Sometimes Ersan Ilyasova has to think for a minute about where he is and what he should say. He speaks Turkish but he also knows Spanish from his days in Barcelona as well as a little Serbian from his childhood. But now he speaks Russian at home, for his wife Julia, and English at work, when he's playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. Occasionally, he mixes it all up and accidentally throws a Russian word in the middle of an English sentence. "And some people are like . . . what? You have to explain yourself," Ilyasova said. If there's one thing Ilyasova doesn't have to explain, it's his ability to play basketball. The 25-year-old, 6-foot-10 forward began playing professionally at the age of 13 in his home country of Turkey, and he plays year-round even now. It's just that to get to this point in his career - a solid-shooting, instinctive-rebounding, all-around contributor for the Bucks - he had to take a lot of language lessons. Before Ilyasova ever averaged double digits in scoring for the Bucks or bailed them out with his sharpshooting jumpers, he grew up southeast of Istanbul in the city of Eskisehir, which means "Old Town." His mother was a Russian collegiate basketball player. His father was a Turkish volleyball player. "When you grow up with so many athletes in the family, you have one mentality. I had the sport mentality," Ilyasova said. During this time, Turkish basketball was becoming one of the best countries globally to develop the sport and its young players. Utah center Enes Kanter, Orlando forward Hedo Turkoglu, Houston Rockets center Omer Asik and Ilyasova are among the roughly eight players who are from Turkey to play in the NBA in the last decade or so.
Bucks' Ersan Ilyasova has mastered the translation game
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Mar 12