By MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Deniz Kilicli of Istanbul, Turkey, performed very well under difficult personal circumstances during his four years as a member of the West Virginia University men’s basketball program.
Others may have had more impressive statistics than he over four years. But the 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward has been among team leaders and made friends both on and off the court.
We’re told he was an excellent student, as he learned the English language almost from scratch, and eventually reached the point where he speaks the language clearly and most understandably.
Despite a loss to Iowa State in West Virginia’s regular-season finale on March 9 at the Coliseum, Kilicli admittedly sounded like it was the happiest day of his career.
It was “Senior Day” at the Coliseum, and he said, “This day was really important for me. My parents and friends came in yesterday and that made me so happy.”
Asked whether he was going to miss West Virginia when he leaves, the young man who wore No. 13 on his jersey replied:
“Yeah, definitely! It has been a joy for me. I most certainly have no regrets for having come to WVU. I’ve been so lucky to have been a part of this university and this ball team.
“It has been a wonderful experience playing with those guys, my teammates, and for Coach (Bob Huggins).
“So I don’t have any regrets at all. Not one!” Because all of the people here have meant so much to my life.
“It was actually an amazing occasion for me,” Kilicli said after the close loss to Iowa State. “Not only my father and mother but everyone who meant a lot to my life was here.”
Jabarie Hinds, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound guard from Mount Vernon, N.Y., said he certainly will miss ‘The Turk’. “It has been a joy playing basketball with him.
“He’s been a great teammate. He’s just someone who’s good to be around, on or off the court.”
Huggins said of Kilicli, “We’ve always had a special relationship.
“When I first went down to see him the first time, he didn’t speak or understand any English,” the coach recalled. “He told me later, ‘I didn’t understand a thing you said.’
“’But I liked you.’ And I said, ‘I liked you.’ He’s a good kid. He’s a good kid.”
Kilicli, who had a dandy hook shot, played in 112 games during his career, including 72 starts. He averaged 20 minutes per game. He made 357 field goals in 727 attempts (49.1 percent), 185 of 339 free throws, and pulled down 454 rebounds and scored 899 points.
Besides averaging 8.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, Kilicli blocked 42 shots and came up with 37 steals.
His career highs included 25 points vs. Texas Tech; 9 FGs made vs. Pitt, Providence, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma; 19 FG attempts vs. Marshall; 15 rebounds vs. Kent State; and 5 assists vs. Miami, Cincinnati, and Iowa State.
He predicted, “These guys will be much better next year. They will learn.”