TAMPA, Fla. - Deniz Kilicli has been in Enes Kanter's shoes. West Virginia's own Turkish forward can sympathize with what his good friend is going through after Kanter was deemed permanently ineligible to play college basketball.
On the eve of what could have been a meeting of the two friends Kilicli - who was suspended for the first 20 games of his career because of his time spent on a Turkish club team - said the Kanter ruling was stunning.
"I think the whole year is still kind of bad, you know?" Kilicli said. "It's like a death sentence. He's going to be fine. It's not taking anything out of him. He's going to be a really good player."
Kanter and Kilicli came up through the Turkish basketball ranks together, although Kilicli came to the United States a year before Kanter. The two remain in close contact and serve as each other's support system.
"We still talk. I just tell him - and he's doing good and he's happy - but it's hard and I know what he's been through," Kilicli said. "I had 20 games suspension so I know how hard it is to sit out and watch. There are lots of times you think you can help but you can't, so it's really hard for him. I gave him advice and told him to be cool and work hard and he'll be fine. He's fine. He's doing really good but it's hard for him."
As Kilicli gets ready to take the floor against Kentucky in Wednesday's NCAA Tournament third round Kanter sits in Lexington awaiting the chance to turn professional and move forward from basketball purgatory.
"It's bad for the kid," Kilicli said. "He's a really good friend of mine and I feel for him. I know how hard it is. He's a really competitive guy so it's really hard for him I guess, but this kind of situation you have to take the positive and go with it. Everything happens for a reason and it will work out for him very well."
Close friend feels Kanter's pain
CatsPause.com Senior Writer