Kanter is a talented Turkish big man who made the Turkish professional team Fenerbahce Ulker at the age of 16. He played limited minutes there, but did get into four Euroleague games -- the top league in Europe.
After the season, Kanter moved onto the radar of NBA scouts playing for Turkey at the 2009 FIBA Under-18 Championships. He averaged 18.6 points and 16.4 rebounds in the tournament, led Turkey to a bronze medal and walked away with MVP honors.
After Kanter won the MVP for Turkey, his team offered him a five-year, multimillion euro contract. Kanter, however, dreamed of playing in the NCAA and NBA and left Turkey that summer. The move was not popular in Turkey, nor was it popular in the U.S. Turkish newspapers criticized the move and U.S. schools didn't want anything to do with him. He initially enrolled at Findlay Prep in Nevada, but left the school after other teams in the league protested. He eventually landed at Stoneridge Prep in Simi Valley, Calif., and in November of 2009 he committed to play at Washington. In early 2010, however, Kanter re-opened the recruiting process and eventually signed with Kentucky.
In April, Kanter went from an intriguing prospect to a potential lottery pick with his dominant performance at the Nike Hoop Summit.
Kanter, then just 17, shook off a poor week of practices (he later revealed he had a sore back that kept him from jumping and almost prevented him from playing) to dominate in the game. Kanter had 34 points (a Hoop Summit record), 13 boards and did it all in 22 minutes. He did a lot of his damage against McDonald's MVP Jared Sullinger.
I wrote back then that "Kanter was a beast in the paint, muscling his way in for position and regularly clawing his way through a pair of Team USA's high-profile bigs for a whopping eight offensive boards. … Not only was he a bear around the basket, but he also showed off his ability to put the ball on the floor and hit the outside J. On Saturday night, Kanter looked like a future lottery pick."
However, it would be the last competitive game Kanter would play. He was ruled permanently ineligible to play in the NCAA because of benefits he received while playing for Fenerbahce as a 16-year-old.
While awaiting his appeal, Kanter practiced with the Kentucky team, but after Kentucky's appeal was turned down Kanter was no longer allowed to even practice with the team. He was left working out in a gym, one-on-one with a Kentucky assistant coach.
For the past few weeks, Kanter has taken his game to Chicago to prep for the 2011 NBA draft. Would a team really take him in the top five based on a great 2009 European Championship run, a year of high school games and an historic night at the Nike Hoop Summit even though he hasn't played a competitive game in more than a year?
I've been pretty confident he's going to be a top-five pick all year. I still am.
While legitimate questions remain about the loss of two critical years of game development, Kanter possesses virtually all of the qualities NBA teams are looking for in bigs, especially for a kid who is one of the youngest players in this year's draft.
He's big (he measured a shade below 6-foot-11 in shoes with a 7-1 wingspan at the Hoop Summit), has an NBA body and uses his strength around the basket. He has a relentless motor on the boards and has excellent footwork for an 18-year-old big man. He's also gotten in terrific shape in Chicago and appears much more explosive than we thought last year. At the Hoop Summit, Kanter was nursing a back injury and could barely get off the floor. In workouts here at ATTACK, Kanter showed he had no problem playing over the rim. While he's no Blake Griffin, he's not a stiff, either.