15 - 23
July 2017
14 öMer Faruk Yurtseven (TUR)
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Turkish star Yurtseven putting his opponents in check

ISTANBUL (FIBA U20 European Championship 2017) - If you catch Omer Yurtseven on the bench deep in thought at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2017, he most likely is thinking about how to keep Turkey's current opponents in check. But he might actually be pondering how to check-mate them.

Yurtseven is one of Turkey's next top basketball prospects with the big man considering entering the 2017 NBA Draft. But the gem of Turkey's 1998-born generation is also an avid chess player. 

"I never studied chess matches but I watched a lot of sacrifice tricks. It is where the opponent thinks they've got your piece but don't see the bigger game you are playing because they are so worried about getting your piece. Sometimes getting that piece costs them a checkmate and it has always fascinated me," said Yurtseven, who towers over the board just like most of his opponents on the court as he stands 7ft 0in (2.13m). "I haven't played it professionally but I think it helps me improve myself mentally." Yurtseven, who played tennis and volleyball and also swam a lot growing up, said chess was very prevalent in his house. "I played chess a lot and I still do. No one in my family played a sport professionally. The chess games that we would play at home were pretty serious though."

Yurtseven started playing basketball when he was 8-years-old but didn't really get serious about it until he was 12.

When asked about some of the players he followed and looked up to growing up, the Tashkent, Uzbekistan-native offered up: "I didn't really watch basketball a lot growing up to be honest but I remember my father waking me up around 3-4am to watch the finals of the 2006-07 NBA season when the San Antonio Spurs won the Finals. I really liked watching the Spurs. I also had stickers of Tim Duncan so I would say he was a player that I enjoyed watching growing up."

What about Yurtseven's favorite chess player?"I think my favorite chess player is Magnus Carlsen," he said, referring to the Norwegian chess star and current world champion since 2013, who earned his grandmaster title at the age of 13 years and 148 days and became the youngest world No. 1 ever. "Probably because of all he did even though he was so young."

Doing great things as a youngster is something Yurtseven knows as well.

He reached the final of the FIBA U18 European Championship 2015 after pushing Turkey to the Semi-Finals of the FIBA U16 European Championship 2014. He also guided Turkey to third place at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2016 and was named to the All-Star Five - despite being two years younger than the rest of the competition. Yurtseven said that experience will motivated him for the tournament in Crete and make him more confident."As a team we could have done more," he said. "I feel like we missed the opportunity to do something great last year and now I will motivate myself so that we don't miss this one and we do anything that is necessary to win."

When asked what is the team's objective going into the tournament, where Turkey will face France, Iceland and Montenegro in Group B, Yurtseven said flat out: "Being the champion."

One thing is certain, Yurtseven is very confident he would be the top player on the Turkish team in chess.

"I haven't played with any of my teammates, but I don't think anybody on our team can beat me in a chess game."

Keeping an opponent in check on the basketball court is one thing. Check-mating them on the chessboard is another.