NC State freshman Omer Yurtseven has patiently waited for his opportunity to play college basketball. It’s something he’s thought and dreamed about long before signing with the Pack back in May.
But Yurtseven knew after playing basketball professionally for his Fenerbahce (Turkey) club team that it would be a process.
So when the NCAA handed him a 9-game suspension for making some $700,000 playing professionally, even though he never touched any of the money, he patiently waited just a bit longer to play in college basketball’s premier conference, the ACC.
On Thursday night, in front of more than 16,000 State fans, Yurtseven finally realized his dream, suiting up for the Wolfpack for the first time this regular season.
And he didn’t disappoint.
Coming off the bench roughly five minutes into the opening half, Yurtseven went to work, scoring 12 points and snagging 4 rebounds in his debut.
“He was excited today, you could tell,” head coach Mark Gottfried said. “He has been wanting to play college basketball for a long time. I thought he did pretty good for his first night.”
The 24 minutes the projected first round pick in next year’s NBA Draft played for the Pack were the most he’s played since the 15 games he spent with Turkey’s under-20 team this past summer. He did see action in State’s two exhibition games, but only logged 17 and 11 minutes in those game respectively.
“It felt really good once you step on that court,” said Yurtseven, who claims he didn’t have much nervousness. “I kind of got a taste of it, but I didn’t fill up. I got way more games to play.”
While his scoring ability was on full display, hitting a three-pointer while also going to work in the paint, Coach Gottfried was quick to point out that it’s Yurtseven’s passing and ability to facilitate from the inside that really jumps out.
“For a 7-foot player he does see the floor really well and passes it really well,” Gottfried said. “When he is in the high post area and around the foul line, he is so tall he can see over the defense. He makes good decisions with the ball.”
Freshman sensation Dennis Smith Jr. led the way once again for the Pack in their 97-64 thumping of Appalachian State, and Smith was extremely happy to have Omer, who he says is the ‘smartest’ player he’s ever played with, back on the court.
“I would really say he was phenomenal for a debut game,” Smith said. “He came out a little bit nervous, but he picked it up. He knocked down the three, he finished around the rim.”
“It’s going to make everybody else play harder, them stepping it up is really important for our team this season.”
Smith and Yurtseven were able to show off their on-court chemistry more than a few times, executing the pick-and-roll far better than NC State had been able to do thus far this season.
The two freshmen have bonded on and off the court over the pst six or so months, often working out together in their free time.
“When you see him push himself, I think I have to push myself more,” Yurtseven said. “I try to work harder than him. It’s a working competition.”
The Pack will be back in action Sunday afternoon at PNC Arena when they face-off against Fairfield, for just their second game with a full compliment of players.
“I’m glad everybody is back,” Smith said. “We are going to stick together as a team and we are going to take on anybody.”