Congratulations to Turkey’s Deniz Kiliçli and his West Virginia University Mountaineers, who pulled off the nice 73-66 upset of Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament regional finals last night. With six teams remaining in The Big Dance, Kiliçli is one of two remaining European youngsters in an otherwise all-American tournament; Baylor, with Bosnia & Herzegovina-born Dragan Sekelja, hope to upend no. 1 seed Duke in the Bears’ hometown of Houston.
Kiliçli saw minimal court time in the win, as WVU employed an exceedingly short rotation that had four starters essentially playing throughout and only six players grabbing more than 20 minutes on the floor. The freshman from Turkey had to have been happy just to be there, however.
After entering WVU from Mountain State Academy high school for the 2009-10 season, Kiliçli was immediately greeted with a 20-game suspension for – stop BiE if you’ve heard this before – having played some pro ball in Turkey.
(One has to wonder why, if the NCAA has deemed Kiliçli to have violated the principal precept of American amateur sport, he’s allowed to play college ball at all. Was it because he didn’t make *that much* money in Istanbul?)
Once activated, Kiliçli won the Mountaineer fanbase over quickly in going 4-for-4 for nine points in just seven minutes of playing time in his first-ever game with WVU against Pittsburgh. As the man says, “How about that for a start?”
For the season, Kiliçli averaged 3.7 points, just under one rebound and seven minutes per game while shooting 19-of-38 from the floor for an even 50% success rate.
Attention fans of West Virginia’s Big East rivals: Fear this guy in 2010-11. And then pray he goes pro soon thereafter.
Meanwhile, over there in Texas, it’ll be Sekelja’s boys against that most hated of all college basketball teams for the South regional title. Sekelja saw limited time (and a lot of DNPs) with the Baylor Bears in 2009-10, going for 1.4 ppg and 0.8 ppg, but the 7’0” center brings a lot of the proverbial upside.
NCAA scouts were surely impressed with the way Sekelja was able to throw around some weight against his peers in the FIBA U18 European Championship in 2009, as he went for 10.1 ppg and 6.3 rpg with Team Croatia in the tourney.
Sekelja’s best game for Baylor came against mighty Hardin-Simmons University (attendance 2,435); the center saw 12 minutes of playing time, going 2-of-3 from the floor in addition to contributing five rebounds and two blocks in the 106-45 laugher.
For more on Sekelja (and videos) – including thorough analysis of the player’s skill set – BiE encourages those interested to check out the September writeup at the always-excellent European Prospects.
Best of luck to both of The Continent’s men in the rest of the tournament and beyond; see you in the pros someday, Deniz and Dragan!