Turkish delight as Funda Nakkasoglu switches allegiance

Following her recent college transfer from Utah State to Florida, Australian college standout Funda Nakkasoglu has made a transfer of a different kind, switching national allegiance from Australia to Turkey.

Nakkasoglu, who holds a dual passport, has been selected to the extended Turkish Olympic squad for a pre-tournament camp after starring in US College basketball last season with Utah State. The point guard averaged 20.8 points per game and was named to the All-Mountain West Conference first team, also being selected to The Pick and Roll’s All-Australian First Team for her efforts.

Despite being born in Melbourne and playing all her junior basketball in Australia with the Bulleen Boomers, Nakaasoglu's decision to play basketball for another country somewhat mirrors the pathway traveled by former Nicholls State standout and Sydney King Anatoly Kolesnikov (formerly known as Anatoly Bose). Kolesnikov left the NBL after the 2012 season to play in his birthplace of Kazakhstan and join their national team. He would go on to represent Kazakhstan in the 2015 FIBA Asia Tournament, where the team finished 11th of 16 teams.

In speaking with The Pick and Roll, Nakkasoglu explained that she had been pursued by Turkey over the past 12 months, but differing circumstances regarding her college career have prevented the point guard from joining the squad in the past.

"The Turkish Federation called me twice in 2015 to attend camps for the approaching European championships, but due to circumstances I was not able to attend," said Nakkasoglu.

"In May this year they invited me again for the Olympic campaign, which included playing an Olympic qualification tournament in France. This sounded great, but due to my transfer to University of Florida, I had to take a number of courses during summer to be academically eligible."

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The Turkish squad includes the entire roster which went unbeaten in the recent Olympic Qualifying Tournament to book a ticket to Rio. That squad included 3 point guards; Birsel Vardarli and Olcay Cakir of Fenerbahce, and Isil Alben of Galatasaray. All three players averaged around 7 points per game and shared minutes in the qualifying tournament. Nakkasoglu is certainly excited about joining the team for the camp, but philosophical about her chances of playing in the Olympics, with the possibility not factoring into her decision to accept the call-up.

"I am attending the current camp because Turkish coach Ekrem Memnun called me again a couple of weeks ago and said I could still go and join them at this late stage, for a chance to at least get a taste of it," explained Nakkasoglu.

"Although it is not official yet, the team has pretty much been selected from a squad who have been preparing since early May and that is the right thing. I do not have any expectations to be selected for Rio, it is more for them to see me and me to see them."

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This decision does not completely close the door on future Australian selection for Nakkasoglu, as she is yet to play a competitive fixture for Turkey. However if the Victorian is selected for the Olympic squad or in any other competitive fixtures, it will mean that she could no longer represent Australia.

Nakkasoglu however, has a realistic view of her future Opals chances if she does stick with Australia.

"Regarding the chances of playing for Australia in the future, all I can say is the history suggests the possibility is slim. I have not even been called to any junior Australian camps," Nakkasoglu pointed out.

"So, while it would be great to play for Australia one day, I need to take the opportunity to experience playing at a national level for my other country."

The call-up to the national squad certainly does indicate that Nakkasoglu could become an integral part of the Turkish team in the coming years.

"As part of his future planning, coach Memnun is looking for the next generation of players to carry the flag, building on the good legacy of the last 10 or so years," Nakkasoglu revealed.

"Time will tell if I can be a part of it."