Dinc (whose full name is pronounced "Gem Dench") is in Italy this week with the Turkish National Team, which is playing exhibitions in preparation for the European Championships. He had planned on flying back to the United States next month to spend a post-grad year at Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy -- UNC senior center Damion Grant is an alumnus -- but advice from his national team coach has him now looking at colleges.
"Cem called me four hours ago saying that he was in a dilemma because the national team coach in Turkey advised him to go to college or pro, instead of prep school," Smith said Wednesday evening.
The first coach tipped off about the situation was Indiana's Mike Davis, thanks to an overseas connection.
"Indiana called me this past Saturday and asked about him," Smith said. "Cem is going to visit them on [Aug.] 22nd."
Word also reached the North Carolina staff.
"Cem talked to Coach [Steve] Robinson today," Smith said, adding that he was not aware of any visit scheduled yet to Chapel Hill.
But all this leads to a number of questions. Where did he come from all of a sudden? And how good is he? It's quite a story. Follow along ...
Dinc was born in Turkey, but has spent the last 12 years in Germany. In August, 2004, he decided to travel to New York City to test his skills against American competition. He checked in on the legendary playgrounds, such as Rucker Park, and then bumped into a man from Germany that he hadn't seen in six years. The man has connections to the University of Buffalo, so later that day he's being driven to upstate New York for some pick-up ball.
There were reports that he committed to Buffalo during the visit, which Dinc denies, but a former Brewster player now at Buffalo put him in touch with Coach Smith in Wolfeboro and he enrolled at Brewster that fall.
"He was with us last fall and went home before the season began to get his 'Abitur' - a German diploma - because he has aspirations after college in the states to go to medical school," Smith said. "He went home and literally fell off the map."
While Dinc never played a game at Brewster, he did draw interest merely from his workouts. There was a visit planned to Western Carolina (who had a Turkish manager), but that fell through when the staff there was fired. Illinois coach Bruce Weber made a trip to Wolfeboro to watch another player, but Dinc caught his eye so he made a return trip to watch Dinc again. Other schools that showed interest included Florida, Villanova, Purdue, and Virginia Tech. In January, Smith got a phone call.
"Cem called and said he wanted to come back to Brewster as a post graduate," Smith said.
Smith made the plans for the big man's return and meanwhile Dinc spent the spring with the Turkish Junior National Team, before being called up to the National Team this summer.
Which brings us back to the present, with college coaches intrigued that he's available for fall admission.
"The last couple weeks colleges have learned he's coming back and that he's fully qualified," Smith said. Dinc has already paid much of his dues for the coming semester at Brewster, but Smith calls it a "long shot" that he'll still attend when classes begin on Sept. 12.
With his size and academics ("the lowest grade he got here was a 93," Smith said), college coaches are eager to take a qualified big man with potential.
"He does have excellent footwork, his father was a former high hurdler and Cem has been doing ply metrics since he was 12," Smith said. "His footwork and ability to run up and down the court separates him. What people liked when they saw him in the fall was his footwork and his athleticism. He can shoot to 15-17 feet, faces up, doesn't play much with his back to the basket.
"He has athleticism, a good body, the hands, but does he have the toughness? He hasn't proven that yet. The fact that he's been with the Turkish National Team (which includes a number of NBA players) for two months, it may have kicked in."
Stay tuned to Inside Carolina this week for more on this situation as it develops.