It took Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul center Ahmet Duverioglu just three years to go from a virtually unknown Jordanian basketball player to become a Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion. He may have reached great heights in near-record time, but Duverioglu took a long journey to get there.
Duverioglu, 26, was born in Istanbul to a Turkish mother and Jordanian father and raised in the latter's homeland in the northern town of Al-Mafraq, near the border with Syria. Sports were not a pursuit in the Duverioglu - or as the family was known in Jordan, Al-Dwairi - household.
"I come from a family of doctors," Duverioglu explained and he wasn't exaggerating. "My big brother is a doctor, my twin is a doctor, my mom and dad are doctors."
He played soccer in the streets with friends and played other sports at school, noting: "I always liked to play sports, I liked to play basketball, sometimes football, volleyball, swimming."
Duverioglu was introduced to basketball by his big brother who played a little, but Ahmet did not play in any organized framework until his mid-teens.
"I started to play basketball when I was 15 or 16," he said, "but you could actually say that I didn't really start to play until I was 21 and I came to Efes, because in Jordan, basketball is not that big, it’s not an important sport."
When Duverioglu first gave organized basketball a try, he first played at school and was good enough to get the attention of the junior national team coaches. To progress on the court, he needed to travel.
"When I started to play, all the Jordanian players were better than me, but I wanted to get better. Every day I went 160 kilometers there and back for practices in Amman," he recalled. "In my city, we had nothing, so I went to the capital city. Those 80-kilometer trips were very difficult, but they gave me the patience to work hard to follow my dream."
Duverioglu was just 16 years old when he joined Zain, which was the strongest team in Jordan at the time. After one season, he moved to Al Riyadi Amman for one season and then played two for Applied Science University, also in the Jordanian capital, which he led to back-to-back Jordanian championships. At this point, the 20-year old knew that to become a basketball professional, he would have to leave the country.
First, he went to Serbia and trained for one month with Mega Vizura. In that time, Anadolu Efes Istanbul made Duverioglu a multi-year offer, which he quickly accepted. It seemed like his dreams were coming true. Duverioglu was assigned to play his first season on loan at Pertevniyal before joining the full Efes squad for the 2015-16 campaign. Despite his vast potential, Duverioglu saw only limited playing time. And then, his contract was terminated.
Duverioglu said he isn't exactly sure what happened. It may have been “money issues” or “something with the agency."
Either way, it would prove to be a blessing. Once he was a free player, Fenerbahce came calling.
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