St. Vincent's Turner makes turnaround on, off the court
The 2010 Winter Park (Fla.) boys basketball team always drew a crowd — not to mention its share of college scouts. The Wildcats' starting lineup had four Division I prospects, including current New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers.
St. Vincent's D.P. Harris was among the coaches who traveled to the City of Palms Classic tournament in Fort Myers, Fla., to watch that Winter Park team. A gentleman sitting next to Harris told him to keep an eye on the Wildcats' No. 22.
The request seemed odd to Harris. No. 22, Isaac Turner, was barely touching the ball.
The man said Turner had been his son's teammate throughout high school and assured Harris that he was a player. The tipster was Glenn “Doc” Rivers, coach of the Boston Celtics at the time and Austin Rivers' father.
Heeding Rivers' endorsement, Harris convinced Turner to leave sunny Winter Park for the icy winters of Latrobe. Turner hasn't disappointed.
He averaged 16.7 points last year in helping the Bearcats capture their first Presidents' Athletic Conference championship, and this year the 6-foot-2 senior guard is leading the PAC in scoring at 21.4 ppg. Against Westminster in December, Turner surpassed 1,000 career points and, in the same game, tied a school record by making 18 free throws.
Those are achievements any player would treasure. They're even more meaningful to Turner considering he almost never got the chance to make them happen.
Turner started strong as a freshman, averaging 18.9 points. But he neglected his academics, and Harris removed him from the team after just nine games.
“He was close to getting kicked out of St. Vincent,” Harris said.
“The biggest thing was the maturity factor,” Turner said. “I didn't have my head in the right places. I wasn't as worried about grades as I should have been. I was so worried about not being home and missing my family that it kind of took away from everything that I was doing.”
Turner got his grades in order and was reinstated to the team for his sophomore year. Once again, he didn't finish the season.
During an early February game at Waynesburg, Turner landed awkwardly on his right foot and suffered a broken fifth metatarsal. The injury required the insertion of a 4-inch screw to hold the bones together, and there was no guarantee he would recover completely.
Turner not only overcame the broken foot, he thrived. He culminated his junior season with 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the PAC title game victory over Thomas More, and he believes he is just now starting to play his best basketball.
“(Last year) was really good for me to kind of see the outcome of the work that I put in, and it was kind of nice to see it translate out on the court,” he said. “It helped kick start me into this year and helped my confidence.
“I'm just starting to get things going, and I'm trying to see how far I can take it.”
Turner would like to take it at least as far as another PAC title, and he's not ruling out a national championship. Despite the loss of starting center Grant Latus to an injury, Turner won't lower the bar for the Bearcats (8-2).
“It's a big goal to set for myself and for my team, but I think if we keep jelling, who knows how good we can be?” he said.
Regardless of what else Turner accomplishes on the court, Harris is most proud of his development off it. Not only will Turner graduate on time with a degree in communications, but he also will do it with a 3.0 GPA.
“The one thing about Isaac Turner is he's a survivor,” Harris said. “There were people at St. Vincent who didn't believe in him who wanted to say, ‘Hey, this guy doesn't deserve to be here.' And he fought back. His character speaks for itself. He is exactly the kind of kid that we want in our program.”
Chuck Curti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.