Omer Yurtseven has had enough of watching, the N.C. State freshman is ready to play.
The 7-footer from Turkey had to sit out the Wolfpack’s first nine games after the NCAA reviewed his amateur status. He is hungry to make his long-awaited debut on Thursday against Appalachian State.
“I mean, sitting on the bench, like, how can I say it? It’s like you always smell the food but you never get to eat it,” Yurtseven said. “I think that’s how you can call it. That’s the perfect example.”
There were some benefits for Yurtseven to watching the first nine games from the N.C. State (7-2) bench. He spent the previous three years playing for a professional club team in Turkey. International rules, especially how you are allowed to defend in the post, are different than NCAA rules.
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That adjustment will be the biggest for Yurtseven, a big man whose passing and shooting skills translate to any version of basketball.
Yurtseven was allowed to play in N.C. State’s two preseason games and he fouled out of the second one, a 112-60 win over Barton on Nov. 7, in 11 minutes.
“(The referees) are trying to get the game softer is what I think,” Yurtseven said. “So you have to be smart with it.”
There’s definitely less contact allowed in the NCAA than in FIBA rules. Yurtseven was only 15 when he started to play for Fenerbahce and was used to playing against grown men.
In the two preseason games, Yurtseven would often initiate contact in the post and then be surprised by the foul calls. He also had one rebound that he grabbed out of the cylinder, in the first preseason game against Lynn, that could have been called for goaltending.
That’s another main difference between NCAA and FIBA rules: you are allowed to take the ball off the rim, or out of the cylinder, on rebounds in international play.
I mean, sitting on the bench, like, how can I say it? It’s like you always smell the food but you never get to eat it.
Yurtseven figures to have a bigger role than he had in the preseason games with the Wolfpack. He had six points and five rebounds in 17 minutes in the first game and two points (on only one field goal attempt) and five rebounds in the second game.
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried noticed that Yurtseven was hesitant to do too much in either game knowing that he wouldn’t be able to play for the first nine games.
“I think Omer is very aware that he doesn’t want to infringe on other people,” Gottfried said. “There are times in practice where I want him to be more aggressive. I think that’s where, as he gets more comfortable, he’ll know what the team needs.”
Much is expected of Yurtseven, particularly as a pairing with freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. in pick-and-roll situations. The combination could be very difficult to stop.
Gottfried did note that Smith, in particular, was excited about Yurtseven being able to play, but he also knows there will be an adjustment period.
“I keep telling myself, I have to be patient, too,” Gottfried said. “I kind of want him to be a finished product on Day One and that’s not going to happen. It’s going to take a little bit of time.”
Yurtseven has tried to make the most of his time in practice to get ready for what might be his only season at N.C. State. He’s already considered a first-round draft pick, based on his play in Turkey.
But Yurtseven, a computer science major, has enjoyed his time at school and with his new teammates. While Yurtseven was talking with the media on Tuesday, senior forward BeeJay Anya playfully walked up to the scrum and was cheering him on.
After the long wait, the tipoff with the Mountaineers can’t get here fast enough.
“I’m not nervous, I’m just excited,” Yurtseven said. “I’m trying to get myself nervous so I can concentrate more.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
Appalachian State at N.C. State
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh