Heralded big man Omer Yurtseven was ruled ineligible for the first nine games of the season by the NCAA on Monday. Apparently, it was due to concerns about what Yurtseven received while playing basketball overseas before coming to the states to play the sport for for free — you know, to help make NCAA university members make money.
Nine games isn’t the end of the world. He will be back in time for North Carolina State’s game against Appalachian State on Dec. 15, but he will be forced to pay $1,000 to a charity of his choice.
While the latter is an entire discussion needed to be had for a different time, as forcing unpaid laborers to pay fines is patently absurd, the focus of our discussion is on how the nine games missed can hurt the Wolfpack in the long haul.
Getting some of the mostly known semantics out of the way first: Yurtseven was set to join highly regarded freshman Dennis Smith Jr. to help lead a solid returning cast for North Carolina State make its way back to the NCAA Tournament after the program missed the Big Dance for the first time in five years last season.
The team is expected to be rather good this season, as indicated by the coaches in the Atlantic Coast Conference picking the team to finish sixth in the incredibly deep and difficult league.
But there is a problem underneath the surface of Yurtseven “only” missing a bunch of non-conference games. He’s going to join the fold a third of the way into the season, without the experience that comes with playing many cupcakes bigger programs often line up, and head coach Mark Gottfried is going to be put in the weird position of trying to work him into the rotation on the fly.
There is some good news on the latter front, as Gottfried had approached the upcoming season as if Yurtseven wasn’t going to be available at all. So, there is a (maybe limited) contingency plan already in place to deal with this suspension.
Yurtseven is a talented player. At least we think.
He initially became a somewhat known commodity after finishing with 91 points, 28 rebounds and 5 assists in a singular Turkey under-18 game. Before that, he became an alluring prospect to universities around the United States after the European Championships, in which the seven-footer averaged 9.8 points and 8.7 rebounds in 2015 and 15.1 points and 8.1 rebounds at the under-16 games in 2014.
Even with that sort of talent, or at least the idea of it, comes with a learning curve attached to it when going up in a level of play.
While not as steep a climb as the jump from college to the pros, going from young teenager to potentially a hugely important big man on a team primed to make a run near the top of the ACC is quite the ask.
Losing nine games to start the season will hamper that a bit. It removes the chance for Yurtseven to learn on the fly against nearly two-handfuls worth of teams that bring different looks to the table. Confidence could have been built, experience gained, and the team as a whole, under Gottfried’s eye, could have a more set rotation heading into the Christmas holiday.
That is no longer the case.
Instead of being a known commodity heading into the season of a fat man breaking into our houses by way of chimney tomfoolery, North Carolina State is more likely to be a very much still young, inexperienced, without a set rotation squad.
This isn’t the worst thing in the world. Yurtseven will still have a total of four non-conference games under his belt before ACC play begins, and those events will be against low-major programs, so he should be able to ease his way into the realm of college basketball.
But it doesn’t change the fact that nine games of experience is gone, and his introduction to (the American version of) amateur sports was done in a rather auspicious way.
It shouldn’t change how positive most felt about the Wolfpack prior to the suspension, but early expectations for the team now need to be tempered. Despite not actually knowing what impact Yurtseven was going to have in actuality when the season began, we did know he was projected to be a player of consequence.
When a team is relying on a few freshmen to help win games, then loses one of them for a bunch of games to start the season, a few bumps in the road should be expected.
Basically, this is our advanced warning to not overreact if North Carolina State struggles mildly during the non-conference schedule, and slightly early-on during conference play.