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2012 London Olympics Preview: Turkey

Of Turkey's 114 Olympic athletes, 66 are women, including archer Begul Lokluoglu. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
Of Turkey's 114 Olympic athletes, 66 are women, including archer Begul Lokluoglu. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
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Turkey might be poised to turn some heads in Group A play after having a solid summer that included sweeping their contests in the FIBA World Qualifying Tournament and giving the United States a legitimate run for their money in exhibition play. Here's a glimpse at their squad:

Turkey | Group A

Olympic Games history: Tukey qualified for their first ever spot in the Olympics in front of the home crowd in Ankara earlier this summer.

Place at 2010 FIBA World Championship: Did not compete

How they got here: 2012 FIBA World Qualifying Tournament

Names you might recognize: Quanitra Hollingsworth, or on the Turkish box scores "Kuanitra". Hollingsworth, who played at VCU from 2005-09 and with Minnesota and New York thus far in her young WNBA career, received her Turkish citizenship earlier this year in order to compete for the national team. Interestingly, she was also approached by Hungary and apparently other countries as well regarding her national citizenship. [Here's a good read on Hollingsworth's decision to play for Turkey]

If you like small-college basketball, you might be familiar with Tugce Canitez, the reigning WBCA player of the year for the NAIA. Canitez, who will be entering her senior year at Westmont College this fall, averaged 19.1 points and 10.5 rebounds a game for the Warriors and helped the squad to their first NAIA quarterfinal appearance in 2012.

Statistical leaders: Hollingsworth is more than just a recognizable name for Turkey, she's a solid presence in the box score. She averaged 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds a game in the FIBA World Qualifying Tournament. Turkey's other double-digit scorers in the qualifier were Nevriye Yilmaz at 12.3 (and six rebounds) and Tugba Palazoglu's 10.3 points per game. The team's leading rebounder, Bahar Caglar hauled in an average of seven rebounds and point guard Birsel Vardarli dished out six helpers in each of their three tournament games.

In case you missed it: Most recently, in an exhibition Olympic tune-up with the United States, Turkey proved that the upstarts are more going to be tricky to beat. By all accounts, the 81-60 US win was played closer than the score indicates, and Turkey was only down five at the half. Still within an easy seven-point striking distance to start the fourth, the US team wore down the Turkish team in the final quarter to secure the victory. Hollingsworth led the team with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting and Yilmaz added 10 points and nine rebounds in the scrappy loss.

"We had to make plays. We had to get stops, and they are a really, really good team," said Geno Auriemma, USA and University of Connecticut head coach after the game. "They have a lot of weapons, they have a lot of ways they can beat you and they are really smart. We gave them a lot of life."

Noting the fact that the game was played in Turkey, Seimone Augustus gave the crowd credit for supporting the home team."They're an aggressive team. They're kind of undersized, so they have to be very physical. They came out with a lot of excitement and energy. Their fans were behind them. They feed off of their fans' energy here."[Quotes via USABasketball's game story - view the full release]

Preliminary round schedule: vs. Angola (July 28), vs. Czech Republic (July 30), vs. U.S. (Aug. 1), vs. China (Aug. 3), vs. Croatia (Aug. 5)