ISTANBUL (FIBA World Championship for Women) - A legend of women's basketball in her homeland and one of the most successful Turkish women's athletes of all time, Nevriye Yilmaz is ready to lead her country at the FIBA World Championship for Women as she bears down on two decades of action at the elite level.
Currently in the 18th year of a glittering career, nobody quite understands the significance of Turkey's first-ever appearance at the event starting 70 days from now better than the captain of the host nation.
Yilmaz made her debut for the senior team at just 16 years of age and broke into the starting five 12 months later at a time when Turkey hadn't even stepped out at EuroBasket Women, let alone at an Olympics or FIBA World Championship for Women.
The frontcourt star arrived in Turkey in 1989, having had her passion for basketball awakened at a sport academy in Bulgaria where she was born.
"For three years after moving to Turkey I put some serious pressure on my family, because I wanted to play basketball," revealed Yilmaz as Turkey tipped off preparations with their first training camp in the lead-up to the tournament.
"My drive, my desire at that age is something that perhaps has carried on up to today, an unbelievable love and passion for basketball.
"It's every athlete's dream - the Olympics, a FIBA World Championship.
"I think we've done something huge and we've left something major behind for the generations that will come after us."
If her resume isn't enough to convince people of her value, you don't have to search very far to find plaudits for the immeasurable contribution she's made.
"In terms of basketball, Nevriye comes every day with the same seriousness, she has a truly special work ethic," declared her national team colleague Isil Alben who played alongside her at Galatasaray.
"I think that getting to play with her on the same club team was very fortunate for me.
"I mean, she's a player who has been a champion with every club she's gone to."
"I feel proud and fortunate to have coached her for so many years," added head coach Ceyhun Yildizoglu.
"She plays to win and plays to do her very best.
"I truly hope for the emergence of mores players like Nevriye, with her mindset."
Meanwhile, Turkish Basketball Federation (TBF) Board Member Julide Sonat - who oversees women's basketball - was also quick to praise Yilmaz.
"She's someone who could be a role model to many athletes, not just in Turkey but across the world," she said.
"Throughout this entire basketball development process and in all the successes we've had, she's been a very big part."
Sonat hopes Yilmaz and Co can make Turkey 2014 a competition to remember for the organisers.
"We have a team with a lot of self-confidence. We've got our work cut out, but we want to finish with a medal and further solidify Turkey's place in international women's basketball," she added.
The players are currently at the start of a two-week practice camp at the Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul after which will come a trip to Bormio, Italy for a follow-up camp.
They will then host the Zafer Cup between 22–24 August at the Ulker Sports Arena in Istanbul and compete against Australia, Brazil and Canada.
The focus subsequently switches to Ankara Arena with another preparation tournament featuring Belarus, Czech Republic and Japan on 1-3 September, before the players head to Minsk for games against hosts Belarus, China and Spain.
The squad will return to home soil on 17 September for nine final days of practice before opening the FIBA World Championship for Women against France in Group B.FIBA
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