The Turk Provides Impact
MORGANTOWN – Deniz Kilicli expects a lot of himself.
The 6-foot-9, 260-pound freshman center was cheered so loud when he entered his first collegiate game and scored his first career points Wednesday night in front of the third-largest crowd in WVU Coliseum history (15,419), they may have heard the ovation all the way back in his native Turkey.
That part was good, he said.
”All the student section was cheering for me,” said the man who goes by ‘The Turk’. ”Half of them are my friends. All the Turkish flags and everything, I’m really thankful, because when you have that support behind you, it’s so easy to do everything.”
Perhaps that helped him score nine points in 7 total minutes, including a 1:21 stretch where he knocked home a pair of left-handed running hook shots and tapped in an offensive rebound, as he scored six straight points.
The bad part, he said, was that was his only rebound.
”One rebound is horrible,” Kilicli said. ”I’m a 6-9 guy. I’m not saying anything (about) the other players from Pittsburgh. All those big guys are talented and strong guys. My expectation is at least five rebounds for a game. I thought I was going to do it, but it didn’t work out for me.”
Thus, he called his debut far from perfect.
”I think it was all right,” he said.
Others were happy to laud him, like sophomore Devin Ebanks.
”That’s Turk,” Ebanks said. ”He’ knows how to score down there. I knew he was going to be a big impact. As soon as he came in, I knew Coach (Huggins) was going to run something for him. That’s what he does, he scores the ball down low. He’s going to help us a lot the rest of the season.”
What did Huggins think? He’s a tougher critic than Kilicli, himself.
”Pretty much what I thought he’d do,” Huggins said. “The kid can score the ball. I think the biggest thing is he’s got to rebound the ball, which he’s very capable of doing. I think he’ll figure out like the rest of them have, if you don’t you’ll come over here and sit down with me.”
That’s actually a compliment, that old softie.
Da’Sean Butler, universally thought of as West Virginia’s best player, couldn’t imagine making a season and career debut against a team like Pitt, which came in ranked No. 22 in the nation. Butler’s career began four years ago somewhat inconspicuously against Mount St. Mary’s. Butler went even farther, saying there was no way he could sit out 20 games, as Kilicli did to satisfy an NCAA ruling.
”That’s crazy,” Butler said. ”I couldn’t even sit out one. I just couldn’t do it. He came out there and just played and competed.”
On the subject of the opponent, Kilicli continued to beat himself up.
”I was expecting the horrible scenario,” he said. ”I was thinking they were going to push me around like a kid. They were pretty strong, but my expectations are always extreme.”
Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com