The Galatasaray wheelchair basketball team, which is only five years old, won trophies in the European Champions Cup organized by the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) in the 2007-2008 season and the IWBF Champions League twice in a row in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009, also winning the Kitakyushu Cup and becoming world champion in 2008 and 2009.
Also a regular on the US men’s national wheelchair basketball team, Matthew David Scott, generally known as Matt Scott, has helped build Galatasaray into an impenetrable fortress since the 2008-09 season as one of the world-famous team’s most effective players.
Galatasaray acquired Scott, who will turn 25 at the end of this month, in 2008 after coach Remzi Sedat İncesu noticed him in 2004 when Scott was playing for the University of Wisconsin Whitewater team. İncesu was not the only one who wanted him on his team; other teams throughout Europe also made him offers. But he wanted to complete his university education before moving to Europe to play basketball.
“He [İncesu] let me know how strong his team actually was, what the opportunities were for me here in Turkey. I really liked that opportunity. I had never come to Turkey before, and I really did not know much about the country. But I was interested in the culture, I was interested in the land and I was interested in coming here and playing basketball,” Scott said.
Scott accepted the invitation from İncesu in 2008 and started to wear the Galatasaray jersey in the 2008-2009 season, which was filled with success. “We were invited to the world championship for club teams [in the season I came] in Japan. We became the world champion. Then we won the European championship again. There was a lot of success that year.”
The wheelchair master expresses his pleasure at being in Turkey, saying he has a good life in İstanbul and Galatasaray takes good care of him. “I am very well accommodated. My accommodation is very close to stores and fast food places. It is a very good area; it is also close to the gym.”
Turkish wheelchair basketball growing quickly
Wheelchair basketball is called the catalyst for sports carried out by disabled people in Turkey on the Web site of the Turkish Sports Federation for the Physically Disabled. The sport has been successful in Turkey despite not having a long history.
While noting that Turkey’s national wheelchair basketball team has recently achieved important victories, Scott said the sport is growing very big in the country. “And Galatasaray is a very big part of that. I think, with them bringing foreign players over, Turkish wheelchair basketball brings different aspects and mindsets to the game. They are learning a lot from very skilled players. It is becoming a big sport.”
He also said young and ambitious players come to their training sessions to practice and they push very hard. “They will be the future of the Turkish league. I think it has a very bright future.”
‘I want to stay in Turkey’
In addition to his view of a bright future for Turkey, Scott also thinks that his future in Turkey is bright, too. Stressing his love for the team at every possible opportunity, Scott, who is playing in his second season for Galatasaray now, wants to stay with the İstanbul team. He says playing for Galatasaray is “really a joy.” “I really like to play for Galatasaray. I really want to go ahead and win the Turkish division. We hopefully will do well in the European division as well and win that again. I really enjoy Turkey. I love living in İstanbul. People are very nice. We have the very best fans in Turkey and in the world, I think. It is really a joy to play for Galatasaray. My return next season… It is up to the management, it is up to the coach, but I personally think I would love to come back and play for Galatasaray.”
Scott, who signed a contract with Galatasaray in September to run through to June, wants to stay in Europe if Galatasaray no longer want to keep him or if he does not want to play for the team. He notes that other teams throughout Europe e-mail him, inviting him to play for them, and says his choice would be European teams from s countries uchas Italy, Germany and Spain, where, he says, wheelchair basketball leagues are very strong.
Target is high
Scott’s days off are filled with repeating exercises over and over again. After practicing with the team, he says that he trains on his own and does extra shooting practice for hours. “I train a lot. I love the sport, and I wanna become the best,” he says.
Among other things that he engages in during a normal day are eating, playing on his PlayStation and spending time on the Internet, because his family lives in the US.
Spending time with his Turkish friends and teammates is one of Scott’s other leisure activities. “The team members are very good friends. We are like brothers. We get some food, go to some shopping malls and go around. … Sometimes they show me different areas and what Turkey is like.”
Scott’s face may be familiar for some people since he was in Nike’s “No Excuses” television commercial, which was aired in 2007 when he was a UW Whitewater player in the US college wheelchair basketball league.
Being part of the campaign means a lot for me, Scott says, adding: “It gave a very good message. I was very happy to be a part of that.”
Galatasaray star opposed wheelchair basketball idea at first
Matt Scott was born into a family of sports lovers, and he used to watch and play basketball all the time when he was a kid. He recalls that he did not like the idea of wheelchair basketball when he first heard about it. However, after seeing what it was about, he’s never stopped playing. “I used to play with my able-bodied friends. I thought I was pretty good. I knew nothing about wheelchair basketball. …When I was about 14 years old, I went to a doctor, and he said … “You should try wheelchair basketball.” When I heard about wheelchair basketball, I said I didn’t wanna play wheelchair basketball. I said I could play with my able-bodied friends. I thought very negatively about wheelchair basketball. I didn’t know what to expect. When you actually see wheelchair basketball, it is entirely different than what you think. You think wheelchair basketball is slow, but everyone is very athletic. There is a lot of contact. It is a very good game. Once I started to play it, I never stopped. I loved the game.”