Sidelines with John Clay

Enes Kanter’s little brother valuable addition at Xavier

Xavier’s Kerem Kanter (11) drives against Colorado’s Tyler Bey (1) in the second half of Xavier’s 96-69 win in an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, in Cincinnati. Kanter is the younger brother of former Kentucky player Enes Kanter.
Xavier’s Kerem Kanter (11) drives against Colorado’s Tyler Bey (1) in the second half of Xavier’s 96-69 win in an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, in Cincinnati. Kanter is the younger brother of former Kentucky player Enes Kanter. AP

While former UK (almost) star Enes Kanter is busy helping bring the New York Knicks back to respectability in the NBA and fearlessly protesting the government of his native Turkey, his younger brother is making a name for himself in college basketball.

Up the road at 10th-ranked Xavier, Kerem Kanter has become the Musketeers reliable sixth man. A 6-foot-10 graduate transfer, Kanter is averaging 8.2 points and 4.0 rebounds for the 9-1 team.

Kanter scored 17 points in Xavier’s 89-76 win over Cincinnati in the annually rowdy Cross-Town Shootout. He followed that with 20 points in Xavier’s win over Kent State.

After losing 83-59 to Gonzaga in the West Regional final as the No. 11 seed last season, Chris Mack’s club may be even better this season.

Star guard Trevon Bluiett is shooting 54 percent from the floor, 47.1 percent from three-point range and averaging 21.7 points per game. J.P. Macura, who got into a post-game confrontation with Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin, is averaging 13 points and leads the team in steals. Point guard Quentin Goodin, the former Taylor County star, is averaging 6.5 assists per game.

Then there’s the addition of Kanter, who averaged 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds last season despite playing just 19.1 minutes per game at Wisconsin-Green Bay, which plays in the Horizon League, the conference that Northern Kentucky won last year before losing to UK in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Kerem is three years younger than Enes, who signed with UK for the 2010-11 season only to be ruled ineligible by the NCAA for allegedly receiving money from a European professional team. (Free Enes) Though unable to play in games, Kanter was dubbed a student assistant by head coach John Calipari and allowed to practice with the team.

“I still see myself as a Kentucky player,” Kanter told Adam Zagoria last month.

The Utah Jazz took Enes Kanter with the third overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. He played three-plus season with the Jazz before being dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kanter was part of the post-season deal that brought Carmelo Anthony to OKC.

A starter in all of his 23 games for the Knicks, Enes is averaging 13.4 points and 10.3 rebounds. New York is currently 13-13 after going 31-51 last season. The franchise hasn’t posted a winning record since 2012-13.

Off the court, Enes Kanter has been so outspoken in his political beliefs he is wanted for arrest in his native Turkey. Kanter claims his family cannot see his games back in Turkey because the country refuses to show Knicks games on television.

Meanwhile, Kerem Kanter came to the U.S. at age 15 and attended the Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Mass. in 2012-13 before transferring to the IMG Academy. In the summer of 2013, he helped Turkey win the gold medal at the U18 European Championships. He averaged 17 points and nine rebounds for IMG in 2013-14 before attending Wisconsin-Green Bay.

As he has become more comfortable at Xavier, Kerem’s minutes and production have picked up. He’s shooting 55.8 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the foul line.

After Xavier’s 96-69 win over Colorado on Saturday, Paul Daugherty wrote in the Cincinnati Enquirer, “His game is European. Kanter is a very good offensive player and sharp fundamentally, but his defense needs to catch up. He’s big enough to be an effective post player, though, and runs well enough to play the fast-lane game Xavier enjoys. The Musketeers are a good passing team, and Kanter is adept at that, too. And he can shoot.”

To the links:

▪ With junior college transfer Terry Wilson committing to Kentucky football, the Cats will have an interesting quarterback battle this spring, writes Mark Story of the Herald-Leader. Senior-to-be Drew Barker is the only UK qb with any experience once Stephen Johnson graduates after the Cats’ appearance in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 29.

▪ Quentin Snider led the way with 17 points as Louisville rolled over now 1-10 Bryant 102-59 on Monday, reports Steve Bittenbender of the AP. Snider, who had made just nine of 38 three-point attempts, was four-of-six from three.

▪ As of Monday, the SEC had five teams in the RPI Top 25. Kentucky is not one of those teams, says my report. The computer rankings have not looked kindly on Kentucky’s schedule, which begins to toughen with Saturday’s game against visiting Virginia Tech.

▪ Kentucky is No. 6 in Gary Parrish’s Top 25 and 1 for CBS Sports. Gary moved Arizona State all the way up to No. 2 after its 95-85 win at Kansas on Sunday. The Sun Devils are also the only team to have beaten Xavier.

▪ Speaking of Arizona State, Doug Haller of Arizona Central gives five reasons why Bobby Hurley’s team is better than expected. One reason is that Hurley allows his guards to play with freedom. And ASU has very good guards.

▪ Former UK star Travis Ford has encountered plenty of struggles in his second year at Saint Louis, writes Mitchell Forde for The Athletic. Ford coaches at Campbellsville, Eastern Kentucky, UMass and Oklahoma State before landing at SLU.

TUESDAY COLLEGE BASKETBALL ON TV

  • 7:00 - Saint Peter’s at Seton Hall (Fox Sports 1)
  • 7:00 - Mississippi State at Cincinnati (ESPN2)
  • 7:00 - Fordham at Rutgers (ESPNU)
  • 9:00 - Michigan at Texas (ESPN2)
  • 9:00 - Albany at Memphis (ESPNU)
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