30 July, 2022
07 August
3 Berke Buyuktuncel (TUR)
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Player Spotlight: Berke Buyuktuncel, Turkey's lockdown defender


IZMIR (Turkey) – FIBA U18 European Championship hosts Turkey made the Semi-Finals of the tournament thanks, in great part, to their stifling defense that was at full display in the Round of 16 contest against Lithuania, when they forced 28 turnovers and held their opponents to just 61 points.

Leading the way for Turkey is Berke Buyuktuncel, the most highly-touted prospect in the team and a key player for them on both ends of the floor. FIBA contributor Marius Flachenecker uses Buyuktuncel's strong performances in Izmir as an opportunity to break down his game.


Offensively, Buyuktuncel primarily excels at driving to the rim. He's not explosive or shifty enough to consistently create shots for himself like a guard, but he can effectively attack the basket running off screens, against closeouts and in transition. For a 2.06m forward, he moves fluidly, can attack to either side and regularly creates good shots at the basket.

In proximity to the rim he displays the ability to finish with either hand, converting several contested layups throughout the tournament, and also has the vertical leap  for the occasional big dunk. Beyond his scoring ability, he also shows good passing vision on his drives. He reads help defenders quickly and finds the open man with remarkable regularity for a player his size.

Still, Buyuktuncel lacks the ability to consistently create in pick-and-roll or in isolations, so he's reliant on defenses respecting his shot to get to the basket. To reach his full potential as a player, the forward needs to draw hard closeouts once he reaches his prime.

So far, the Turkish forward has not been known as a shooter. Prior to the tournament, he shot 23-of-96 (24 percent) from three through various competitions in the 2021-22 season. In Izmir, however, he's been more consistent, knocking down 7-of-17 (41.2 percent) threes up until the Semi-Finals.

While this sample size is too small to conclude he's made a massive jump as a shooter, it's certainly a positive sign. Buyuktuncel has not only been efficient from downtown, but he's also actively looking for his shot, lets it fly with confidence and has even knocked down several impressive jumpers off movement.

Ultimately, there's still work to do for Buyuktuncel to reach his potential, but he has the makings of a good complementary player at a high European level, who knocks down spot-up threes and makes plays for himself and others, mainly attacking off the catch and in transition.


Defensively, Buyuktuncel is at his best, as he currently ranks second in steals in the whole tournament and has gotten plenty of key stops throughout the past week. On the ball, the big forward shows the potential to defend almost any perimeter player in the competition. While he's not been entirely consistent – occasionally, opponents were able to blow by him, because he went into the matchup off-balance - he's had good possessions on many guards, wings and forwards.

At this level, he can comfortably defend three to four positions, and he has the mobility, the footwork and ability to read his matchups for this skill to translate to professional basketball. It wouldn't surprise anyone if he adequately defended at least 2-through-4 in EuroLeague in his prime.

Off the ball, Buyuktuncel has been a nightmare for opponents in passing lanes. He has great court vision and anticipation, punishing opponents for throwing lazy passes over and over again. This has been key for a Turkey squad that has struggled to score in the halfcourt but has outscored opponents in points-off-turnovers in four of five games so far, including a huge 30-to-11 difference in this stat category against Lithuania.

As a help defender around the basket, Buyuktuncel has been passable but not quite as effective as someone with his tools could be. At times, he's been late for rotations, and he takes long to elevate off the floor, which makes it hard for him to deliver timely shot contests.

Nevertheless, Buyuktuncel has been a standout performer on the defensive end, and this end of the floor will remain his bread and butter when he reaches the pro level. He's a versatile on and off ball defender and has also been excellent on the defensive glass, where he boxes out diligently and regularly rises above opponents for impressive boards.


Berke Buyuktuncel is the type of player every team needs and wants. He impacts the game in many ways, doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective but can also do positive things when he does have the ball. He still has plenty of room to improve the consistency of his skills, especially that of his jump shot, but it's easy to see the versatile forward at least playing at the highest club level in Europe as well as a key performer for the Turkish senior national team in his prime.