It Wasn´t Steph Curry In Disguise But The Real Scottie Wilbekin Who Has The Basketball World In His Hands

It was 10 to midnight on March 23rd only two hours after a star was born and some may have been thinking the Cinderella like performance that Scottie Wilbekin had just thrown at FC Bayern Munich would end at midnight and his team would proclaim in a press release that that amazing and dominant 41 point shooting night had really come from Steph Curry who had secretly been signed to a one game contract by Eurocup team Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (Turkey-BSL). Somehow he had masterfully got the perfect makeup before the game that would even had made Uncle Drew aka Kyrie Irving cringe at the authentic presentation of a Scottie Wilbekin. However that press release never came and at 10 minutes after midnight on Saturday March 24th, the American that is called the Turkish Steph Curry was really him while the real Steph Curry was at home in Oakland preparing for a game against the Atlanta Hawks where he would drop 29 points. The interesting thing about Scottie Wilbekin is that he looks similar to Steph Curry, plays and shoots like the NBA champion and to top it off is just as friendly as the Golden State all star. “When he gets the green light, he will shoot from anywhere”, smiled FC Bayern Munich guard Braydon Hobbs.  It is no secret that Steph Curry belongs to the nicest players in the NBA. He supports his Nothing But Nets campaign which is a charitable endeavor which helps battle malaria by giving nets to protect families in Africa from the deadly disease. He also hosts annual golf tournaments to help raise money for scholarships to help out military families. In the past he was a great autograph catch as fans could line up 90 minutes before a home game at the Oracle arena and his warm smile would entice many new fans, but as of November 2017 he signed a autograph contract with Steiner Sports that is worth millions so getting a Curry autograph isn´t that easy anymore, but that friendly smile is always present. Still Curry belongs to the nicest NBA players and Wilbekin also gave proof that he isn´t some stuck up player, but is genuinely friendly. Of course after a tough loss, it could be different, but after the big 87-83 win in Munich propelling the Turkish team to the 2018 Eurocup final, he had time for this journalist.

45 minutes to be exact and even cut off the phone call he was having with his girlfriend to talk to me not only about possibly the greatest single game performance in Eurocup history, but also his illustrious young career. It is always easier to talk about basketball after a win and he had no problems talking about the Steph Curry similartites. It was a fact that Steph Curry wasn´t in disguise in Munich on that memorable March 23rd night, but it was really Scottie Wilbekin who had the basketball world in his hands at that moment and does now.

Before his amazing rise this season in the European basketball scene, one has to go back to his young days in Gainsville, Florida where it all began. He played at Rock school in Gainsville and had a stellar high school career achieving HS FHGSAA Class 1A All-State first team in 2008 and 2009 and HS Class 1A-2A Player of the Year by the Gainesville Sun in 2009. It was only normal for him to stay at home and play at the well known Florida that won back to back NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007. He had an unforgettable career at Florida and for many guys in the NCAA just reaching a March Madness becomes a highlight, but Wilbekin didn´t only reach the NCAA, but reached three Elite 8´s and as a senior got to the Final 4. He also rocked in the SEC conference reaching the final twice and winning it in 2014. As a player he made a slow development, but not every player will blast off as a freshman or sophmore. As a freshman the club was stacked with overwhelming talent as he was surrounded by many future NBA players like Patric Young with whom he was teammates all 4 years, Chandler Parsons, Vernon Macklin, Erik Murphy, Erving Walker and Alex Tyus. He averaged only 2,0ppg in 17 minutes his first year and only 2,6ppg in 15 minutes per game in his second year. However in his junior year his minutes increased to an overwhelming 31 and he averaged 9,1ppg, 2,9rpg and 5,0apg and shot 35% from outside and finally had arrived in the NCAA as a solid player. He scored in double figures in 13 games including 17 point games against Central Florida and Georgia as well as 16 points against ex Shaq school LSU. However his season ended with a 79-59 loss to powerhouse school Michigan where he mustered only 4 points. In the loss he had to witness future NBA player Trey Burke fill up the stat sheet with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. He also remembers Burke as being his toughest opponent in the NCAA. “We only played that one game which he won. I couldn´t stay in front of him. He was the only player that I faced in college where I threw absolutely everything at him on the defensive end and he still got by me”, warned Scottie Wilbekin. The American who has some old school in him listing Larry Bird among Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James for his NBA Rushmore really took off as a senior where he upped his stats again averaging 34 minutes and averaging 13,1ppg, 2,4rpg and 3,6apg while shooting 39% from downtown. He became a much more consistent scorer scoring in double figures in 27 of 34 games. His senior year highlights included 23 points in a 69-59 loss against Kentucky that featured 5 future NBA players like Wille Cauley-Stein and Julius Randle as well as the Harrison brothers and a 23 point outburst against Dayton that featured Fraport Skyliner Jordan Sibert. He also had a 21 point game against Pittsburgh and Tennessee. His last college game was against 2014 NCAA champion Uconn which featured Shabazz Napier losing 63-53 as he could only steer 4 points in 34 minutes. He remembers that loss as his toughest in the NCAA. “That was my last chance to win it all and was my last time playing with my teammates. I felt we had the team to win it all that season. I was disappointed losing to Uconn. We had a very bad game that day”, added Scottie Wilbekin. Despite that bitter loss to Uconn, he had one special memory. “I remember each game of the SEC tournament win. I remember being undefeated in the SEC going 18-0 and beating Kentucky in the last game. It was a great season and senior year.”, stressed Scottie Wilbekin. He accomplished so much in 4 years at Florida except for winning the NCAA title, but is most thankful for having a mentor in head coach Billy Donovan who pushed him to being able to go the professional path. “The biggest thing that coach Donovan instilled in me at Florida was not to fold when the pressure is there. He taught me when things are going bad, you find out a lot about the character of a person. I have kept his words with me since then and rely on what he had told me and move on to the next play”, warned Scottie Wilbekin. He will forever remember and have great memories of his teammates and even today is battling two ex teammates in Turkey with Erving Walker who led the league in scoring and Kenny Boyton. He remembers his one on one duels in practice with Erving Walker and winning. “The funny thing was that I felt when I was a freshman that he was better than me. I just remember that whenever we played one on one that I won. Maybe he let me win. I don´t know”, expressed Scottie Wilbekin.

 

After a stellar NCAA career, it was time for Scottie Wilbekin to enter the shark fest like professional waters. He didn´t have to wait long to get his first breath of NBA air as he was invited to play NBA Summer League in Orlando with the Memphis Grizzlies averaging 3.4ppg, 1.2rpg, 4.8apg, 2.2spg, 0.2bpg, FGP: 30%, 3PT: 14.3%, FT: 80%
and  in Las Vegas with the Philadelphia 76ers averaging 3.3ppg, 2.0rpg, 2.8apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 25.7%, FT: 50%. He wasn´t able to really turn heads because he didn´t get the minutes to showcase his talent, but then again often the NBA Summer league teams already know in what kind of direction they are going and tend to focus most on guys that will make their roster as well as guys who could be close. Instead of trying to catch on with an NBA team in training camp, he decided to go overseas and split his rookie season in Australia and Greece. In Australia he played with Cairns Taipans (Australia-NBL) playing 32 games averaging 15.2ppg, 3.7rpg, Assists-4(4.3apg), 1.1spg, FGP: 45.3%, 3PT: 28.4%, FT: 83.5%, He helped the club win the regular season title for the first time in their club history with a 21-7 record, but they lost the final to the New Zealand Breakers and suffered a game winning shot in game two by ex Fraport Skyliner Ekene Ibekwe sealing the best of three series for the Breakers. The Australian NBL league is a solid league and a good first location to develop a stomping ground and give him added self confidence as his route would take him to Europe. He showed his scoring consistency again down under scoring in double figures in 27 of 32 NBL games and had a 27 point explosion against United and a 25 point game against the Breakers. With the Australian season finishing early, he still had the opportunity to jump over to Europe and finish the season there and did with AEK Athens (Greece-A1) playing 9 games averaging 8.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.9apg, FGP: 54.8%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 66.7%. There he was teammates with ex NBA players Malik Hairston and Pops Mensah-Bonsu and might have gotten some quick tips about the NBA as only a few months later, he would be so close to the NBA like never before, but then find himself back in Europe, but then as a Euroleague rookie.

In the summer of 2015 after a stint overseas, he attempted another go at the NBA and had his breakthrough at the NBA Pro Summer League in Orlando playing with the Orlando White playing 5 games averaging 9.6ppg, 2.0rpg, 2.4apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 30.8% and at the NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas with the Philadelphia 76er playing 5 games averaging 14.4ppg, 2.0rpg, 2.0apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 43.6%. After his impressive NBA Summer League stint with the 76ers, he signed a 4 year deal with them on July 24th, but his NBA dream ended for the time being on October 26th shortly before the start of the season as he was waived after completing 5 pre season games. This was a tough blow for him, but he didn´t let it affect him mentally and doesn´t think about it today. “I haven´t dwelled on it. I´m an easy going guy and learned early on that you can only take what life gives you. I can only control myself and my game. I will continue to keep working and getting better as a player”, warned Scottie Wilbekin. He quickly digested this experience and signed with Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (Turkey-BSL) and he was Europe bound. The American needed no time to adjust in his first season in Turkey as he averaged double figures in scoring in both competitions. He played 30 games in the Turkish BSL averaging 12.9ppg, 1.7rpg, 2.7apg, FGP: 47.8%, 3PT: 39.0%, FT: 87.4%;and in the Euroleague played 20 games averaging 10.3ppg, 1.5rpg, 2.3apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 41.3%, 3PT: 35.0%, FT: 75.6%. It didn´t faze him that he wasn´t averaging 15-18ppg, but he never really did average that much before as he averaged 13ppg as a senior at Florida and 15 in Australia. He quickly learned that basketball is a team game in Europe and patented his game accordingly. In the Turkish league that has many Euroleague teams, he scored in double figures in 23 of 30 games and showed first real signs of being able to be that explosive scorer nailing Banvit for 29 points something he totally showed in the Eurocup this season. In the Euroleague he scored 20 and 17 points against Turkish squad Efes and had a 19 point effort against Russian side Lokomotive Kuban where he was a big reason this season why Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul won the 2018 Eurocup title over Lokomotive Kuban. He remembers American and ex Virginia Tech standout Jamon Gordon as being a big help in his first season in Turkey. “It wasn´t one important thing that Jamon helped me with, but moreover it was many little insights to the game, his experience and gaining pointers on the court that helped me in my first year here. I tried to take as much as possible from his game and piece it into my game. It made me better as a player in my first season in Turkey”, stated Scottie Wilbekin. He had a solid first campaign in Turkey reaching the semi-finals of the playoffs, reaching the cup final and being named to the allstar team.

In the summer of 2016, he played NBA Pro Summer League again in Orlando with the Oklahoma City Thunder playing 5 games averaging 5.6ppg, 2.6rpg, 2.2apg, 1.2spg. After a solid first season in Europe, he decided to take the option for a second season with Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (Turkey-BSL). He was able to make another step despite being surrounded left and right by ex NBA players like Luke Harangody, and James Anderson and top European Euroleague players like Brad Wanamaker, Marcus Slaughter and Will Clyburn, he was able to heighten his stats. In the Turkish BSL league he played 26 games averaging 13.1ppg, 2.5rpg, 4.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 51.3%, 3PT: 39.3%, FT: 82.4%; and in the Euroleague, he played 31 games averaging 11.6ppg, 1.8rpg, 3.2apg, Steals-4(1.4spg), FGP: 47.5%, 3PT: 40.4%, FT: 87.0%. He scored in double figures in 19 of 26 games including 27 point games against Pinar and Yesilgiresun hitting 7 trey´s. In the Euroleague he scored in double figures in 17 of 31 games, and had some memorable games netting 26 points in a loss to CSKA Moscow and dropping 8/9 three´s and had a 23 point game in a thrilling 86-84 victory against Israeli top team Maccabi Tel Aviv. The American continued to take a positive development and knows he wouldn´t be the player he is right now if he hadn´t had head coach David Blatt. “I´m very grateful to be able to play for him. I have learned so much in the last two seasons. The most important things has been what to do in certain situations and how to read situations better.  He also has helped with what is a bad shot and what is a better shot. This kind of advice that he has given me one can only get from a top coach. I think he is if not the best one of the best coaches in Europe”, stressed Scottie Wilbekin. In his second season in Turkey he reached the semi-finals of the Turkish playoffs and quarterfinals of the Euroleague. However things would change in his third season with Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (Turkey-BSL) as a third season in the Euroleague wouldn´t happen.

He would return for a third season with Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (Turkey-BSL), but would take a step back and play the Eurocup which is the second highest international club competition. But when looking back at this season with the win of the Eurocup, he wouldn´t have changed anything for having had this opportunity. “I think taking a step back to play Eurocup after two seasons in the Euroleague was a blessing in disguise. I worked really hard last summer and came back to Turkey having developed further and I have had a bigger role this season and gotten better. My scoring efficiency is better and I became a better leader”, said Scottie Wilbekin. In the Turkish BSL, Wilbekin and Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul made a third consecutive playoffs since his arrival in 2015. The club has much experience, but the American feels that two guys that have been very key for the success of the team are ex NBA player Jajuan Johnson and Howard Sant Roos who toiled in the German Pro B when he was at the start of his career. “Jajuan has been a huge addition to our team. He does so so much. He can score in the paint, can create his own shot, gets back on defense and is always giving pressure in the paint. He is a big time scorer for us in the paint. I always tell Howard that he will continue to go places with his game. His play this season has been incredible. He is always a pest on the court. He always creates havoc on defense and always has to guard the other teams nest guard and does a great job”, warned Scottie Wilbekin. This season despite Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul having many talented guys, they have relied on Wilbekin to carry them and he once again has heightened his game in the scoring department. In the Turkish BSL he averaged 16,9ppg, 2,6rpg and 5,1apg and is shot 39,3% from outside. He really became a lethal scorer in the Turkish BSL netting Euroleague team Fenerbahce for 30 points, 28 points against Besiktas and 25 points against Usak. He is only 26 and the 188cm guard knows that he is still far away from his full potential. “I don´t think that I have reached my potential yet as a professional player. I work hard in the summer time and always try to come back having improved in one area or in a few areas. My goal is to keep working and improving my game”, warned Scottie Wilbekin. Wilbekin and Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul lost in the first playoff round against top team Efes 78-69 where he netted 15 points and then lost a heartbreaker 79-78 as he scored 29 points. Even if the Turkish season ended in disappointment, he did win the Eurocup.

Wilbekin finally won his first professional title with the Eurocup. He led his team to an incredible 17-1 record where they had the second best defense in the competition allowing only 70 points per contest and that was the difference for the title as well as being able to control one´s nerves and win tight games against Buducnost, FC Bayern Munich and Lok omotive Kuban. “Our defense has been the key this season for our ability to win close games. Guys like Howard Sant-Roos, Michael Eric and Jajuan Johnson are all about defense. These guys really take their game on the defensive end to a totally new level in crunch-time”, warned Scottie Wilbekin. He led the Eurocup in scoring and was named MVP. He scored in double figures in 16 of 18 games. He averaged 19,7ppg, 2,4rpg and 4,8apg and shot 42,8% from the parking lot. In the first few months of the competition, he had huge games against Andora with 24 points, 23 points against Cedivita and 20 points against Unics and Gran Canaria, but really exploded in his last 5 games on the way to the title where it counted most scoring 22, 24, 41, 24 and 28 points. So now we return to that incredible Friday night in Munich where Wilbekin made Eurocup history netting a record 41 points and dropping a record 10 three´s. On that night he was just incredible and in his own world as the Steph Curry comparisons continued to be made. When asked who he would compare his game too, there was a short pause and didn´t want to say Steph Curry, but remembered his claim to fame in Turkey. “The kids in Turkey call me the Turkish Steph Curry, but I think that is a little too high”, said a somewhat humbled Scottie Wilbekin. He also dished out 5 assists, but that was a massive side note as everyone will always remember his record breaking 41 points. One guy who also will remember his 41 points is Ohio native Braydon Hobbs who was still all smiles 25 minutes after coming from the bench with 4 minutes to play in the third quarter and orchestrating an amazing 18 point comeback win in Frankfurt with FC Bayern Munich, but when he heard the name Scottie Wilbekin, his smile seemed to go up a notch. “That wasn´t the best performance I have ever seen in my life, but in terms of my professional career in Europe it was. That was just very impressive. He was a killer that carried his team to the chip and deservedly was named MVP”, stressed Braydon Hobbs. After the brutal loss in Munich, FC Bayern Munich fans were trying to find an escape goat on defense, but it didn´t matter who was covering Wilbekin on that fateful night, nobody could do the job. “He is quick and can shoot with the best guards in Europe and has a lot of confidence. You can´t get too close or to far away from him, but need to find the right medium, but that isn´t easy”, warned Braydon Hobbs. The two game Munich series couldn´t have been more spectacular as in game one, the Turkish side won 76-74 on a Stanton Kidd game winner as David Blatt didn´t foul in the last seconds, but gambled on a big play and got that with a steal that led to the game winning shot. So coming back to Munich and winning 87-83 was a huge accomplishment and with Wilbekin´s 41 points, that was just extra icing on the cake. “We knew coming into game 2 in Munich that it would be a tough environment with the fans. We were able to bear down at the end and key was our defense and defensive rebounds. This was the most points that I ever scored in my career. I am thankful that my teammates and coach had a lot of faith in me. Everything was going in tonight. It all worked out for the best for us”, stated Scottie Wilbekin. Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul went into the Eurocup final as the underdog against Lokomotiv, but once again showed their immense mental strength and took care of business doing what they have done well all season long controlling crunch time and winning 81-78 and 67-59 as Wilbekin combined for 52 points on 10/21 shooting from outside.

After his impressive Eurocup season, Wilbekin will be flooded with top offers from top Euroleague teams. A good fit could be going to Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce and be reunited with Brad Wanamaker whom he played with previously and be coached by legend Zeljko Obradovic and have possibly the most dangerous 1-2 back court in Europe. With his energizing scoring, but also all around good team play, he could fit into many other systems. “He will be good for any team in Europe. He has gotten better every season”, stressed FC Bayern Munich CEO Marko Pesic. Or is he finally ripe for the NBA? Teams had him on his radar coming into the season and now he is on many note pads of NBA teams that is for sure. Wilbekin knows after winning the Eurocup and being the MVP, his door to the NBA seems more open than ever before, but he remains realistic and knows that he always has the back up plan. “I have not given up on the NBA dream. Making the NBA hasn´t been on my mind, but moreover being successful in Europe. The NBA isn´t on my mind. I´m just happy wherever I go to play in Europe”, stressed Scottie Wilbekin. Even if the American hasn´t said it, deep down in his mind, he knows he could have been playing in the NBA for years, because the NBA isn´t always about talent. “I see this all the time that not the most talented guys are in the NBA. I could give you a list of players that in Europe that are better than guys in the NBA now. This was something that I didn´t realize at the beginning that not all the best play in the NBA. When I came to Europe is when I realized that there are really great players that play in Europe. Not every player is made for the NBA. NBA teams often take chances on the young kids instead of taking a 26 year old who will get the job done. NBA teams like to look for the next Lebron James or Kevin Durant. NBA teams have to take these chances”, warned Scottie Wilbekin. His peers in Europe know that he is good enough for the NBA now. After answering the usual 8-9 questions from me after a bitter loss to FC Bayern Munich,Fraport Skyliner Mr Canada Philip Scrubb had to answer an extra one about Wilbekin. Scrubb was tearing up the CIS with Canadian school Carleton when Wilbekin was at Florida and knew very well about what he was doing in the NCAA. “I remember him playing at Florida and I played against him in the NBA Summer League. He is very talented and a good shooter. He was on the edge of making the NBA. The way he has played this season, he really should get a shot at the NBA”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Philip Scrubb. “I think that he will play in the Euroleague, but he is good enough for the NBA. There are guys in the NBA that can´t do what he has done this season”, warned Braydon Hobbs. So what will be the fate of Scottie Wilbekin this summer? He will probably play NBA Summer League and possibly get signed by an NBA team, and if all else fails, he will play for a top Euroleague team. So grab a comfortable chair, get a big bowl of long lasting hot buttered pop corn and a coke and sit back, because his summer will be as exciting to watch as it was watching Black Panther. The NBA is all about money and showtime, so why can´t the Turkish Steph Curry Scottie Wilbekin not finally make the NBA? Scottie Wilbekin in the NBA will be another added bonus to add more exciting flashiness to the world´s best basketball league as there will always be enough room for two Curry´s in the NBA.

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