The Bear Insider recently met with Erdogan to discuss her game, her comeback from knee injury, and her move halfway across the world.
Seda, say your last name for us?
You’re finishing up your first semester at Cal. How’s it going so far?
It’s been pretty good. I thought it would be more difficult because I’m away from my home and my friends. But I haven’t had much time to think about those things with school and basketball, and the people are so nice here, it’s made it easier for me. Everyone is very nice, not just my teammates, everybody is trying to help.
Is this the farthest you’ve been from home?
Yes. I had never been to America, but I’ve been to lots of places in Europe before with my [Junior National] team. I’ve been to Italy, Paris, Bulgaria, and Barcelona.
Your parents are here visiting right now. Will you get to see them again
this school year?
No. They’re leaving next week, and then I won’t see them again until May.
Who else is in your family?
I have just one brother. He is 9 years older than me, and he’s married. He’s a professional basketball player.
You turned 17 in August. How did it happen that you’re in college
at such a young age?
In Turkey, after elementary school, and before you go to high school, there is a two-year school that you have to take. But there’s [also] an exam, and if you pass, you don’t have to take the two years. I passed that, so that’s why I graduated early.
Tell us about how you were recruited by the Cal coaching staff.
Two summers ago the European Championships were in Turkey. The Cal coaches, Coach Horstmeyer and Coach McKnight, saw me in that tournament, and they asked me then if I wanted to come to Cal. I actually wasn’t thinking of coming to America because I was OK with Turkey, so I said no. But when they came back to Turkey a few months later in September, they asked again. Because I had just had my knee surgery the week before they came, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to play, so I told them, maybe I can get my knee stronger, then I’ll come here and play, but not this year, because I’m scared. Then Coach McKnight said, “You should just come, and we can work on your skills here and get you stronger here. But we really want you to come to Cal Berkeley.” So after 3 months or so, I decided to come.
There was no announcement of your commitment to Cal for a long time.
Fans were anxious because they had heard rumors that there was a very skillful
player coming. But then, no news for months and months – and after the
season Nihan Anaz had last year, fans were really hoping for another Turkish
star. Did Nihan being here factor into your decision to come to Cal?
I didn’t know that Nihan was here when the coaches first recruited me. But then I heard that there was a Turkish girl here. I met her through the Internet, and she emailed me, “You have to come, it’s great here. They really like you. Forget your knee; you’re going to get better treatment here for your knee than in Turkey.”
“And our band is like awesome” says Erdoan, and her second language is English.
And when she came back to Turkey this summer, she brought me information that Coach sent with her - pictures of the campus and notes from people - it was, like, so cool! I mean, the biggest fact that I am here is [because of] Nihan. She made me come. I was worried about coming here, because I am so young, and I was scared of going so far from my family. She said, “It’s your life. You have to do something with it. This is the best decision you can make!”
Cal fans will think that was good advice. You’ve been rehabbing
your knee for over a year and have just recently returned to the court. How
recovery coming along?
I think it’s almost 90 %. Right now, it’s my … how do you say … it’s my own … I don’t trust myself as much as I did before. It was worse, but now it’s getting better. So it’ll be fine.
What would you say is the strength of your game?
In Turkey, I was the best on my team, so the scoring was all on me. I took every shot, so I made like 35 points per game. But here, everybody is equal, like almost, so I’ll have to play defense in order to be part of the team, because it’s our team goal to have the best defense. So I’m working on my defending skills. I was a scorer, and that’s my strength, but I want to be a good defender.
But even with scoring, is there one thing you do particularly well?
Is it long-distance shooting, or passing, or driving to the basket? We’ve
noticed that you have the ability to drive left.
Yes! That’s what my dad said yesterday, “You always drive left. Try to drive right!” But I can’t say there’s one thing that I do.
As for defense, what have you found difficult about it?
That’s a hard question…
Is it knowing where to be on the court, or maybe it’s the quickness
or strength of your opponents?
I was talking to Coach that I’ve been thinking too much when I’m playing, because basketball here is different than in Europe. You know, we didn’t have that many defensive rules in Turkey on my team. Here, everything is played by rules, and if you make a little mistake, it’s all ruined. So you have to focus on things and you have to think what to do. It’s like, here, it’s more strength in your mind; you have to work really hard. So that’s what I was struggling with. And the words are in English too, so it takes extra time to adjust for that! But I’m doing pretty well right now.
What else do you need to improve in your game?
First of all, I have to get stronger. And my skills, I have to work on my passing. I have to shoot quicker. I have to look to score more. And I have to pressure ball more.
You were a member of the Turkish Junior National Team. How did you get
selected for that?
Well, they sent me a letter, and then I tried out for them. Actually, at first I tried out for the team that’s in between the Junior team and the National Team. I was only 15 and I was there with all these 20 year olds. But then I was put on the Junior team and they made me the captain because I’m the one with the most experience.
Was your dad your coach growing up?
He was a professional coach, so he never coached me. But in the summer and in my free time, he’d work with me. He did coach my brother, actually, professionally.
Did your mom play basketball also?
My mom? She played a little when she was young, that’s what I know about her. But never professionally, no.
When you were younger, you preferred swimming to basketball?
Yes. I swam for a couple of years, but I had a problem with my ear, so I couldn’t stay in the water. That’s when I started playing basketball. If I didn’t have that problem with my ear, I’d be a swimmer.
So besides your family, what do miss most about Istanbul?
Food. Because it’s all fast food here, and it’s very different.
What’s so different about it?
It’s more vegetables, and more home-cooked food.
So with your parents here, have you gotten some home-cooked food?
Actually, there’s a Turkish restaurant here, on University and San Pablo, called Bosphorus. It’s pretty good. My parents and I went there last night.
Aside from the food, you’ve had to make the adjustment to
the language as well. How are classes?
I was struggling with classes for the first week, but now I’m picking it up, and it’s getting easier. It was hard to understand the professors because English is my second language, even though I’ve taken it for eleven years.
What classes are you taking?
I’m taking College Writing 1, which is really easy right now, but it’ll prepare me for next fall. I’m taking Sign Language, and Turkish of course, and Classics. I don’t know what I want to study yet, but I have some time, and I don’t want to decide right now.
What do you see yourself doing in five years?
I really want to graduate from a good major and be able to get a job after. But I also want to continue to play basketball, professionally. I’m thinking after I graduate, I’ll play basketball for a couple years before quitting and getting a job.
Your favorite athletes are Sue Bird and Kristin Iwanaga. Tell me what you
like about KI?
She’s like a coach in the game, you know? She does her job perfectly. She shoots when she’s supposed to shoot, she drives, passes to the right spot. She just reads the game perfectly. I read that she wants to be a coach, and I think she’ll be a great coach, because she can read the game really well. The best player I’ve seen at reading the game.
Anything you want to say to the Cal fans?
They’re awesome, seriously. I was just talking to my father yesterday, and he said that the fans here are perfect, because they sit there and enjoy the game. In Turkey, it’s different. If people don’t like the other team, they throw things. People here just cheer for the team; it’s coming from the inside. And our band is like awesome. They get the people fired up. If we didn’t have the fans, there’d be nothing for us. For me, the fans really fire me up. It’s perfect to have them.
Thanks Seda, for taking some time during your parents’ visit
to talk to us.
Watch Seda Erdogan and the Golden Bears as they take on Hampton University on Tuesday December 21st. Tip off is at 7:00 PM at Haas Pavilion.
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