Omer Yurtseven can explain his decision to leave N.C. State and transfer to Georgetown in two words: Patrick Ewing.
The talented 7-footer from Turkey wants to learn from the former NBA great and current Georgetown coach. He’s even willing to sit out a year, and put his own NBA career on hold, to do it.
“He has been there, he has done that,” Yurtseven said of Ewing, an 11-time NBA all-star and hall-of-fame center. “I’m hoping he can teach me, as a big man.”
Yurtseven averaged 13.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore and helped the Wolfpack reach the NCAA tournament. He will have two years of eligibility at Georgetown but will have to sit out the 2018-19 season under current NCAA rules.
Yurtseven, who has been projected as a late first-round pick, said he didn’t think he was ready for the NBA.
“My goal is not to just be a first-rounder,” Yurtseven said. “I want to make an impact when I get there. I’m not 100 percent ready for that.”
The chance to learn from Ewing, who went 15-15 in his first season as the Hoyas’ coach, outweighed another season at N.C. State, Yurtseven said.
Yurtseven would have been the primary post option for N.C. State next season. The Wolfpack instead will now have to rely on an assortment of newcomers, including junior-college transfer Derek Funderburk and a pair of freshmen.
Yurtseven said he had nothing but respect for N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts.
“I made a decision for myself,” Yurtseven said.
It was an eventful two years in Raleigh for the skilled big man from Istanbul. He was recruited by former coach Mark Gottfried and had to sit out the first nine games of the 2016-17 season while the NCAA cleared his eligibility issues.
Yurtseven played for a Turkish pro club for three years before he got to N.C. State. He had a difficult freshman season. He often struggled with foul trouble and was too passive. He averaged 5.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game as a freshman.
He went through the NBA draft process last year, and likely would have been a second-round pick, but decided to return for his sophomore year and play for Keatts. He blossomed in Keatts’ up-tempo system and was used more in pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop sets to showcase his shooting touch.
“(Keatts) has done a really good job,” Yurtseven said. “I respect him and all the coaches at N.C. State who helped me, but I need a big-man coach that can help me improve.”
Yurtseven played well in N.C. State’s high-profile wins over Arizona (11 points, nine rebounds) and Duke (16 points, nine rebounds). He had a career-high 29 points in the Wolfpack’s home win over Clemson. Foul trouble limited Yurtseven in N.C. State’s NCAA tournament loss to Seton Hall and he had two points in 14 minutes before fouling out.
That could be Yurtseven’s last college game until the 2019-20 season. He is holding out hope for an NCAA rule change on undergraduate transfers.
An NCAA committee of athletic directors, conference commissioners and faculty athletic representatives have discussed the possibility of allowing undergraduate transfers with a grade point average of 3.0 or better to play immediately.
Yurtseven, who is a Science, Technology and Society major, said with a strong academic finish to the spring semester, and some summer school classes, he could reach that threshold. The NCAA Division I Council will meet in June and could pass new transfer rules. The new rules might not come in time to help Yurtseven, but he said he made the decision to leave N.C. State knowing he would likely have to sit out next season.
“I’d rather not sit out next season, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to help me get where I’m trying to get,” Yurtseven said.
Yurtseven is the third player to transfer out of N.C. State since December and is the sixth over the past four years.