I'll never forget the phone conversation I had on a Sunday afternoon in April 2007 when the Kevin Durant "Is he going pro?" speculation was at its peak. Trying to confirm two previous reports on Durant's decision, I wound up getting in touch with someone who was able to confirm without any doubt (in my mind) that KD was gone for the pros.
It was, for twenty minutes, one of the worst conversations ever; after all, I really, really wanted him to stay. As did many of you.
But the final fifteen minutes of that conversation made it all worth the while: If there was very little joy in sitting down to report that Durant would indeed announce his departure, it was tempered by the supplemental information that this source took the time to discuss with me, including some very nice words about the incoming Dogus Balbay:
Perhaps the most interesting part of my conversations on Sunday surrounded the last person I talked to, who moved through some other information on Durant before switching topics to Balbay. I was told that there's not nearly enough hype surrounding [Balbay's] commitment to Texas and he doesn't understand why. In his eyes, he's a huge pickup for Texas and will be a tremendous boost to our backcourt.
That was a while ago, of course, and Balbay wound up injuring his knee in October, just before the 2007 season. He immediately underwent what was effectively season-ending surgery, but he was healed enough in March that Texas coaches are lobbying with the NCAA to count several of Texas' final games as ones in which Balbay voluntarily did not participate. The lobbying effort comes after the NCAA suspended Balbay for 10-games for participating briefly on a professional team in his home country of Turkey.
Beyond the surgery and suspension, we haven't heard much about Balbay until yesterday, when the Austin American-Statesman's Mark Rosner profiled DJ Augustin's potential successor at the point, gathering a host of opinions on what kind of player Texas fans might expect to see this winter:
Chris Ogden, Assistant Coach: "I think he's going to be very good." (Thanks, Chris.)
Fran Fraschilla, ESPN TV Commentator: Rosner reports that "Fraschilla said recently that the 6-foot Balbay has a competitive spirit and attack-the-basket approach that suggests Manu Ginobili, the San Antonio Spurs' guard."
Ken McDonald, Western Kentucky Head Coach (former Texas assistant coach): "He has a swagger to him. He's fearless."
Russ Springmann, Assistant Coach: Rosner writes that "Springmann said the players still talk about the time Balbay dunked on Mason last year. Balbay was less successful while recently attempting to throw one down over Dexter Pittman. The 6-10 Pittman stuffed him, but that's not the point. 'Dogus is athletic enough and aggressive enough to try it,' Springmann said. 'He'll dunk on somebody's head.'"
If there's a theme there and throughout the article, it's that Balbay's shot is pretty raw, but he plays the point with confidence and purpose, an evaluation Texas fans should be thrilled to see; among the very hardest things to teach a player is how to play with purpose and never hesitate. Stick a kid with a raw jumper in the gym for a summer, however, and you may well get Damion James.
BALBAY ON YOUTUBE
Oh yes, he's on YouTube! To my great surprise, there is in fact one clip of the Turk doing his thing, featuring two... very interesting... crossover dribbles from Balbay in the fifteen second clip:
It's an interesting couple of moves, isn't it? In the first, Balbay does a more traditional crossover, right-to-left before slinging the ball behind his back in a single dribble, receiving it with his right hand, and slinging a pass to a teammate on the wing. The second move is a little more deliberate, but well-executed, as Balbay raises a quick head-fake, crosses left-to-right, then back immediately to the left, his defender leaning just a bit too much to keep him from going by.
I'm excited to see him play.