“I did feel it important to mention that Bradley Beal got robbed from making All-NBA,” Yurtseven said in an interview Thursday.
Opening salvo aside, the Turkish big man moved onto more pertinent issues, like the range he’s added to his offensive game and the lateral quickness he’s developed in the past six months. For Yurtseven, the chat with the Wizards — his 12th pre-draft interview, with three or four more on the docket — was another chance to make his case as a 22-year-old with the pro experience, modern game and size to succeed in the NBA.
For the Wizards, who own the No. 9 and No. 37 pick in this year's draft, which has been pushed back to Nov. 18, it was another day in the continuing quest for high-quality talent that can help push Washington into playoff territory next season.
Yurtseven told the Wizards he could be that guy. An all-Big East honorable mention after one season at Georgetown (following two impressive years at North Carolina State), Yurtseven was more of an offensive threat than he was a lockdown defender. But he's spent the past six months since the college basketball season shut down due to the novel coronavirus living at a cousin's house in Maryland, working out with a trainer three times a day and retooling his game.
The 7-footer has added a three-point shot to the bunnies and midrange jumpers that were his specialty with the Hoyas, where he averaged 15.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game and shot 53.4 percent from the floor, sixth-best in the Big East. After shoring up a left-ankle sprain that limited him to 26 games, he trimmed 15 pounds while adding strength to his lower body.
Most relevant to the Wizards' needs, Yurtseven has worked on his defense. That's one of the things he talked about most with Washington, since he wasn't able to show off his progress with an in-person workout because of the pandemic.
“They need guys to be able to step out on ball screens and guard the guards, switch off the guard,” Yurtseven said. “I've been working on my lateral quickness and I think that would be one of the biggest things, improvements I've made over the past six months that I wasn't able to show in college, along with that three-point shot.
“Offensively, the role that I was required to play at Georgetown was to collapse defenses, draw defenders inside. Whenever I would pop, coaches would tell me, yell at me from the bench saying “roll, roll!” That was one of the main reasons I became a roll man, became that inside presence. There wasn’t a problem when I would step out to the mid-post area, but shooting a three was — I wouldn’t say something that the team, or the coach really, wanted from me … that was my role. So that’s what I try to explain to teams.”
At this point in the pre-draft process, Yurtseven knows which questions he’ll field. Other than hearing about his offensive development, most teams want his perspective on Georgetown’s dramatic season in which the Hoyas lost four players to transfer in a two-week span.
“The answer to that is, it required us to come together,” Yurtseven said. “For me and the other seniors on our team to step up. That kind of initiated the leadership side in me, to be able to tell the guys who talk back to the coach to shut up and listen, simple things like that.”
It was a landmark season for Yurtseven in terms of maturity, despite his previous experience with the pro game. As a teenager, he spent three years with a professional Turkish club, where he racked up game experience against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Brooklyn Nets in international games.
His familiarity with the pro lifestyle has made Yurtseven and his agent hyper-focused on finding the right cultural team fit for the big man, rather than obsessing about when his name might be called. He is slated to go in the second round of November's draft.
“When teams ask about the overall progress that I’ve made, I have to mention that when I was 15 I played against OKC, at 17 I played against the Nets, I played against the Spurs, all the little milestones that led to college, then brought me here,” Yurtseven said. “They’ll touch on literally everything from every part of your life. They already know the answers, but it’s my chance to give my perspective. Since I can’t show them in person how I’ve grown, I’ve got to take these chances seriously.”