About 30 minutes after Xavier concluded its beatdown of St. John’s in the Big East Tournament on Thursday afternoon, Musketeers forward Kerem Kanter sat in a chair in the home locker room and mulled over his performance. Above him, taped to the wood outside his locker, was a blue and white placard with the number “11” and “Kanter” printed on it. Behind him was something much more meaningful — a blue and orange placard that read “ENES KANTER” and “00.”
Xavier had been assigned the Knicks’ home locker room for Thursday’s game at the Garden, and Kerem Kanter was sitting in front of his brother’s locker. Kerem is three years younger than Enes, who’s emerged as a fan favorite for the Knicks in their underwhelming rebuilding season.
Kerem, who grew up with Enes in Turkey, told the Daily News that he didn’t ask to be assigned his brother’s locker.
“That’s how they set it up,” he said, referring to Xavier’s equipment staff. “But I knew they did it on purpose.”
Kerem finished with 12 points and three rebounds in Xavier’s 88-60 win over St. John’s. He said the experience of playing at the Garden, the same place his brother calls home, gave him “extreme motivation.”
“He loves the city,” Kerem said of Enes. “So just to be able to use his locker and play in this arena, it means a whole lot to me.”
Kerem is not as outspoken as Enes, who’s been publicly critical of Turkish president Racep Tayyip Erdogan – to the point where the Turkish government has reportedly issued a warrant for his arrest. But he understands Enes’ motives better than anyone.
“He stands for what he believes is right,” Kerem said. “I don’t like to get into a whole lot of politics, but he’s always been that way. When he sees something, whether it’s wrong or right, he likes to take his stand on it, and now that he has a bigger voice in New York, I think he likes using that and his power.
“He’s just doing his own thing and he’s not going to back down from anything. Nothing is going to scare him. He’s going to say what he wants to say. He’s going to do what he wants to do. So that’s just how he’s been his whole life.”
Kerem recalled a time from his childhood when his family was preparing to go on a summer trip.
“He just decided that he didn’t want to go in the last second,” Kerem said of Enes, chuckling at the memory. “We paid for the flight. We paid for a (place to) stay and everything. And he’s like, ‘I’m not going.’ And once he says that, you can’t really change him.”
They may differ in personality, but Kerem said he and his brother are “close” and try to speak as often as they can.
“We always talk,” Kerem said. “When we do talk, we don’t talk about basketball, because that’s what we do most of the time.”
Kerem said he watches as much film of Enes as he can get his hands on.
“Especially when he gets into the post, I always will watch him closely and see what he would do,” Kerem said. “It got to a point where sometimes I know what move he’s going to do, just because I’ve watched his footwork so many times over and over again.”
Added Kerem: “He’s the reason why I started playing basketball.”