NEW YORK — For Jared Sullinger, a top-five national prospect headed for Ohio State, Enes Kanter was an unknown commodity going into last weekend's Nike Hoop Summit.
"I had never heard of him tearing up any camps," Sullinger said Friday.
So Kanter presented quite a calling card in the game. He scored 34 points, breaking Dirk Nowitzki's 12-year-old record for the World Select Team, and grabbed 13 rebounds.
The USA Junior National Select Team won 101-97 with Sullinger scoring 22 points. But Kanter won, too, setting records for field goals made (13) and attempted (21) and stamping himself as an elite player. With Kanter signing a national letter of intent with Kentucky earlier this week, that's good news for a program looking to reload after announcing that five players planned to enter this year's NBA Draft.
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"His skill ability is off the charts," Sullinger said after a practice for the Jordan Brand Classic here on Saturday. "He's going to be a really great basketball player on the (college) level."
A native of Turkey, Kanter came to the United States last summer and played this past season for Stoneridge Preparatory School in Simi Valley, Calif. He ranks 25th on ESPNU's Top 100 and is rated a five-star player by both Rivals.com and Scout.com recruiting services.
Kanter played for the Turkish under-18 national team in 2009 and was named MVP after averaging 18.6 points and a tournament-best 16.4 rebounds as Turkey won the bronze medal at the European Championships.
But before Kanter stars for Kentucky as a seemingly solid replacement for one-and-done DeMarcus Cousins, he must gain his initial eligibility. His amateur status is clouded because he played for a Turkish pro team before coming to the United States.
But Calipari said on ESPNU on Wednesday that he had been assured that Kanter was never paid.
"There's a lot of misinformation out there," Calipari said on ESPNU. "He's been cleared by the clearinghouse."
The UK coach misspoke.
NCAA spokesman Chuck Wynne said Friday that Kanter had not gained his eligibility.
"The prospective student-athlete has registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center and the certification process is ongoing," Wynne wrote in an e-mail.
That process is two-fold because any player must be judged eligible academically and be deemed an amateur.
UK figures not to know about Kanter's eligibility for some time. Typically, the NCAA handles cases involving fall sports like football, first. That caseload can consume the summer months. Then the NCAA Eligibility Center turns its attention to winter sports like basketball.
During his appearance on ESPNU, Calipari suggested that players cannot sign with European teams until 18 years of age. Since Kanter is only 17, he was not allowed to be a professional.
Calipari also said the NCAA was softening its view of the amateur status of European players. "Instead of if you played in five games when you were 16 years old, that means you miss five games, they're going back and they're changing that ... based on European basketball is not like basketball here in the States," he said.
The NCAA is exploring such a reform. But that reform has not yet been approved. Under existing rules, if anyone on the team got paid to play, that pay could impact the eligibility of someone like Kanter.
Players in that situation ultimately can gain eligibility, but they can be ordered to sit out a number of games.
Whenever Kanter takes the court, recruiting analysts join Sullinger in expectation of a huge impact.
"Killer inside," Clark Francis of the Hoop Scoop said.
"One of those lottery balls," meaning a one-and-done talent, Dave Telep of Scout.com said.
Brick Oettinger of Prep Stars went a step further in assessing Kanter.
"If not for the one-year NBA rule, he'd be in the NBA," Oettinger said. "He may be every bit as dominating a player as Cousins was."
ESPN commentator Jimmy Dykes, who will work the Jordan Brand Classic, came away from the Nike Hoop Summit believing Kanter was comparable to Cousins.
"Size-wise, he's not as big as Cousins," Dykes said Friday. "But he may end up being as productive. He dominated that game inside."
Dykes and Sullinger noted how Kanter possesses physical attributes and intangible gifts.
"He's one of the strongest players I've played against," said Sullinger, who only went directly against Kanter in the fourth quarter of the Hoop Summit game. "I think it was an even match.
"He's 6-10 and he can shoot. You don't really see that. Plus, he can read defenses really well."
Dykes saw the same thing.
"For a young kid, he's got a great feel for angles and position," Dykes said. "You can tell he's been around the game a lot."