MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Enes Kanter is unraveling the mystery surrounding his game, one workout at a time.
The 6-foot-11 Turkish center, who hasn’t played basketball in nearly a year after being ruled ineligible at Kentucky, has been crossing the country in an effort to let the top teams in the lottery know that he’s ready to play in the NBA.
Kanter’s latest stop was in Minnesota on Thursday, where he worked out with the Timberwolves, who have the No. 2 pick in the June 23 draft.
“I try to show I’m in shape because I didn’t play almost eight months, nine months,” Kanter said. “So I try to show Minnesota I didn’t lose anything.”
Kanter has also worked out for Utah, Toronto and Cleveland and still has a workout scheduled with Washington and a return trip to Cleveland before the draft next week.
He dominated at every level he played in Europe, but the 19-year-old was forced to sit out last season after the NCAA ruled him ineligible to play for the Wildcats.
Kanter stayed in Lexington and worked out with coach John Calipari and has spent the past few months in Chicago working out with renowned trainer Tim Grover to prepare himself to impress during this run of auditions.
The burly center went up against Oakland (Mich.) big man Keith Benson on Thursday, an increasingly rare occurrence for the NBA’s top prospects. Many high lottery picks choose to work out on an individual basis instead.
When asked if he was still a mystery to a lot of teams, Kanter said, “a little bit because they haven’t seen me play yet. Right now I’m just trying to show myself.”
Thanks to assistant general manager Tony Ronzone’s deep routes in international basketball, the Timberwolves are fully aware of what Kanter can do. Ronzone, who has been just about everywhere overseas as a scout and coach, has watched him play since he was 16.
“He’s a confident kid,” Ronzone said. “In America, the problem is most big guys don’t like playing basketball. He actually likes to play basketball. He’s addicted to it.”
Ronzone said the Wolves were considering taking Kanter at No. 2, along with another player who visited on Thursday — Arizona forward Derrick Williams.
“The beautiful thing about these two guys is they competed (against other players),” Ronzone said. “I thought that was great because in the old days they didn’t do that. They’re changing the style now. I like the fact that they competed.”
Williams participated in an afternoon session with Wofford guard Jamar Diggs, University of Mary (N.D.) guard Anthony Moody and Utah State forward Tai Wesley. Williams said he’s been trying to show teams that he can play both small forward and power forward and has concentrated on showcasing his shooting and ball-handling ability.
“That’s what I’m trying to prove right now,” Williams said. “But either way, if I play the four or the three, it’s going to be a mismatch. I’m quicker than most people that play the four spot. Whatever situation I’m in, I’m just trying to make an impact.”
Williams works out with current Timberwolves Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson in Los Angeles and said he’d be happy to come to Minnesota.
“What impressed me today was his handle,” Ronzone said. “He’s got a big-time handle. He shakes guys off of him. He goes left to right real well.”
The Timberwolves are still listening to offers for the second pick, but Ronzone said he likes where the team is at with the highest pick in franchise history. Many expect Cleveland to take Duke point guard Kyrie Irving at No. 1, leaving Williams or Kanter for the Wolves at two, but Ronzone isn’t so sure just yet.
“I think everything’s open. Everything’s wide open,” Ronzone said. “We’re in a good spot at two. We sit there and see who becomes available.”
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