Turkey native Alihan Demir is feeling at home at Drexel and in Philadelphia | Season preview
The junior forward grew up in Ankara, Turkey which is twice as big as Philadelphia. He's adjusted to life in the U.S. well, especially after spending a year in Wyoming.
It is only an ignorance of global culture that leads to the assumption that Drexel junior forward Alihan Demir might have had trouble adjusting to a city the size of Philadelphia.
Demir is from Ankara, the capital of the Republic of Turkey that has a population in its urban center of 4.6 million — 2 ½ times more than the 1.8 million in Philly.
It's one of the more cosmopolitan cities in the world.
The real culture shock for Demir came where he was before transferring to Drexel: Central Wyoming College, a public community college.
"It's in a town called Riverton with about 10,000 people," he said. "There was not a lot to do there."
More in this series: Eric Paschall's job is to help things stay the same at Villanova | La Salle's Jeryn Reese looks to regain scoring touch in senior season | Lamarr Kimble is back leaner and ready to lead St. Joe's | Eleah Parker, fresh off rookie-of-the-year season, is looking to lead Penn women's basketball | Pookie Powell, back for one more season, is looking to win at La Salle | Bailey Greenberg wants to help Drexel jump from the WNIT to the Big Dance | Shizz Alston wants to give Temple coach Fran Dunphy an NCAA bid for a retirement gift | Alyssa Monaghan has played a lot of games for St. Joe's. There's just one she's missing. | Alliya Butts, who lost last season to injury, returns to end her career at Temple the right way | A.J. Brodeur, fresh off a trip to the NCAA Tournament, wants to keep adding to Penn's legacy | Kelly Jekot won three state titles and wants to win trophies at Villanova
Demir, however, said that was what he needed at that time, because he went to a community college for his first year to improve his basketball profile and get a Division I scholarship. Basketball and studying were about it.
At Central Wyoming, Demir, 6-foot-9 and 232 pounds, averaged 13.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in 29 games. That led him last year to Drexel and coach Zach Spiker, who was entering his second season with the Dragons.
Spiker's thought about transfers is that they should be able to make an immediate impact when they are eligible.
Demir met that criteria by playing in 28 games, averaging 10.7 points and 5.4 rebounds. He finished 10th in the Colonial Athletic Association in offensive rebounds and 14th in field-goal percentage.
"I like the offense we run because it is more suited to my game," said Demir, who played point guard in high school at Ari College in Ankara. "They are using me as a point forward, and I like that.
"In Europe, they like to make big guys handle the ball, so at my high school, I would basically play every position. I think that has helped my game here because I can do some down-low things but I can also dribble drive, shoot a little bit."
Demir said he likes the vibe of Drexel and Philadelphia and has found a population of relocated Turks to help him feel a bit closer to home.
He came to Philadelphia a few months before Sixers 2016 first-round draft pick Furkan Korkmaz decided to come over from Banvit of the Turkish League. Although Korkmaz grew up in Istanbul, he and Demir played against each other several times in youth competitions in Turkey.
The two became tighter friends in Philadelphia and occasionally go to their favorite restaurant, Isot Turkish Cuisine.
"Hey, two Turks in Philadelphia, right?" Demir said. "Sometimes when his parents are visiting, I'll go over and get some cooking from home."
The basketball structure in Europe is different from the United States'. There is no college basketball system. Many players turn professional while in high school, as Korkmaz did when he was 15.
Demir, who is majoring in marketing at Drexel, was interested in the college system in the United States. After graduating from Ari College, he enrolled at West Oaks Academy in Orlando, Fla.
"I wanted to play and improve my profile because I wanted to get a college scholarship," said Demir, who said he hopes eventually to play professional basketball but wants first to get a degree from Drexel. "That's really the main reason I came to [the United States]. I wanted to get a degree and play basketball.
"That's not really an option in Europe. After high school, you have to choose your path. You either try to become a professional basketball player, or you go to college.
"If you go to a club team, it's all basketball. You're not going to have time to take classes in college."