There’s no secret what Tibet Görener brings to the Arizona Wildcats.
“The way he can shoot the ball, nobody really shoots like him too much on the team,” said junior guard Jemarl Baker Jr.
This year’s team or really any in years past. The Turkish forward is the 3-point specialist Arizona has been missing for years, particularly in the frontcourt.
Consider these numbers: When Görener played for Turkey in the FIBA Championships, 78 of his 132 shots (59%) came from behind the arc, including 40 of 54 in the 2019 tournament.
The list of Wildcats who have shot 3-pointers at that rate in the Sean Miller era is fairly short and almost exclusively consists of guards, with 6-foot-7 Jamelle Horne being the lone exception:
- Gabe York
- Brendon Lavender
- Jamelle Horne
- Max Hazzard
- Dylan Smith
- Elliott Pitts
- Jemarl Baker Jr.
- Alex Barcello
- Parker Jackson-Cartwright
- Jordin Mayes
“No doubt what he brings to the table day one is his ability to play the game the right way, pass and shoot from the 3-point line,” Miller said this summer. “He shoots the basketball off the catch, off the move, really has a great feel for moving without the ball.”
The rest of Görener’s game is a work in progress, and how much he can improve it before now and the beginning of the season could determine how much he sees the court as a freshman.
For one thing, the 6-foot-9 forward isn’t as physically-gifted as the rest of Arizona’s frontcourt—and that’s probably a big understatement.
His 247Sports scouting report says he has just “decent” length and “okay” athleticism. And at 200 pounds, he’s certainly not the strongest guy on the court. He hopes to weigh 220 or 225 one day, but didn’t seem certain he can get there.
“I don’t know when that will happen but that’s the goal,” he said.
In the meantime, it could be difficult to find a position for him. Is Görener agile enough to guard 3s and athletic 4s? Is he big enough to battle with other bigs?
He’s using the preseason to try to address some of those concerns.
“My main goal right now is just getting my weight up in the weight room, getting more physical and just getting stronger,” he said. “Getting better on defense, rebounding the ball better. ... It provides me with other options I can build on my game off my shot, so I feel like I have a good chance to improve this year, physically and basketball-wise.”
Otherwise, transitioning to college should be easier for Görener than the rest of Arizona’s international freshmen. He’s already lived in the United States for two years and speaks English like a native.
Görener completed his high school school at Orange Lutheran in Southern California where he got his first taste of American basketball.
“Definitely people are way more athletic,” he said. “The pace is a lot faster. People like to go one-on-one a lot more, people are a lot stronger, and it’s definitely faster. There’s a lot of different rules so that was a big adjustment I had to make coming in. But now that I have made that, I feel pretty comfortable in the American basketball system.”
Ranked just inside the Top 200, Görener said he committed to Arizona in part because it plays in the Pac-12, which he believes is the conference that best fits his style of play. He was also aware of Miller’s track record with international players, specifically Lauri Markkanen, who has a similar skill set (though he wasn’t as reliant on his jump shot as Gorener is).
“I feel like I could get a lot better here, play against better competition and also just being able to do school and athletics at the same time was a big part in that decision,” Görener said. “Because back home you either have to do school, or you quit school and play basketball, so coming to America provided me the opportunity to do both at the same time.”
Görener said things have been “pretty good” in Tucson so far.
“The competitiveness in practice has been really fun and just getting better, playing against really good athletes, really good basketball players, and just getting better every day as a team and individually has been really fun,” he said.
How that translates to the games remains to be seen.
“I feel like I can definitely make shots when I have the opportunity,” Görener said. “We’ll see what my role is this year. It’s still early. Whatever the coaching staff needs, I’ll try to provide that to my best ability.”
Pandemic not a hindrance to Görener’s development
Görener returned to Turkey this summer for the first time in two years. Getting there during the pandemic wasn’t easy. He said his flight from California was canceled three times.
Still, he said being able to return to his home country was “a great time.”
“The airport was empty and when I got back home there’s a law in Turkey that you have to wear a mask or it’s a fine, so it’s kind of more under control there. People are just living their regular lives right now,” he said. “I mean, it’s still obviously a big influence on what people do in their daily lives, but I feel like it’s more under control over there, but I really enjoyed my time. I got to see my family, I got to see my friends. Obviously I played basketball there too and got to see my old teammates.”
While some UA players felt the pandemic was a setback for their development, Görener doesn’t see it that way.
“When the pandemic first started, I was still in California and I had a gym that I could go and work out, so I never stopped working out,” he said. “When I went to Turkey I had a gym there. I kept working out. So, the pandemic hasn’t really affected my basketball in my opinion. There was some stretches when the gyms got shut down in California and I had to go work out in parks and stuff like that, but I don’t think it was a setback for me. I think I took the opportunity to get better while some people didn’t have the privilege of having a gym or somewhere they could work out.”