This isn’t the first time playing on a major stage either at the club or national team level for Ahmet Duran. But the U18 Fenerbahce Istanbul star is still trying to keep his emotions under control at the EUROLEAGUE BASKETBALL ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Kaunas.
Duran first popped onto ANGT radars three years ago as a 15-year-old from Afyonkarahisar in the middle of the mountainous countryside in Turkey at the 2014-15 ANGT Kaunas. Duran probably didn’t know better and just played his game and showed he could dominate in certain aspects, combining for 22 points and 26 rebounds in his first two ANGT games three years ago.
Back then he was also a big body - but a bit undersized for the low post - with a touch for the game, good footwork and a feel for passing. Duran has improved all of those parts of his game and put together an All-Tournament Team-worthy showing this season with 17 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.8 steals for Fenerbahce.
“I have been playing here for three years and I really work hard. I practice with the Fenerbahce senior team so it helps me a lot to play here. This tournament has helped me become a better player,” said Duran, who will turn 18 years old on January 28.
Duran’s skill set also includes some solid dribbling and driving skills and the 2.06m big man can also shoot a bit from long range. One trait that is also evident though is Duran’s inability to control his emotions. Whether it’s throwing the ball high in the air in disappointment or separating himself from teammates at times in timeouts or other outbursts of frustration on the court, Duran’s emotion control game is still a work in progress.
But he knows and recognizes that.
“Outside the court I am really an enjoyable and funny guy, but on the court it’s always different,” Duran says with a laugh and smile while talking with his Fenerbahce teammate serving as his interpreter.
“Even though I try to stay under control I get frustrated some times and there is nothing i can do about it. I just try to keep going.”
Duran showed enough leadership skills to help Fenerbahce to a 2-1 record in Group A, including a 69-68 victory over U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius in the final group game, which kept Lietuvos Rytas from reaching the Kaunas final against U18 Zalgiris Kaunas.
“We always go to the court to win the game. We didn’t want two Lithuanian teams to play in the final. So the win means a lot to us,” said Duran, who knew that he and Fenerbahce would have needed a 47-point victory over Lietuvos Rytas to advance to the title game.
Duran arrived at Fenerbahce three years ago from Afyonkarahisar, which has a population of about 200,000 and located about 250 kilometers south-west of Ankara. Since then Duran has been playing at one big youth competition after another. In addition to three ANGT Kaunas events, Duran has played at two FIBA U16 European Championships, including a third place finish in 2015; and last year played at the FIBA U17 World Championship and the FIBA U18 European Championship.
The U17 Worlds last summer in Zaragoza was probably Duran’s biggest moment in his career as the tournament debutant Turkey knocked off Spain in the semifinals and ended up with the silver medal as it played against the United States in the final.
“Having the silver medal at the World Championship was really important for us. The biggest memory was the last second win over Spain,” said Duran, who averaged 10 points, 12 rebounds and 2.4 assists in the game.
When asked what he took away from the U17 World Championship, Duran said: “The most important thing I learned was to stay calm on the court even though I still can’t all the time.”
His game is getting better and better but Duran is still trying to work on that part of his total package.