained to him that it's a journey, there's a destination we'd like for him to get to and there's going to be a lot of stops on the way.

"He's going to run over himself, he's going to run over other people, but he's willing to work and that's the key thing. Our responsibility is to keep him improving."

That comment may sound like O'Connor is hedging his bet a little, but that's not true. He believes in Kanter, but has been cautious about putting undue pressure on such a young man who's head is already spinning these days.

But he appears to be right when he speaks of Kanter's work ethic and desire to develop.

And the big kid is also very fortunate to have countryman Mehmet Okur not only on the same roster, but playing the same position.

Okur is finally healthy again after missing nearly all of last season recovering from Achilles' surgery and a bad back. He might very well be in the best shape of his life, but even so he's still trying to get back into NBA basketball shape all while readjusting to a team that looks quite a bit different than it did a year ago.

Still, he has made time for his new young friend and both the Jazz and Kanter are happy about it.

"I (had) never met him (before) but I've been hearing so many things about him," Okur said. "He's seems like a nice guy. He's hungry."

Presumably, Memo was referring to Kanter's on-the-court desire to improve, but you never know. After all, he took Kanter to lunch at a Turkish restaurant in Salt Lake City the day before camp opened and told him what to expect in the coming weeks.

"It was really nice," Kanter said.

Okur said he feels a responsibility to help Kanter improve. In some ways, he's like a big brother to him, he said.

"I need to take care of my guy, on and off the floor," he said. "I (need to) teach him about the NBA life, NBA basketball. I'm excited he's with me on the same team."

When the Jazz first drafted Kanter he told reporters of how, as a youngster back in Turkey, he used to get up in the middle of the night to watch Okur play for the Jazz.

"I became a fan of this team," he said.

Now they're both here in Utah, together. And after getting yelled at in English during practice, Kanter finds his big brother and they speak to each other in their native language and suddenly home doesn't feel like it's a thousand miles away.

Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He tweets at twitter.com/jmb247
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07