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West Virginia basketball commitment Deniz Kilicli recently played his final game as a prep player in the U.S. In this exclusive interview, he tells BlueGoldNews.com about his year at Mountain State Academy, his plans for the spring and summer and his future at WVU.

The biggest challenge for the soft-shooting big man was to learn the U.S. game and to use his height and weight to his advantage. Having learned to play basketball with a European style – that is, with less contact and more finesse, Kilicli didn't often get all of the advantages that his 6-9, 250-pound frame should confer. His mid-range jumper and three-point shot were the equal of just about any big man's, but in the lane, and on defense, he didn't command space the way he should. That's something that he worked on continuously during the year, but which will still require much development.

"I have worked on my physical game the most," said Kilicli, whose English has also improved markedly over the course of just a few months. "I tell everyone that in Europe, it's a different kind of game. I am trying to be like an American basketball player. I have learned some things, but I have a lot of things to do, and a lot more to work on."

Kilicli's improvement mainly came in practices, although he did get the chance to play some top-level competition in the form of teams from Oak Hill Academy and Findlay during the season. The problem? Finding players that were big enough to bang with and play physically against without drawing too much attention from officials.

"When I play against smaller people, I get fouls too much," he explained ruefully. "Everything that you do, you are bigger and stronger than the other players, and they fall and sometimes I got some quick fouls.

"Playing against bigger players, and big teams like Oak Hill, that didn't happen as much, because those guys were strong too. Playing against those guys, they are top prospects. It shows you where you are, and what you need to work on."

Kilicli wasn't offering any excuses for his play. It was simply an observation that it wasn't always easy to work on bumping and banging, as a 6-2 center giving up 70 pounds doesn't offer the best challenge for improving low post physical play. Kilicli was able to score often inside against such foes, but the art of using body position and strength to create scoring opportunities wasn't always available for work. Neither were the same factors on the defensive end, where Kilicli will have to be more aggressive as well.

However, there were a few chances to do that, especially against the Warriors, which Kilicli and Mountain State faced twice this year.

"When I first got here, and played Oak Hill the first time, I learned a lot," the Turkish native noted. "I understand that it's not going to be like it was in Europe. I am still learning from that."

The next steps in Kilicli's learning experience come after graduation from Mountain State, when he will return home for a visit and a stint on the Turkish Under 20 national team. Kilicli will get the chance to spend several days at home, which will be just his second trip home since leaving for the U.S.

"I was able to get home a few weeks ago for 5-6 days, but it's never enough," he said with a smile

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