Turkish fans are known for their enthusiastic support of their teams. And Baris Yeniay hopes he can control his emotions when playing in front of his home fans for U18 Fenerbahce Istanbul at the EUROLEAGUE BASKETBALL ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Finals.
"Fenerbahce has a really good fan support and I hope they also come and support us in this tournament. I am sure that they will enjoy it," said Yeniay, who is expected to be one of the team’s leaders at the ANGT Finals in Istanbul. "It's an honor to play in front of Fenerbahce fans. I hope I won't get excited too much. I can't wait to play in front of Fenerbahce fans."
Fenerbahce will be taking on U18 Zalgiris Kaunas, U18 Real Madrid and U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade in Group B at Ahmet Comert Arena, which is adjacent to Sinan Erdem Dome, site of the 2017 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four.
Yeniay collected 12.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals at the ANGT Qualifier Kaunas, where Fenerbahce struggled to sixth place with two wins in four games. Yeniay admitted that he didn’t have his nerves under control in the first game in Lithuania. "The first game I wasn't really able to do what I wanted to, because I was excited a little bit too much," said Yeniay, who had 4 points and 3 turnovers in Fenerbahce’s opening game loss to U18 CFBB Paris.
He and the rest of the team stepped up their play in the second game. Yeniay recorded 19 points and 8 rebounds in a win over U18 Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt. And he collected 23 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals in Fenerbahce’s victory over U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius.
"In the second day of the tournament I was more concentrated and I hustled well, so I played better like my other teammates. We couldn't make it to final and we were sad as a team, so I think that is why we lost against [Canarias Basketball Academy Las Palmas]," said Yeniay, who had just 3 points and 4 rebounds in a loss in the fifth place game. "In general, this tournament was very beneficial for me," the Istanbul native said.
Yeniay was playing at his second ANGT after he averaged 1.3 points 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 steal in 17 minutes per game at ANGT Kaunas last season. "Last year I learned that European basketball is faster and harder than I thought. I learned that I have to be tough on the court and play smarter at both ends," Yeniay said.
The 1.98 meter guard, who turns 18 years old on May 8, has been playing basketball since he was 8, when his father introduced him to the game. "Swimming was the first sport I did, and I swam two years before I started basketball. I was bored of swimming so I started basketball," Yeniay revealed.
While he is happy he chose basketball over swimming, Yeniay actually would pick another sport over hoops if you gave him a choice of video games. "I am very good at playing video games, especially FIFA," he said. "Actually I like playing both [basketball and soccer], but I like FIFA more. And Manchester United is my favorite."
Playing the game on a video console may be fun, but the best part of basketball, according to Yeniay, is: "How you feel after you win a game."
Fenerbahce got two wins in Kaunas and the team will have extra support with the fans in Istanbul. "We have the home-court advantage, and we want to do our best at the ANGT Finals. I hope we win the tournament."
Fenerbahce will be playing at the ANGT Finals for the fourth time and its top showing so far was reaching the 2012 ANGT Championship Game, which it lost to U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius. Yeniay and his teammates will have even better chances if they can keep their nerves in check in front of their home fans.