Turkey's Alperen Sengun, the No. 14 basketball prospect in the ESPN Top 100, has submitted paperwork to the league office to make himself eligible for the 2021 NBA draft, he told ESPN on Wednesday.
"At the beginning of the season, I didn't think my performance would be this high, but with every passing game I felt I could do more and more," Sengun said via email. "I believe that there are no limits for me to get better as a basketball player."
The 18-year-old Sengun is in the midst of one of the most productive seasons in European basketball history for a teenager, averaging 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.3 steals in 28 minutes per game for Turkish league team Besiktas, shooting 65% from the field and 81% from the free throw line.
"I have always played with and against older players so adjusting to playing in a league with professionals was not unfamiliar," he said. "I am aware of the things I have done well but I also recognize aspects of my game I want to strengthen. I enjoy focusing on those aspects and becoming a better basketball player every time I step on the court."
A dominant interior scorer with preternatural instincts crashing the glass, creating for teammates, getting in passing lanes, and protecting the rim, Sengun has drawn comparisons from NBA scouts to the likes of Kevin Love and Domantas Sabonis with his style of play.
Sengun ranks second in the league in points, rebounds, blocks, free throw attempts and scoring efficiency, helping his team post a 19-11 record and fifth-place finish to the regular season. The Turkish league playoff quarterfinals start this weekend with Besiktas facing Tofas Bursa in a matchup between the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds.
"I transferred to Besiktas with some teammates that I had been playing with in Bandirma," Sengun said. "Besiktas took a bold step and trusted us to represent them in the league. It took us some time to adapt to the league since we were an extremely young team, but we kept on working and ended up finishing the regular season really well."
Sengun has been a stalwart at the national team level for Turkey since he was a 15-year-old, playing at the U16, U17 and U18 levels, and making his debut with the senior national team in November as part of the FIBA qualifying window.
"Being selected to the Turkish National Basketball Team was a huge step forward for me and my performances in the qualifiers gave me more confidence that I am ready take the next step to the NBA," he said.
While he has always been highly productive in virtually every setting in which he has played, Sengun wasn't considered a serious NBA prospect until he shed significant weight and showed he can successfully transition to competing against men in the Turkish BSL, arguably the best domestic league in Europe along with the Spanish ACB.
Strong performances against Euroleague squads like Fenerbahce and Anadolu Efes changed that thinking. Few current NBA players have been able to hold their own versus elite competition the way Sengun has, despite the fact that he is still 18. (He will turn 19 on July 25, four days prior to the draft.)
Sengun says he plans on competing in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Canada in late June, where Turkey will face the Czech Republic, Uruguay and then either Greece, Canada or China in the elimination games, depending on their performance.
If Turkey does not qualify for the Olympics, Sengun will head to the United States in July to prepare for the NBA pre-draft process. The NBA has yet to inform teams of what restrictions will be in place regarding private workouts or in-person meetings, beyond scheduling its draft combine featuring competitive five-on-five games, shooting drills, strength and agility testing and more from June 22-25 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.