Abbotsford’s Marek Klassen is taking his talents to Turkey.
The news all came together fast for Klassen, who said he’s looking forward to suiting up against some of the best competition in Europe.
“I have an agent working overseas for me and on Monday I got a message from him telling about this incredible opportunity,” he said. “There were only two other Canadians playing in Turkey last year. It’s the best league in Europe and I’m just super excited.”
Klassen said the Turkish league features bigger budgets and deeper talent overall than the BBL.
“I don’t know if anyone has ever made the jump from England to Turkey,” he said. “If I do well, then it’s really serious. I’ve already got the team’s playbook from them and have been studying it non-stop.”
The turnaround is pretty fast for Klassen. He arrives in Turkey today (Friday). The team starts preseason on Monday and that continues for three to four weeks. Bakirkoy is set to travel throughout Turkey and Greece prior to the Turkish Basketball League’s season opener in October.
“It all just kind of came together. I didn’t sleep for two nights while we were negotiating, ” he said, with a laugh.
Every team in the TBL is allowed only two imports, which means there are high expectations on Klassen for this season.
“I’ll be starting, and with imports they are coming in as impact players,” he said. “I’m expecting to play a lot and want to do well in the league. I want to prove myself, come in there and be a dog and have a good work ethic.”
Last year the TBL’s only two Canadian talents were NBA first overall draft pick Anthony Bennett and former New York Knicks guard Andy Rautins.
“They’re both two guys who played in the league, so that’s the kind of talent in the TBL,” Klassen said.
It has been a long basketball journey for Klassen, who led the Yale Lions to a AAA basketball provincial title in 2010 and was named the tournament’s most valuable player. He played his college ball for the Point Loma Nazarene University Sea Lions, earning a third team conference all-star mention for the NCAA Division II school in 2015. He also helped the Sea Lions win a National Christian Colleges Athletic Association championship in 2014.
From there, he played professionally in both Romania and England before inking the deal with his new club.
But Abbotsford is never far from the mind of the 25-year-old. He spends parts of every summer here, and has hosted skills camps for local youth. Klassen also competed at the second annual MSA Outdoor Classic earlier this month, helping the Private Barbershop team repeat as champions.
He said he’s thrilled to see basketball continue to thrive in Abbotsford.
“Abbotsford basketball is growing a lot,” he said. “There are so many opportunities out there for young kids, and, for myself, it feels really good to be able to give back to Abbotsford.”