After playing basketball his entire life in his native Germany, Darussafaka Tefken Istanbul center Mahir Agva is getting a taste of a new style of game, a new country, not to mention a different version of one of his most-trusted foods: the doner kebab.
The 23-year-old Agva moved to Turkey this off-season after spending the past four seasons playing for three teams in Germany's first division.
"I'm still early in my career and I wanted to play in one of the best leagues in Europe and see how my game compares," said Agva, who had previously been with Walter Tigers Tubingen, Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt and, most recently, Giessen 46ers.
"I am super hungry to compete in the EuroCup."
Agva said the transition has been getting better after some early struggles.
"At the beginning it was not that easy because all my life I played in Germany. This is the first time I have played in a different country. But I have some great teammates who help me a lot. I learn a lot from the vets like Sinan Guler or Erkan Veyseloglu," the 2.06-meter center said.
Agva said a move to the Turkish League has been in his thoughts for some time now.
"Turkey has always been on my mind. The last couple of years I have been in contact with [Darussafaka] coach Selcuk Ernak. And it finally worked out that we can work together," Agva said.
Agva has served a solid role as reserve big man, averaging 1.1 points and 1.3 rebounds in less than 10 minutes over eight 7DAYS EuroCup games so far and somewhat more with extra playing time in the Turkish League.
"It feels great to compete again in a European competition," said Agva, who played in the Basketball Champions League in 2016-17 with Frankfurt. "The last two years I didn't have the chance to do that. But I am super hungry to compete in the EuroCup."
Agva said the main thing he wants to contribute to his new team is his energy.
When asked what his former teammates would say about him, Agva answered: "They would say I play with a lot of energy, that I like to compete. Off the court, I'm a chill guy. I like to laugh and make jokes. But on the court, I always play with a high motor and with high energy."
But Agva is far from someone who is just basketball 24-7.
Coming from Reutlingen, a city of 280,000 people and also playing in cities like Frankfurt (740,000), Ludwigsburg (90,000) and Giessen (84,000), the metropolis Istanbul with its 15 million people offers Agva a lot to see and do.
"I love it. Istanbul is an amazing city, and everybody who has been to Turkey knows that the food here is great. It's not easy to find a lot of free time with all the games and practice. But if I do have some free time, I like to spend it in Bebek and enjoy the vibe and enjoy some great coffee," Agva said of the historical Istanbul neighborhood along the shores of the Bosphorus.
Agva considers himself a big art and fashion fan, which is why he has often been seen wearing T-shirts with the famous Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
"Mona Lisa is for sure one of my favorite pieces," Agva said.
He also considers tattoos art and has made his body a bit of a canvas with various tattoos.
"I got my first tattoo when I was 18. I have stopped counting now. All of them have a big meaning to me. But the most important one for sure is the one on my left arm: a picture of my mother," he said.
Turkey is kind of a return home to Agva as both of his parents were born in southern Turkey. While Agva has made a name for himself in Germany with his basketball, his father has his own following back in Reutlingen, where he opened the first doner kebab shop about 25 years ago.
"Mona Lisa is for sure one of my favorite pieces."
"I would go there all the time after school when I was 6 or 7 years old. I went there, grabbed some lunch and did some homework and would help out in the restaurant," Agva said.
Doner kebab is a Turkish food which has developed into a favorite throughout Germany. The doner kebab that is beloved in Turkey is quite a bit different, though, as Agva found out.
"There is a big difference. It's different meat and they taste different. Both are really good but both are very different. In Germany they use a lot of sauce, and in Turkey there is no sauce at all," he explained. "I didn't know the taste was so different, so I was pretty shocked."
Yes, Agva's first basketball adventure outside of his native Germany has opened his eyes about more than just the hoops.