28 July, 2017
06 August
11 Tornike Julakidze (AZE), 10 Saadettin Donat (AZE), 10 Victor Legosin (MDA)
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16-year-old Donat ready to help Azerbaijan in next step of development

BAKU (FIBA U18 European Championship 2017, Division B) - Saadettin Donat will be facing players two years older than him at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2017, Division B. But it's all part of the continued efforts to improve Azerbaijan's basketball.

The 16-year-old Donat could actually be playing with his own age group now as the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017, Division C is taking place in Andorra La Vella. But it's a matter of been there, done that for the 6ft 7in (2.01m) center, who was selected to the All-Star Five at the U16 Division C tournament last summer as Azerbaijan grabbed second place. Donat averaged 14.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals despite playing a year younger.

"I think it gave an answer to people," said Donat, who will now be pushed and compete against older competition in playing at U18 Division B level.

"I think it is going to be a good experience for me. There will be more competitive games and the European teams will be harder than last year," said Donat, who faced Wales, Cyprus, San Marino, Malta and Moldova at the U16 Division C level, but will take on Austria, Israel, Poland, Portugal and Romania in Estonia.

Saadettin Donat (front right - No. 10) and Azerbaijan celebrate after getting a victory at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016, Division C. 

Pushing players to see them compete against older competition is something many countries regularly do to enhance the development of their players. Azerbaijan are doing this now as well. For example, they have one 13-year-old, two 14-year-olds and just one player born in 2001 at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017, Division C.

And Azerbaijan have seen some positive results, winning the U18 Division C title last summer and taking second at the U16 Division C. This summer Azerbaijan are playing in Division B at the U18 and U20 levels - the first time in history at the FIBA U18 European Championship and second time at U20 level.

"Azerbaijan are working hard and we want to improve ourselves by playing against more powerful teams," Donat said.

The national team will once again be a family affair for Donat . In Tallinn, he will be playing with his older brother Ercan, who is a 2000-born 6ft 8in (2.04m) center. The brothers played together at the U16 level last summer as Ercan averaged 4.7 points and 4.7 rebounds.

"I am very proud of him and I am looking forward to this tournament," Saadettin said.

The brothers were actually born in Fatih, Istanbul to Turkish parents. The family went to Azerbaijan because of their father's job as the Azerbaijan wrestling national team coach.   

"Azerbaijan are working hard and we want to improve ourselves by playing against more powerful teams."Saadettin DonatSaadettin Donat

"I was never interested in wrestling," admits Donat.

Basketball was always his thing. The sport is becoming more popular back in Azerbaijan as well. Now comes Donat and the team's chance to do something in Tallinn.

"Our goal is definitely to gain some experience and to get some good wins," he said.

All with the development of basketball in Azerbaijan as the long-term goal.