Turkish sensation Okben Ulubay does not slow down. After leading his national team to European Championships U16 this past summer, talented forward led his school Evyap Koleji to win World School Championships in Cyprus last month. What is the next goal for Ulubay, named by legendary Dejan Bodiroga the best Turkish prospect? “We want to win European Championships U18 and bring second gold medal in a row back home” - he says to Eurohopes.
You’re the player with the most awards among Turkish prospects, but you’re being also rewarded on the international level of competition. What does it mean to you?
- There is something special to be selected the MVP, however also being voted to All-Tournament Team is a special honor as well. It shows that I have helped my team and it is the most important to me.
What are your first impressions from 2nd Turkish division? You have been playing with a senior team of Pertevniyal for couple of months.
- It is really valuable experience for me. Unfortunately I couldn’t give my full effort, because I had also other duties, like the school championships. However practicing and playing with a senior team on a such level have helped me a lot. It’s the highest physical level I have ever faced, what prepares me well for next steps in my career. That is the reason why I always prepare myself mentally as well.
How could you explain your team’s situation? Although you haven’t been with the team last season, you were more successful past year, despite the clutch players were one year younger. What is the reason?
- Though all the most talented players from the last season came back to the team, we’re not what we would like to be. In important games some players were missing. In particular, in road games, we lost couple of times after tied games with only 2-3 points margin, what influences on our motivation. Our coach Yakan has prepared us very well though. An important point to learn from that experiences, what could help us to become better team next season.
This year you have 3 American players, who have really big roles in the team. How their presence affects on a team’s bad season?
- This is a team sport. Successes and failures belong to the team.
Turkish junior national team will be one of the most talented at European Championships U18 this summer. Two years ago the time was highly respected as well, but ended up on disappointing seventh place. What is the goal now?
- We will have most of the players who represented that team 2 years ago, plus I expect few addition from ’96 generation, which has won gold at European Championships U16 last summer. First of all, we have to make an unit. It puts a pressure on us, however we’re aware of it. Our goal is to win it all and bring back second gold medal in a row to Turkey.
Where is the NBA in your career future plans?
- It depends on when and how much minutes I will be receiving in Euroleague. Obviously the first step would be domestic league. You have to come over to the NBA at the right time.
Legendary forward Dejan Bodiroga said once that Okben Ulubay is the best Turkish players for him. What does it mean to you?
- He has established himself as a top European player and had been always playing on a top level. It is a honor to me that he has seen me playing and I’m incredibly proud of what he has said about me. It motivates me to.
Photo: FIBA Europe