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August 25, 2009

Kanter starting to get acclimated to America

Todd Simon's life just got a whole lot busier.

As an assistant coach at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, Simon will be the point man in the recruitment of Enes Kanter, a 6-foot-10 Turkish forward who enrolled this past Wednesday.

Born in Zurich, Switzerland, and raised in Turkey, Kanter was the MVP of the U18 European Championship, where he posted 32 points and 25 rebounds in the semifinals against Serbia and 35 points and 19 rebounds in the championship game against Lithuania.

Simon said he has already heard from representatives from more than 50 schools who want to come to Findlay's open gyms beginning Sept. 9. As a member of the Class of 2010, Kanter could sign with an American college as early as November.

"Oh yeah, the requests are off the wall for head coaches setting up times to sit down with some of these guys [at Findlay]," Simon said. "High-major programs are offering Enes on the spot, sight unseen. It's just been wild. But we're gonna make an educated decision and take things slow."

Then Simon rattled off some of the Division I programs after Kanter.

"It's been 50-60 schools, everybody from UCLA to USC to Arizona, Texas, Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Memphis, Florida, Ohio State, UConn, you can go right down the line," he said.

Simon said he was reluctant to make Kanter, who just turned 17, available for an interview because, "I gave his family my word I'd let him get a little acclimated before the recruiting interviews."

Kanter did come to the U.S. briefly in May 2008 to play in the Jordan Brand International Game at Madison Square Garden. During that experience he met Michael Jordan.

"I want to come and play in the NBA," Kanter said then. "But I'm still 16, so I still need a bit of time."

Kanter was originally supposed to enroll at the Winchendon (Mass.) School that fall, but Simon said, "Ultimately, the timing wasn't right."

Since then, his family did additional research on American schools and chose Findlay.

Though it lost Avery Bradley to Texas, this year's Findlay team will again be loaded. In addition to Kanter, 6-10 Texas-bound forward Tristan Thompson, 6-8 forward Godwin Okonji, 6-3 combo guard Cory Joseph, 6-4 junior guard Nick Johnson and 6-3 junior guard Jabari Brown are on the roster.

Findlay has drawn national attention because the team isn't governed by a state athletic association, plays a national schedule and is sponsored by Cliff Findlay - a car dealership owner from Las Vegas and UNLV basketball standout in the late 1960s. He named the school after his mother, Mary Jo Findlay, and helped jump-start the program.

Cliff Findlay pays for the players to share a luxurious five-bedroom home with Simon.

"There are TVs in every room, a big screen TV in the living room," Thompson said. "There are two full kitchens stocked with fruits, vegetables and things like mac and cheese."

Simon said Kanter's English is limited and that he's adjusting to life in the U.S.

"He's fully aware and reading stuff out loud in English, but the first 30 days is confidence time," Simon said. "He's gotta get used to his new surroundings."

On the basketball court, everyone seems to agree Kanter is special.

Kanter played for Turkish non-professional club team Fenerbahce Ulker and also competed briefly in the EuroLeague, but Simon said it shouldn't be an issue with the NCAA Clearinghouse because he didn't receive any money or sign a contract.

"He competed as an amateur," Simon said.

In the meantime, Simon figures to be very busy on Kanter's behalf because he isn't giving Kanter's cell phone number out to college coaches.

"From a logistical standpoint and to keep it sane for him, we'll filter things through our office," Simon said. "He could be on the phone all day, every day if we gave out his cell phone number, which we don't intend to do."

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