’s Most Valuable Student: Dogus Balbay

According to Forbes, the International Student economic value to the United States exceeds 15 Billion USD. Clearly the Recruitment of International Students is vital to fostering Economic Growth. Perhaps more significant is cultural awareness and value that is brought to the American student by their fellow International Classmates. Over 100,000 international students just graduated from US institutions this month. Of this number, over half will serve Corporate America with OPT work permits, 2,500 served as NCAA athletes and 12,000 graduated with sum laude status including over a dozen class valedictorians.

In selecting the Most Valuable Student for the Class of 2011, we looked for the student who not only achieved extreme success in and out of the classroom but also one who possesses a character that inspires and impacts others. A student who is well rounded and demonstrates intelligence, strength and character. This year, we recognize and salute Dogus Balbay of the University of Texas Class of 2011.

Dogus Balbay is known throughout the State of Texas and the College Basketball Community as one of the America’s top Basketball Players. He is one of the quickest players in the US. He is ferocious, intelligent and a true leader on the court. He has received accolades from Basketball experts throughout America. ESPN analysts Jay Bilas and Doug Gottlieb have recognized Dogus as the top perimeter defender in America. Hall of Fame coach, Bob Knight called Dogus the epitome of hustle and Digger Phelps viewed him as one of the most diligent players he has seen in years. He is also the ultimate leader of one of America’s most established basketball teams, The University of Texas Longhorns. Our meeting with Coach Rick Barnes convinced us that indeed Dogus is the ultimate international student.

He told us:

“ You can’t put into words the impact that Dogus has had on our program. He truly defines the term student-athlete. He has been a great team leader and the ultimate teammate. Everyone in our program who has played with Dogus respects him. More important, I can’t tell you how many players and coaches from opposing teams have mentioned their respect level for Dogus. Because of his work ethic and perseverance and the way he has carried himself throughout his career”

This year, Dogus was recognized by the Big 12 as the Conference’s top Defensive Player of the Year. First time ever an international athlete has been recognized with this award. Basketball was not always Dogus’s favorite sport. As a young child, it was soccer. At the age of 11, his elder sister, Derya, introduced basketball to him. Capitalizing on his cat like quickness, Dogus fell in love with the Sport and it didn’t take him long to become one of Turkey’s best. He became one of Fenerbahce’s stars and at the age of 15, led Turkey to the National Under 16 Championships. “I owe my development of Basketball to Fenerbahce. Without them I could have never been given such opportunities. The Club will always be a very important part of my life.” Studying in America was always a dream for Dogus. His father is an Engineer and he always made it clear to Dogus that Education came before Basketball. Thus studying and graduating from one of the world’s finest institutions has become the family’s most proud achievement. When Dogus visited University of Texas as a high school senior,he knew it was the right place. “It took me only minutes to make my decision once I saw this place. The best decision I ever made and though I am now a graduate, this will always be my 2nd home. “ Dogus did not graduate as an average student. He graduated as an Honor student and the NCAA has recognized him as an “Academic All American” a prestigious honor.

We also recognize Dogus for his community service. Though those closest to Dogus know he is a tremendous basketball player, they see him as even a better person than an athlete. In addition to success on both the basketball court and the classroom, Dogus has given countless hours to aiding mankind through community service. In Austin, Dogus regularly visits Dell’s Children Hospital and young cancer survivors at the YMCA. He has also been active in assisting Make a Wish, American Cancer Society, and the Raindrop Turkish House. When in Turkey, Dogus visits Orphanages to provide and support to the most needy. Dogus has demonstrated courage though his tireless community involvement in both Turkey and Austin. He is also an ultimate representative of Turkey to the University of Texas community. “I am very proud of my country. It is my responsibility to educate my friends and classmates in Turkish culture and history. It’s possible that my classmates may never meet a Turk again so to me it is important that from me they can know what it means to be Turkish. The human principals that were carried over to us by Ataturk. I know my classmates really were able to learn about my roots and I feel very proud that they will have the opportunity to one day teach their children what they learned from me. “

On June 23, the NBA Draft will take place in New Jersey. Dogus hopes to be the first Turk ever to be drafted after completion of undergraduate study in the US. A very unique player indeed. Quickness of Rajon Rondo, court sense and intelligence of Jason Kidd and the determination of also once international student, Jason Barea. A team that drafts him will gain a player of enormous talent and even higher level of character. We are very proud of Dogus Balbay and look forward to seeing him represent Turkey and the University of Texas at the next level.