Turkish Great Semih Erden: The NBA, 2010 World Championships, Kyrie, Casspi, Shaq – The Pinar Karsiyaka Big Man in conversation

Mar 16, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Hapoel Holon host Pinar Karsiyaka in Champions League Round of 16 Playoff action on Wednesday as they look to move their record to 3-0 in group play. The visitors from Turkey find themselves in 3rd place with a 1-1 record and will look to get back onto the wing track after falling last week to Brindisi.

One of Karsiyaka’s most well known players is Semih Erden. The center has been a rock for Turkey for more than a decade as he began to develop with Fenerbahce where he won there league titles and has featured in the NBA as well as for the national team helping his country earn a Silver medal at the 2010 World Championships.

Semih Erden – Photo Credit: FIBA

The Sports Rabbi had the privilege to interview Erden ahead of the BCL clash as we reminisced about his glorious career to date and the keys to success with his club who are not only looking to win the continental title but are in the hunt in the Turkish domestic league with a 20-4 record, good for second place.

“Working hard and performing the best on the court by following the rules set by our head coach Ufuk Sarıca has been the key so far,” Erden began as he also referenced what his team will need to do in order to return home with a win against Holon. “Playing every game like a final. We will be prepared the best way to defeat the Holon and hit the court with 100% performance.”

For the 34-year old, there is no question that one of the most exciting moments as a basketball player came at the 2010 World Championships when he helped lead Turkey undefeated to the Gold Medal game where they tipped off against the Americans. Along the way Erden’ squad knocked off European powerhouses France, Greece, Russia and Serbia in what was a big huge accomplishment for the nation, “This was too special for me to be expressed in words. Playing against United States was very exciting and proud,” he said about the US team which featured the likes of Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook.

Semih Erden & Shaq – Youtube.com

While Hedo Turkoglu is “one of the best players ever in Turkish basketball,” and was Erden’s teammate on that World Championship team, he actually emulated one of the NBA’s greatest big men who would eventually become his teammate as well in the World’s Greatest League, “Shaquille O’Neal was my role model.”

Following the World Championships which were held in Turkey, Erden who had been drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 60th pick in the 2008 draft made his way to the NBA to play with some of the same players he had just faced.

Semih Erden – Photo Credit: Pinar Karsiyaka

“The NBA was my dream and I feel lucky to have made it happen. Playing with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen was incredible and it was really great to play with them. It was not easy to adjust to that level because they are all stars and professional basketball players. I worked with all my energy and tried to contribute on the court for the team.”

After 37 games with the Celtics, Erden was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers along with Luke Harangody where he would see a young Kyrie Irving up close while also sharing the floor with the first Israeli in the NBA, Omri Casspi, “I realized that Kyrie would really be a great basketball player at the first training session. He is an incredible basketball player and talent. It is fun to watch him play. I was good friends with Casspi and we always walked around while playing in the NBA.”

Semih Erden – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

Following his time in the NBA, the 7-time Turkish League all-star moved back to Turkey where he played for EFES, Fenerbahce and Darussafaka where he played with not only his former NBA teammate Luke Harangody but also Scottie Wilbekin, Ante Zizic, Will Clyburn and Brad Wannamaker, “It was a very talented and strong team. All of them were very important players in my career.”

However, his second season with the club under Israeli head coach wasn’t one that he’d like to look back on after being waived in February of 2017, “I don’t remember anything,” he commented.

Semih Erden – Photo Credit: Pinar Karsiyaka

After stops in Besiktas and Istanbul BB, Erden signed with Karsiyaka in 2019 and extended his contract through the end of the 2022 campaign. Looking back on his star studded career to date, Erden pointed out the crucial parts of his journey so far, “The championships I achieved while playing for Fenerbahçe and the times I played in the NBA are the most important moments of my life.”

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