Turkish basketball player Enes Kanter was one of a dozen players who met the media in mid-town Manhattan Wednesday to discuss the 2011 NBA Draft, which takes place Thursday June 23rd. Kanter told the throng of reportes that he expected to go in the first three picks Thursday night, which are held by Cleveland, Minnesota and Utah in that order. While Cleveland is almost a lock to take Duke point guard Kyrie Lewis with the first pick, Kanterâ€™s name will be in play almost immediately after that. While Minnesota has not shown much interest in the Turkish center, a number of teams have been rumored to be angling to trade into the second or third position to nab him. Utah at the third position is reportedly leaning toward Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight, but they also have Kanter in the back of their minds, as do the Cleveland Cavaliers who pick again at number four.
Kanter, who just turned nineteen years old on May 20th, was recruited to play basketball for the University of Kentucky. However, the NCAA declared him permanently ineligible for inter-collegiate athletics because he received approximately $33,000 from the Turkish professional team FenerbahÃ§e Ãœlker. The NCAA ruled that this amount was above and beyond what was considered acceptable. On January 7, 2011, the NCAA rejected Kentuckyâ€™s appeal, rendering Kanter permanently ineligible. As a result, he declared for the 2011 NBA Draft. His amateur accomplishments include being named the Most Valuable Player in the 2009 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship, averaging 18.6 points and 16.4 rebounds while leading Turkeyâ€™s junior national team to the bronze medal.
Kanter, whose father Mehmet is a professor at Trakya University in Turkey, told the reporters that if would have been cleared by the NCAA to play college basketball last season that not only would the University of Kentucky have won the national title, but that he would clearly be the number one pick in this draft.â€Because I believe I am the best player in this draft,â€ Kanter remarked. Rick Bozich of the Louisville Courier-Journal asked Kanter if he believed he would have dominated in college basketball last season? â€œYes,â€ he said, shaking his head. â€œWe would have won the national title.â€ â€œEasily?â€ replied Bozich. â€œYes,â€ retorted Kanter. Hopefully that confidence is borne out in Thursdayâ€™s draft.