RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Omer Yurtseven’s wait to play for North Carolina State is finally over.
The NCAA required the Turkish 7-footer and five-star freshman to sit the Wolfpack’s first nine games after examining his amateur status following an overseas career. But the 18-year-old is set to play Thursday against Appalachian State, a big addition for a young team still taking shape.
“I’m looking forward to playing, just stepping out on the court for real,” Yurtseven said. “It’s not seen as a big game, but it’s a big game for me.”
Yurtseven’s arrival, along with that of touted freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr., created a buzz for a team picked to finish in the upper half of the Atlantic Coast Conference. But while Smith has started every game as a potential one-and-done NBA talent, Yurtseven – also mentioned as a one-and-done possibility – has been limited to playing in two exhibition games, working through practices and watching from the bench during regular-season games for the Wolfpack (7-2).
“Sitting on the bench, like, how can I say it: it’s like you always smell the food but you never get to eat it,” Yurtseven said.
Coach Mark Gottfried wouldn’t commit to a specific role or minutes for the Istanbul, Turkey native Thursday.
“It would’ve been great for him to only sit out a couple of games … but it is what it is,” Gottfried said. “I keep telling myself and my staff: I’ve got to be patient too because I kind of want him to be a finished product on Day One. And that’s not going to happen. It’s going to take a little bit of time.”
The school announced the NCAA ruling Oct. 31. It required Yurtseven to sit the first 30 percent of the regular season and pay $1,000 to a charity of his choice before becoming eligible to play.
Yurtseven had played the past three years for the Fenerbahce club team in Turkey, the same team as another prominent international prospect: Kentucky recruit Enes Kanter. Kanter was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA in 2010 for receiving more than $33,000 in improper benefits, never played for the Wildcats and now plays for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
NCAA rules enacted in 2013 permit college prospects playing overseas to receive compensation for “actual and necessary” expenses tied to games and practices, such as lodging, equipment, travel, meals and medical treatment.
Don Jackson, Yurtseven’s Alabama-based attorney who has worked on numerous college eligibility cases, said Yurtseven didn’t sign a professional contract nor with an agent as he “made every effort not to professionalize himself.” Jackson also criticized the way the NCAA measures allowable expenses during its case reviews, saying the process doesn’t fairly evaluate higher cost-of-living demands in pricier regions.
“As you can probably tell, I’m not happy with the outcome,” Jackson said. “I’m happy that he’ll be on the floor this week. I’m happy that this part, that he’s moved on from that. . But the reality of his matter is he should not have missed one game. There was no justification for him missing any time whatsoever.”
NCAA spokeswoman Emily James declined to comment on Yurtseven’s case Wednesday.
Yurtseven is a skilled big man who had a 91-point, 28-rebound performance in a Turkish Under-18 game in the spring. But it was clear he’d need time to adjust to college basketball when he fouled out in 11 minutes during an exhibition game against Division II Barton.
“I think the most important thing is to get him to feel comfortable, to play,” Gottfried said. “He’s learning American basketball. . It’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m certainly going to play him and get him in and see if we can get him comfortable pretty quick.”
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