Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Turkish Connection

Previously on this blog, we have talked about the men's basketball team from my alma mater Radford University in Radford, Va.

The RU Highlanders will be playing the University of North Carolina at 2:50 p.m., on Thursday, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Greensboro.

The assistant coach of that team Ali Ton happens to hail from my late father's country, Turkey.

Ton is credited brining the Highlanders' star player Art Parakhouski to Radford from Belarus by way of Southern Idaho University.

The Highlanders are a 26-point underdog, but having watched the team play, I think Tarheel fans who expect a major route are in for a big surprise.

But, Ton will not be the only Turkish person trying to get his head to advance to the second round in Greensboro.

University of Texas guard Dogus Balbay (pictured here) is a 20-year-old basketball player who helped guide Turkey to an under 16 European title in 2005. Balbay also played for the Fenerbahce team in Istanbul.

The Texas Longhorns will play Minnesota in the first round of the tourney and the winner would likely meet second-seeded Duke, whose campus in Durham, NC, is a mere 45 miles from the Greensboro Coliseum. But, Texas is a team which ESPN analyst Digger Phelps says could be dangerous in the tournament because of their size and depth.

Texas coach Rick Barnes said that Balbay is vital for the Longhorns because he provides quality depth at the point guard position.

We wish Ton and Balbay well at the NCAA Tourney.......if only tickets weren't (yikes!) $160*

*-that's how much someone I know paid to see both rounds in Greensboro on Thursday and Saturday. He maintains that it is a 'bargain.'

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