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Tue., Aug. 25, 2009, 5:56 p.m.

Heytvelt bound for Turkey

Ex-Zag Josh Heytvelt is bound for Turkey. Read on for more.

Sitting in the press box about 30 minutes from the start of the Spokane Indians game, this popped into my e-mail. It's an article from the Lewiston Tribune, which reports that Heytvelt left today for Turkey. Here's the article:

By Matt Baney

The Lewiston Morning Tribune

Josh Heytvelt’s mother had one question when she heard where professional basketball was taking her son: How close is that to Iraq?

The answer: a comfortable distance, but still a long ways from Clarkston.

Heytvelt, the 6-foot-11 post who starred for the basketball teams at Clarkston High and Gonzaga, has signed with Oyak Renault Bursa of the Turkish Basketball League. He will depart Spokane today to join the team, whose season begins in mid-October.

The team is located in Bursa, a city of 2 million on western side of the country. Turkey does share a border with Iraq, but on its eastern side.

“It’ll give him a chance to see what’s out there,” Michelle Heytvelt said of her son Monday, “and to come back stronger and to give the NBA another go-round. That’s his passion, that’s what he’s wanted since he was a baby, I swear. I think it’s another really solid, good step in a direction of making that his career.”

Heytvelt and his agent worked out a contract with the Turkish club last week. Since then, he has packed and prepared for his move to eastern Europe.

“Josh, he’s checking into things,” Michelle said. “The (Turkish) 3-point line is the same as college. You can swat the ball if it hasn’t gone into the rim, which is not the case in the U.S. So he’s pretty excited about that one.”

Heytvelt’s new team includes two other Americans and possibly a Canadian.

Following his senior season at Gonzaga, Heytvelt was thought to be a likely choice in June’s NBA draft. But he wasn’t selected.

The shaky economy may have had something to do with that, said his father, Rolin. Many of the players who were drafted will play in other leagues around the world this season. In those cases, the NBA team that picked those players keeps their rights, but doesn’t have to pay their salary.

NBA teams asked Heytvelt’s agent if the Clarkston native would be willing to go overseas, but he told them, “ ’No, Josh is NBA material,’ ” Rolin Heytvelt recounted.

“Josh’s agent’s wisdom saw that by refusing to do that and go the free-agency route, Europe is still very much an option for Josh,” Rolin said. “And now, rather than being the exclusive rights to one team in the NBA, Josh is a free agent and free and clear to work something with any team in the NBA. Or, if he likes it in Europe, he may just stay there and keep playing.

”Who knows how this works?“ Rolin added. ”It’s like any job: You start off at an entry level and see where it takes you.“

Heytvelt was with the Washington Wizards’ summer league team, but didn’t get much playing time and wasn’t signed long-term by the club. Rolin said the highlight of that stint came when Heytvelt took on the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin, the No. 1 pick in the draft, for 12 minutes in one game. Both players mustered two points apiece.

”But that’s just something a dad watches,“ Rolin said.

Heytvelt’s parents have tentative plans to visit their son in Turkey at Christmastime. In the meantime, the family plans on keeping in touch via Web cams.

”That was his first concern -- ’How do I talk to the people I love? How do I talk to my family? How do I keep that connection?’ “ Michelle said.

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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan joined The Spokesman-Review in 1990. Jim is currently a reporter for the Sports Desk and covers Gonzaga University basketball, Spokane Empire football, college volleyball and golf.

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