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May 17, 2011

Year off hasn't slowed center's rising draft stock

No, Enes Kanter hasn't played competitive basketball in the past year.

Yes, that's a concern for any NBA team taking a look at the Kentucky center, ruled ineligible by the NCAA to play college basketball.

But Kanter's limited minutes haven't stopped his stock from skyrocketing as the NBA Draft approaches. The 6-foot-11, 272-pound native of Turkey is considered a likely top five pick, with some analysts suggesting he could land in the No. 1 spot.

"He's got the size and the athletic ability, so I think he's going to gain those minutes when he gets drafted," said Ryan Blake, the NBA's co-director of scouting. "But (the layoff) is an absolute concern."

Kanter has been on Blake's radar since 2009, when he was named Most Valuable Player of the FIBA Europe Under 18 Championships.
Though he's played limited basketball since then -- Kanter put in a season at Stoneridge Prep in California -- the Turkish center has remained an attractive NBA prospect.

"He's a guy that initiates contact, accepts contact around the basket," Blake said. "He's got a quick jumper, a nice shooting touch out to the college three-point line. Agility, lateral footwork, all-around footwork. And that's in a 260-something-pound frame. That's intriguing."

But Kanter's skill set comes with some concerns.

He's been working with UK coaches and players this season, but NBA scouts haven't been able to watch him play against high-level competition in game settings.

So teams likely will lean on evaluations from this week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago as well as private workouts in which Kanter could be asked to compete against other top prospects.

Kanter is viewed as largely worth the risk, which Blake equated to the Milwaukee Bucks' Brandon Jennings, a relatively unknown commodity after he spent a year in Europe playing limited minutes after he graduated from high school.

It's encouraging to NBA clubs, Blake said, that Kanter spent a year working out against other NBA-caliber players at Kentucky. And he's viewed as a player who's willing to put in the work he needs to make up for his lost time.

"He's a smart kid, and he's passionate," Blake said. "You can't look into a guy's heart, but we already know sort of what he's made of. Good work ethic, a big-time competitor and a good head on his shoulders."


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