|FIBA World Ranking||No. 21|
|How qualified||2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament|
|Key veteran||Center Nevriye Yilmaz|
|Rising Star||Center Quanitra Hollingsworth|
|Olympic medals||None (first Olympic appearance in 2012)|
|World Championship medals||None|
|Preliminary round group||Group A|
If Croatia impressed at the 2011 Eurobasket, Turkey did the same and then some as 6-4 center Nevriye Yilmaz led the Turks to a 69-62 semifinal upset of defending champion France. The Turks ran out of steam in the finals, losing to Russia 59-42 but their second-place Eurobasket finish earned them a berth at the 2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Ankara, where they delighted the home crowds with an undefeated march to the quarterfinals. There, a convincing 72-58 victory over Argentina won them a trip to the 2012 Olympics.
And then the Turks hung with the powerful U.S. team for 30 minutes in an exhibition game this Sunday before losing by 19 -- and putting all that together paints a picture of a serious medal contender in London.
Team USA's Diana Taurasi has played for both of the two major clubs in Istanbul -- Fenerbaçhe Sports Club and crosstown rival Galatasaray M.P. -- and after the exhibition game, Taurasi gave FullCourt.com the 4-1-1 on Turkish players to watch out for in London:
"Turkey's a very, very tough team," Taurasi stated. "They have good players, a great organization. They've given us the toughest test so far.
"[Nevriye Yilmaz and newly naturalized American import Quanitra Hollingsworth] are a great start. Yilmaz is very experienced. She's played in the Euroleague for a long time, played with some great teams here in Turkey. She's going to be a player that's going to look really good in the Olympics. Hollingsworth fits in pretty good with them, what they're trying to do. And probably the little point guard, Birsel [Vardarli], who runs the team will probably have a good Olympics also."
While Yilmaz is Turkey's leading scorer, the playmaking abilities of 5-9 combo guard Birsel Vardarli are another key to the team's success. The 28-year-old veteran averaged 10.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and four assists per game at Eurobasket, and exploded for 20 points and six boards in Turkey's 76-60 romp over Slovakia. Her scoring tapered off to single digits at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but her assists rose commensurately. Indeed, Vardarli took home the Tissot Turkish Player of the Tournament award after passing out 11 assists in Turkey's quarterfinal win over Argentina. Though she struggled to score in the game against Team USA, she played a big role as a facilitator, dishing out five assists over the course of the game.
Turkey owns good speed, and though somewhat undersized across the board, they have improved their height in the post, thanks not only to the presence of Yilmaz, but also to U.S.-born Quanitra Hollingsworth, a 24-year-old 6-5 center and former Virginia Commonwealth star, who became a naturalized Turkish citizen this May in order to play for the Turkish National Team. Hollingsworth has been playing in Europe, most recently at Russia's Ekaterinburg, after a short-lived stint with the WNBA's New York Liberty and has emerged as the team's second-leading scorer, posting 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, her first appearance with the Turkish National Team. She had 16 points and nine rebounds against the Americans as she gets more and more in the mix.
Toss in 6-3 forward Bahar Caglar, 6-2 center Yasemin Horasan and 6-2 forward Tuğçe Canitez, a graduate of North Idaho Community College who won the 2012 Women's Basketball Coaches Association NAIA Player of the Year while at Westmont College last year, and it's easy to see that Turkey has plenty of height in the paint. They also have legit long-range threats in Vardarli, who sank five of her 12 attempts from beyond the arc at the Qualifying Tournament, Turkish guard Tugğba Palazoğlu (Barton County Community College, Western Illinois), who went five-for-10 from downtown, and 5-11 forward Şaziye Ivegin-Karsli, who netted four of her 10 long-ball attempts over the three games of the tournament.
The problem is that Turkey's sharpshooters are inconsistent, allowing teams with height of their own to collapse in the paint when Turkey's perimeter players suffer an off night. In fact, only Ivegin was the only one of the trio who made a three-pointer against the U.S., hitting two of four.
The Turks don't have much history at the Olympic or World Championship level, but that strong performance against Team USA could be the trigger for a run to the medal rounds in London.
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