Like most Turks, Derin Erdogan was locked in her apartment for weeks as the country implemented strict COVID-19 restrictions that pretty much banned everything except trips to the grocery store.
So when she finally joined the Arizona Wildcats this summer, she wasn’t in the shape she needed to be. That hasn’t stopped her from making a strong impression on her new head coach.
“Derin’s been amazing,” Adia Barnes said Friday. “Derin is someone who has so much talent. She’s got power. She’s not that typical European player that’s considered a little bit more soft, face-up. She’s got power. She shoots it well. I think Aari (McDonald) has done a really good job of kind of taking Derin under her wing.”
A 5-foot-6 combo guard, Erdogan is more experienced than most players her age. She starred for Istanbul Universitesi SK in 2019-20, where she averaged 12.8 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds on 48 percent shooting despite being one of the youngest members of the team.
The freshman also plays for Turkey’s youth national team. She averaged seven points, four rebounds and over three assists per game and helped Turkey finish in third place at the 2019 U18 European Championships.
“I think one of the things that’s separating her is her work ethic and her attitude,” Barnes said. “And she has personality. Is she in the shape she needs to be yet? No. Does she know our system? No. But she’s working so hard. She’s talking a lot. Usually you have to kind of extract that out of a freshman. She kind of does that naturally. And she’s not afraid. So when you put those things together, it’s a really good combination you can’t teach.”
Barnes tempered expectations for Erdogan’s freshman season, saying she’s still a year or two away from being a major contributor, though it’s not like there are minutes up for grabs in the backcourt anyway with Aari McDonald, Shaina Pellington, Helena Pueyo, Mara Mote, and Tara Manumaleuga all back for another season.
“She’s learning as much as she can from Aari and what I like to see is she’s teaming up with Aari,” Barnes said. “And I like that because it’s showing me she’s trying to learn everything she can from Aari. And Aari’s been great with her, so I like that and I notice those things.
“Maybe she’ll get her butt kicked every day in practice, and I love that, but then next year is where it’ll pay dividends. Because if you can even sometimes can contain Aari, she’s faster than any other guard in the Pac-12, so then you’re doing OK.”