When Omar Turk was a child, his mother forbade him from playing basketball. until his schoolwork was completed. Turk considered this as the “ultimate punishment.” No matter how many times she would use it against him, it would always work.
The ongoing support that Turk’s family offered eventually helped him achieve his life-long dream and become a basketball champion.
One of Lebanon’s most famous basketball players, Turk is part of the Lebanese basketball national team as well as the shooting guard of Al Riyadi team.
Turk competed at the Asian championships, helping the team to a silver medal at the FIBA Asia Championships in 2005 and 2007. He has won six local championships, five Arab championships, four Dubai tournaments and still counting. “I love winning, I’m into winning,” he said with excitement.
Dana Salameh is one of Turk’s biggest fans. She plays basketball on a daily basis. “I love Omar! His aim is unrivalled,” Salameh said. “He doesn’t choke, he’s a clutch shooter.”
Turk is the middle child among three males. Ali, the eldest, currently lives in Canada. He used to play basketball before he got married and also opened a restaurant. Ayman is still a university student in Montreal.
Ali encouraged his younger brother to play regularly, as a child, in order to develop his skills.
During Turk’s youth, his parents supported him under one condition – that he earns a college degree. Just like many parents, they prioritized his education over everything else.
“My mom always supported me, every day,” Turk remembered. “She always came to every single game, whether it was two, or seven hours away.”
Turk’s mother currently lives in Canada and until this day, watches all his games along with his brothers. Also, when Turk’s family members visit Lebanon, they attend all his matches to show their support.
Turk sacrificed a number of things for basketball during his childhood. “I had to sacrifice the typical teenager life; staying out late, hanging out with the guys,” he said. “Instead, I directed my time and focus towards basketball.”
“I would wake up everyday before the school bus came and I’d go outside at 5:30 in the morning, shoot some hoops, come back home then get ready for school,” Turk remembered.
His determination had begun at such an early stage. “Nothing was going to stop me, I would always find time for basketball,” he said.
Immigrating to Canada rewarded Turk in a number of ways. The country taught him the true fundamentals of basketball and team spirit.
Turk also found stability when he met and married his Jordanian wife, Yasmine Haj Khalil.
Getting married really improved Turk’s focus and limited any external distractions that other players experience such as getting caught up with the city’s nightlife. “After marriage, I found stability,” Turk explained.
Turk labels his wife as his number one fan.
“I attended every game he’s played ever since he was a member of the basketball team at Dawson College in Montreal,” the young woman said. “I feel so happy when he wins.”
Turk is grateful for her, and his parents’, support. “I wouldn’t have been a basketball player without my family,” he said.
By Iman Soufan
LAU Tribune staff