Deniz Kilicli is one of the easiest college basketball players to recognize.
That’s what happens when you to look strikingly similar to your team’s mascot.
But Kilicli is more than just recognizable. He’s also one of the more likeable players you’ll come across. A 6-foot-9 Turkish import with a frame that’s chiseled out of stone, Kilicli is a brutish presence in the paint, pushing around opposing big men just long enough that his incredible touch on a lefty sky-hook (he’s right-handed) is relatively shocking.
Kilicli is also one of the more talented players off the court. His talents as a guitarist have been fairly well documented, as he led his team in a (fairly terrible; the rest of the Mountaineers aren’t exactly the singing type) chorus of ‘Country Roads’ at last season’s Midnight Madness. When his house burned down last summer, Kilicli was quoted by the paper as saying “No one got hurt, and my guitars are safe. That’s all I really care about.”
Tough not to like a guy like that.
On Monday, Bob Hertzel wrote a column chronicling how Kilicli became close friends with Mike Martin, a Sports Broadcasting major that also has a passion for music:
“He was in my English class,” Martin recalled. “That’s how I first met him. I can talk to anyone, but I didn’t talk to him because he was a basketball player, but instead because he made funny comments here and there. Still, he looked like he felt uncomfortable, and I wanted to make him feel like people weren’t just looking at him as a basketball player.”
It was mostly just an acquaintance kind of relationship until one day Martin went into a recording studio with Eric Jordan, a rap producer.
“Weird enough, out of the blue, randomly Deniz was there,” Martin said.
More conversation, but not really a friendship.
Martin went home for the summer and moved into a new place last fall.
“I go to meet my neighbors upstairs and guess who’s living there — Deniz Kilicli,” he said.
This was a friendship that was meant to be.
“Now I’m best friends with him and his roommate. They came over to watch the Super Bowl, and he was like, ‘Let’s do a halftime show.’ I don’t like to sing in front of people, but he starts playing my songs. … I hate listening to myself,” Martin said.
He was hooked though. Before long they were doing some performing together.
There’s video of those performances, too:
Like I said, it’s tough not to like a kid like that.
The best nugget from Hertzel’s column had nothing to do with music, however. Apparently, Kilicli not only taught himself the guitar, he taught himself english as well.
By watching ‘Family Ties’.