|A couple months ago after very few people outside Turkey knew who he was, rookie forward Furkan Aldemir of Galatasaray Medical Park made his first Turkish Airlines Euroleague start a memorable one last week. Aldemir, 20 years old, posted a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds in a road win at Union Olimpija on his way to the fifth-best performance index rating, 28, of regular season Week 4. So far this season, Aldemir ranks fourth in per-minute rebounding among all Euroleague players, while leading GS Medical Park in that category. It's no wonder he arrived to the Euroleague already with a nickname: Mr. Rebound. Most important, Aldemir's team is 2-2 after having reached the regular season through the qualifying rounds. With F.C. Barcelona Regal due in Istanbul on Thursday to give him another new challenge, Aldemir is confident in his team's course. "We knew that we would need to take some wins on the road and it's good to have beaten to Asseco Prokom and Union Olimpija away," Aldemir told Euroleague.net. "But we still have to win more games to keep on hoping for the Top 16. I think we have a good chance of reaching the Top 16 at the moment."
Hi, Furkan. First, how does it feel for you as a rookie, just turned 20 years old, to play big minutes in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague?
"This is a big season for me for two reasons. The first one is that I am in a club which is aims for the top wherever it plays. So this is a big responsibility for any player playing at Galatasaray. Second, I also find myself in one of the greatest club competitions of the world, Turkish Airlines Euroleague. So as a rookie playing big minutes in this kind of top competition is a great honor for me. And at the same time, it's great experience for me as a young guy. My mission is to give everything I have on the court."
You celebrated your first Euroleague start last week with a double-double, the fifth-best performance of the week and, of course, a victory. Was it something special for you to start?
"Of course. Having the confidence of our head coach Oktay Mahmuti is very important for me. It doesn't matter if I start or not in the games, but the most important thing is to give your best on the court, even if I have a minute. I also try to accomplish the mission Mr. Mahmuti gives me to do on the court as well as I can. Last week, our team performance played the key role in my stats. Anyway, it's good to have a win in the first game I started. But the most important thing for me is to continue this way. I hope I can raise my performance in the upcoming games."
Coach Mahmuti has given you opportunity on the court from the very first qualifying game. Were you expecting so many minutes?
"Of course, when I signed a contract with Galatasaray Medical Park, I did it to play as much as I can. Sure, it's much better to play and have minutes instead of sitting on the bench and watching the games. The minutes I play can change game by game. But again, I try to do my best for every second no matter how much I play. The good thing is our coach, Mr. Mahmuti, trusts me and my mission is to be deserving of his trust."
Of course, you and your teammates had to qualify just to reach the Euroleague. How much of a motivation was it for you in the qualifying rounds to reach the Euroleague?
"Sure, we knew it would be a great success for our club and for us, the players, to reach the group games of the best competition in Europe, the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. We played all the games with the concentration and the motivation to do this. We took all the games one by one, each as a final. We knew that it would be very tough, but also that we would try until the end. The most important one was the final game we played against Lietuvos Rytas, the home team. We played really tough in this game and I think we deserve where we are right now."
Did the qualifying rounds help you and your teammates get ready for what you are seeing now in the regular season?
"Honestly, there are many players on our roster who played in this competition previously. But some of us younger players needed to taste the atmosphere. So, it a very good experience for us as young players and also a good preparation for the team."
This week, Barcelona comes to visit Galatasaray. What do you think about facing big men like Erazem Lorbek, Fran Vazquez, Boni Ndong and Kosta Perovic?
"F.C. Barcelona Regal is a very strong team. The truth is that they will be the second big example of a strong team for me, after the game we played against Montepaschi Siena two weeks ago on the road. As you say, they have great big men like Lorbek, Vazquez, Ndong and Perovic. They are full of quality and experience. It will be a real good challenge for me and my teammates. Our only advantage is that we will play the game in front of your own fans. My only advantage can be my age, the energy and the desire of a young player. I will try to do my best against those excellent guys."
In Turkey, they call you Mr. Rebound. How did you get this specialty?
“This nickname was given to me at the European under-20 championships last summer. I broke the single-game rebounding record twice and the people started to call me that, Mr. Rebound. It was a great pleasure for me to hear that and it's still the same. I had had a serious injury and I was hoping to get back to my performance level in this tournament. So it helped me a lot to recover mentally also. Anyway, it's good to have a nickname like this as a young player."
Of course, there are some great rebounders in Turkey, starting with the Euroleague's all-time leader, Mirsad Turkcan. Who did you watch to learn rebounding from?
"Rebounding is not a thing which you can learn by working hard. You can only become a better rebounder by working hard. Rebounding , rather, is a kind of intuition of where you have to be on the court. I always watch the games of my favorite player in the NBA, Dwight Howard, and I focus on his positioning in the paint. It's the same for Mirsad Turkcan, my big brother from Fenerbahce Ulker. I also watch how he is boxing out the opponent on defense and positioning on offense. I hope that Mirsad will come back from his injury to playing again as soon as possible."
With a 2-2 record with four regular season games still at home, are you optimistic about reaching the Top 16?
"We knew that it wouldn't be easy to move to the Top 16 from a group like ours. We have some of the top teams in the competition and the candidates for the Final Four like F.C. Barcelona Regal and Montepaschi Siena. We knew that we would need to take some wins on the road and it's good to have beaten to Asseco Prokom and Union Olimpija away. But we still have to win more games to keep on hoping for the Top 16. I think we have a good chance of reaching the Top 16 at the moment."
At the end of the season, the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four comes to Istanbul. Is making the Final Four something you dream of some day?
"Of course, every player has a dream in his mind about his career. And as a European player, the dream of my dreams is to play in the Final Four and maybe take the title, too."