January 30, 2010

National attention increasing for Turner

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Just about anyone who follows the Ohio State basketball team can explain, in detail, why Buckeye junior point guard Evan Turner is one of the best basketball players in the nation.

Right about now is when the rest of the country is starting to become fully aware.

Even his teammates notice it, too.

When William Buford and Dallas Lauderdale were asked Friday if there were any other players in the nation that were good as Turner, the answer was easy for both of them.

"No," Lauderdale said simply.

"Nobody," Buford responded when asked if anyone belonged in the same category as Turner.

Though Turner came into the season as a player to watch out for - and was named to the preseason All-Big Ten Conference team - not many expected where things are headed for Turner.

Things may be escalating to an even bigger picture now. Not only does Turner look like the best player in the Big Ten - which is saying quite a bit given the talent in the conference this year - but his name is becoming more and more prevalent in National Player of the Year talks.

And that's having missed considerable time with an injury.

After a failed dunk attempt Dec. 5 against Eastern Michigan in which Turner fell directly on his back, fracturing bones, he missed a total of six games in the middle of the season.

Leading into the Eastern Michigan game, Ohio State was led by Turner to a 7-1 record and a No. 13 ranking. Before the injury, Turner was averaging 20.6 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 6.6 assists.

Turner, who was just over three assists from averaging a triple-double, already accomplished that feat twice after it only had been done once in 112 years of Ohio State basketball.

With him out, the team went 3-3 and got off to a start in conference action to forget. For Buford, that's all he needs to know when it comes to deciding if Turner is the best player in the country.
"I think he should get it, Player of the Year," William Buford said Friday. "He works hard in practice, he is a good guy on and off the court, and I think he really should get it. As his friends we don't really pay too much attention to it."

Perhaps the game that defines just exactly what Turner does as a player came in Ohio State's biggest win of the season when it knocked off then-No. 6 Purdue in West Lafayette.

Turner scored the points in a late 14-2 run to lead the Buckeyes to the 70-66 upset before finishing with 32 points, a career high, nine rebounds, and three assists.

In Ohio State's most recent game, Turner scored eight consecutive points at Iowa in the last two minutes of the game to seal up the victory on the road.

And Ohio State head coach Thad Matta is fully aware of the praise Turner is starting to receiver from just about everywhere. In terms of consider for Player of the Year, Matta just doesn't know where he stacks up against other competition.

"I think Evan is a great player, but I haven't had the opportunity or luxury to watch a lot of other players to put him in that category," Matta said. "I don't even know who else would be in consideration with him for that. I think the great thing about Evan is he is extremely grounded and quite honestly just focused on playing better basketball the next time he takes the court, which is probably why he is playing so well.

But to be in the conversation after missing six games, Matta said, is nothing short of incredible.

"No question about that," Matta said. "A lot of guys wouldn't have come back as quickly as he did, but he was, "I'm playing, I want to play, I want to play' and I think that really says a lot. With guys that have numbers the way he does, it was irrelevant to him. He just wanted to help the team win."

Regardless of how big Turner's name continues to get, his teammates are just thankful to have him on their team. Though everyone is becoming quite aware of how much Turner is starting to step into the spotlight, the Buckeyes are just hoping to continue to win.

"Evan is just a brother to us, for real. He is not an icon or a superstar. He is a brother," Lauderdale said. "We go to war with him and we have his back for every situation, so for him to glow on the national level, that's great for all of us."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.


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