TERRE HAUTE —
If Terre Haute South’s inexperienced Braves ever need a lift this season in boys high school basketball, they have a teammate big enough and strong enough to put them on his back.
That kind of pick-me-up won’t be necessary for long, however, Jeffrey Turner said this week.
The Braves, who open Vigo County series play tonight at West Vigo, got a big Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference win last Friday, coming from 12 points behind after three quarters to overtake visiting Center Grove. Turner had 17 of his game-high 27 points in that period, which was pleasant for his coach but not a pleasant surprise.
“Our young guys look for [Turner] in the fourth quarter,” Scott Ridge said this week, mentioning that Turner — averaging 28.2 points per game after Wednesday’s home contest against North Central — had scored more than 10 points in the fourth quarter of the first four South game this year.
“He’s one of the best scorers around,” Ridge said of his multi-purpose senior threat. “He can put it in the basket from anywhere on the court. He’s a tough matchup for anybody: he can shoot, he can dribble, he can pass, and his strength presents a lot of problems from people trying to guard him.”
Turner, a burly 6-foot-2, has always been a matchup problem as he’s progressed from freshman phenom to his current status as a wise old senior. There hasn’t been a position he hasn’t played during his four-year varsity career, and he’s thankful to all his South coaches for that.
“I think I’ve grown a lot as a player,” Turner said this week. “When I got here, the coaches turned me into an all-around-type player, and that really helped me. Some years we had two or three guards, so I played inside. My sophomore year, we didn’t really have either a big man or a point guard, so I played a little of both.”
This year, he said, he seems to be settling into the role of “6-2 small forward who can play down low.” And, as the only Brave with substantial varsity experience going into this season, he’s adding to his leadership role.
“Since I was a sophomore, I think I’ve always been like a leader,” he said, “but this year the coaches look at me not only to play but to teach.”
“He’s become very vocal,” Ridge agreed. “He’s been in all these MIC games, and he’s not intimidated by the schedule we face.
“He’s bought into the team concept, and he takes a leadership role. That’s something we need as coaches; we can’t be the only ones talking.”
“JV and varsity are two totally different things,” Turner said when asked what he was trying to teach his younger teammates, adding that he’s embracing the new responsibiities.
“I’d rather be in the situation where if something goes wrong, it’s my fault, instead of blaming somebody else,” he said.
Accepting blame might not be something he’ll have to do often, however, Turner indicated. He could see a situation later in the season where his scoring might be phased out as well.
“In my four years, I think this is the best team I’ve been on,” he said this week. “At conditioning and open gyms, [the younger Braves] didn’t miss a day, any of them, and this is the first team I’ve been on that did that.”
The impressive work ethic will pay off, he predicted.
“I see a lot more wins coming,” Turner said, “and everybody can score.”
Turner’s ambition, then, for the rest of the season isn’t to maintain a 30-point scoring average.
“My main focus [the rest of the year] is to play defense,” he said. “I’ve been terrible at it, so my main goal now is to step up and be a defensive leader too.”