Furkan Korkmaz started playing basketball at the age of 9. Only six years later, when he had turned 15, Anadolu Efes saw his great potential, offering him the first professional contract in his career. However, the Turkish powerhouse proved to be the stepping stone for the big leap to the NBA with the Philadelphia Sixers.
The 22-year-old Turkish guard managed to put up a good show in all three games disputed by his National Team at the Acropolis Tournament in Athens. Korkmaz scored 25 points against hosts Greece, 16 against Serbia and 12 (on 2/9 threes) vs Italy. He also reached double figures in scoring in all four Turkey’s friendly games prior to the Tournament in Greece.
TalkBasket.net had a brief encounter with him after Turkey had defeated Italy 72-70 and the No. 26 pick in the 2016 NBA draft shared his views on the NT, the Sixers and his role with the franchise after renewing his contract.
Q: What have you learned from Turkey’s presence at the Acropolis Tournament?
A: It was a really good competition for us against Greece, Serbia and Italy. We’re still trying to get ready for the World Cup. I wouldn’t say we’re at 100%, but we’re getting there. We had a lot of up and downs during the games and we’ve just got to fix those problems. Sometimes, we play so good and sometimes so bad and it also looks bad on the court.
Q: You might need to face Greece in the second round. What’s your impression after playing them in Athens?
A: I don’t think there’s anything to say about those guys. They showed everything on the court. They have a really good roster, they’re good players and they’re playing not with just 3-4 of them, since they all are capable of affecting or changing the game. I think it’s going to be fun to watch them play. Maybe we’ll play them in the second round, but the Acropolis Tournament showed us what teams can do in the World Cup and the level of competition we’re going to meet.
Q: So, what’s the objective of the Turkish team in the World Cup?
A: We never say “we want to do this or that”. We’ll just go step by step and I think the most important thing is that we have enough talent and potential, but we need to be ourselves in every game. If we do that, I believe that we can beat any team.
Q: What’s the main characteristic of this team?
A: It’s hard to say just one thing. All the young guys on the team play in Europe, we’re a young team, but we just need to grow up more and get more experience. I think that in 2-3 years we will be at our best time.
Q: What does it mean for you to participate in the World Cup at the age of 22?
A: I’ve been playing with the National Team in the last 6-7 years. It’s a long time. I’ve played all over Europe, but I have to say “thank you” to Greece (note: Korkmaz won silver at the 2015 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship held in Volos and bronze at the 2015 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Heraclion, while he also played at the 2017 FIBA Europe Under-20 Championship held in Crete). The Turkish NT means a lot to me. I’m excited to be a part of it.
Q: You recently signed a new, two-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. Which are your expectations with the franchise?
A: It’s going to be a really important year for us. We want to win the title and also I want to be and feel a part of the team. I think it’s going to be a good season for us. Winning the title has been our goal in the last three years. It’s a work in process and our team has enough talent to win, so why not?
Q: Did you expect to sign again, after the Sixers had declined the club option on your rookie deal?
A: It was rather surprising, but it was the best option.
Q: Do you feel ready to get more playing time?
A: Of course. I’m ready for that fight. I know that nobody is going to give me the jersey to just go out and play. So, I want to earn it.
Q: Still following the Euroleague?
A: Yes, I watch the highlights of all Turkish teams. I think it’s getting better and better every year. There’s players coming from the NBA to Europe and this makes it more fun. The scores have gotten higher in the Euroleague. It’s hard to say it’s close to the NBA, but it’s definitely getting there.