HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
MAKING A GRAND ENTRANCE (Part 3)
By Martin Cleary
One minute, Ottawa’s Marial Shayok was running a fast-break down an NBA court and the next minute he’s told his services were no longer required.
Such is the nature of pro sport for a newcomer trying to crack the lineup. Despite being put on waivers in late November by the Philadelphia 76ers, Shayok remains upbeat about returning to the NBA. He has developed a strategy.
Shayok, who was the first Ottawa player ever selected in the NBA draft (2019, 54th, second round, Philadelphia), was one of two two-way players with the 76ers, meaning he could easily move between Philadelphia and the Delaware Blue Coats, its G-League farm team.
About six weeks after being released by the 76ers, Shayok signed a contract with Frutti Extra Bursaspor of the Basketball Super League in Bursa – the third largest city in Turkey, with a population of almost 3 million.
“When choosing a team, I wanted to make sure I chose a really good league that was known for having good players,” Shayok wrote in an email interview. “The league has produced NBA players and has lots of NBA scouts watching. I thought it would be a good way of showing what I could do at another high level of basketball.”
Shayok joined Bursaspor midseason and wants to lift them into the playoffs to create some excitement in the post season.
He certainly did that in his debut game Jan. 9. Shayok was a leader on the court as Bursaspor, now 6-12, earned an important 89-84 win over Fethiye. In his 26 minutes, Shayok recorded a team-high 24 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
“I thought I had a solid first game,” added the past St. Patrick’s Irish high school star. “It was my first time playing lots of minutes since last March, so naturally my rhythm wasn’t where it will be, but it was still pretty good given the circumstances.”
In his time with the 76ers, Shayok played in four NBA games (averaging 2.8 points a game), including two of eight games in Philadelphia’s 2020 fall bubble experience, where he saw limited minutes.
“Joining my first European team has been a good experience. It was good to be back on a court with a team, after months of training,” he added. “I missed the competition, so (the first game) was fulfilling.”
After a week of training with his team, which included missing one game opportunity, Shayok was a starter in his first match and it was “a good feeling knowing (the) team recognized my abilities and wanted me to help them win.
“Being waived wasn’t much of a surprise because during that free agency (period), we were in communication about potentially finding a trade, where I’d be able to get a better opportunity to play,” the 25-year-old explained.
“Unfortunately, given the circumstances with COVID and how it affected free agency, many guys, including myself, were put in some difficult situations.
“It was just one of those years, but with that said, I was still able to put myself in a great position to get back in the NBA by taking care of business here so I’m sure it will all work out.”
In the past two decades, the NBA has welcomed 12 Turkish players, including 10 right out of the Basketball Super League. Two players have experienced the NBA, returned to the BSL and then reconnected with the NBA.
Dedicated to his training and conditioning, Shayok said the week of practice before his first game allowed him to regain his court rhythm and smooth his game.
“I felt prepared, really just played free and tried to be myself as much as possible,” he added.
After a standout senior year with Iowa State University and being drafted by Philadelphia, Shayok was a star in the G League in the 2019-20 season. As a rookie, he ranked third in scoring with 22.4 points a game.
Shayok also averaged 5.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists a game for the Blue Coats, while shooting 35.8 per cent from beyond the three-point arc.