Houston Rockets: Breaking down Alperen Sengun’s Eurobasket

Turkey v Slovenia - International Friendly
Turkey v Slovenia - International Friendly / Seskim Photo/MB Media/GettyImages

Eurobasket, organized by FIBA Europe, crowns the international champion of European basketball. Alperen Sengun and Usman Garuba have represented the Houston Rockets well in the tournament, but it’s the young Turkish dynamo that took a star turn. 

As Eurobasket heads to its final four teams, Usman Garuba of Spain will face off with the host nation Germany with a trip to the finals on the line. Garuba, as the last current Houston Rocket standing in the tournament, has played a key role in Spain’s success. In 16.8 minutes a contest, he has averaged a robust 5.4 rebounds and 1.0 steals and blocks. 

After missing much of his rookie season and summer league to injury, Garuba’s showing in Eurobasket has provided him some positive momentum heading into Rockets training camp. However, another Rocket, Alperen Sengun of Turkey, flashed his star potential in the tournament and is poised for a breakout sophomore season. 

Alperen Sengun performed with the best of the best

The quality of play in Eurobasket is certainly a step below the NBA, but any tournament that has the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic is galaxies ahead of the pro-am circuit that NBA players frequented over the summer. Outside of the United States and Canada, the best players in the world come from Europe, and Sengun’s performances warrant a closer look. 

Through six games, Sengun averaged 16.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.8 offensive rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game on 56.6% shooting. The only players to average more points per game with a better field goal percentage were Nikola Jokic and Willy Hernangomez. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the tournament’s points per game leader at 29.3, posted the same field goal percentage as Sengun. 

What makes Sengun’s performance so noteworthy is his combination of playing time and age. He only averaged 29.1 minutes per game and just turned 20 on July 25th. In future Eurobaskets, Sengun looks poised to challenge NBA MVPs for the tournament’s scoring title. 

His streak of three consecutive 20-point games tied him for the second-longest streak by any Turkish player in the history of the competition. 

Sengun’s best performance came against Belgium. He torched the Belgians for 24 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. His combination of old-school post play and growing confidence in his jump shot was too much for the hapless Belgian defenders. 

While Sengun had his worst statistical game in Turkey’s one point loss against France in the round of 16, he did put three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert into the spin cycle. 

Highlights can be deceiving, but few centers in the world can string together the combination of a crossover into an in-and-out and then a spin to create an easy jumper. Factor in who he did it against, and it’s the first of many feathers he should put in his hat. 

Sengun still has a ways to go to reach his potential

Sengun still showed some of the problems that plagued him during his rookie season. He averaged 3.2 fouls per game and struggled at times defensively. While fouls and defense will determine his NBA ceiling, his ability to consistently generate efficient offense gives him a very high floor. 

Alperen Sengun enters his sophomore season at a younger age than Evan Mobley began his rookie season. His stellar Eurobasket further reinforced his strengths and weaknesses, but with the starting center job lined up for him, he’ll have the runway to learn on the job. 

The future is bright for the precocious Turk, and his first Eurobasket was nothing short of a rousing success. He’ll be disappointed that he wasn’t able to make it past France, but the experience will undoubtedly help him as he faces off against the best players in the world in the NBA. 

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