VAUGHT: Enes Kanter waiting on NCAA

Enes Kanter is eager to make a name for himself as a basketball player. He's still awaiting word from the NCAA on his eligibility because he played with a club team in Turkey that said he took improper payments. However, Kanter and his family contend he never took any money — a claim Kentucky coach John Calipari believes, too.

Kanter says the competition he faced against older players forced him to improve.

"In Turkey I played at a really big level. They were really good players. Mostly older players. I played with 30, 35 years old. But they were good guys. They helped me. They always tried to teach me best things, because they are old and if I did wrong things they said not to do it like that," he said.

He said while his mother worried a few months about him playing with grown men, she adjusted to it. His father, a physician, wanted his son to play college basketball in the United States, which is why he spent last season at Stoneridge Prep in California.

"The first time I said I want to play basketball, my dad said to play I first had to be a good student, and then I could play basketball. I tried to be a good student and then good basketball player," Kanter said. "I didn't play anything but basketball. I was always big. I don't know why I liked basketball so much. Maybe the NBA, college, I don't know.

"When I was in Turkey, they offered me a pro contract but I didn't want to be a professional basketball player. I was still not even 18. I came here, and my dad always said you have to be a good student first. That is why I came here. I always wanted to play in college."

He says his time in Lexington has been "amazing," and he couldn't believe how people recognized him immediately.

"The first time I was like shocked. Everybody said, ‘Hey, Enes, How are you?' when I was walking the streets. In Turkey, no one knows you. I was like really shocked," he said.

"I felt at home here right away. My teammates are like family. I have 11 brothers and one dad (Calipari) on the team. Josh Harrellson, the senior, has really helped me. He is always trying to teach me things like where is the best eating place, where should I go."

Kanter admits he didn't know a lot about Kentucky until a few months ago.

"I didn't know anything about it. The first time I just watched the Tennessee game when I was in California. I saw coach Calipari. He knows everything about players and basketball. He said just be yourself. He said everybody is free here, so I thought that sounded good," Kanter said.

"I was here senior night last year. I saw like 25,000 people. It was amazing. I can't wait. I watched Big Blue Madness on YouTube. It was amazing. Everybody crazy. I can't wait. I will be a little bit nervous for sure when that happens."

Kanter is also much more popular in Turkey after signing with Kentucky.

"When I came here, they started writing stories about me. That was very surprising. Everybody wants to watch me," he said. "I didn't want to be a professional player, and they knew that. I have contacted old teammates, sometimes my coach to let them know I am a college player now."

He got to visit Turkey in July to see his parents and friends. He talks to them over the Internet via Skype.

"I hope they can come watch me play this year. My dad actually is a really big basketball fan, and my little brother is playing basketball for my old club in Turkey. He is pretty good, too. I hope he will be as good as me," Kanter said.

Kanter did have knee problems earlier in his career, but he says that is not a problem now.

"Like two years ago I couldn't play five months because of my knee. I had tendinitis, but my old club took care of me, and right now I don't have anything. Kentucky's trainers are unbelievable," he said.

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