With a lot of big-name schools (Duke, UConn, UNC, Florida, Georgia, etc.) after him, Ronny (pron: Roany) Turiaf turned his focus to five: Miami, LSU and two other Western Coast Conference teams, Pepperdine and St. Mary's, as well as Gonzaga.
He chose Gonzaga "because they have great coaching and a winning tradition,"
he said in a recent telephone interview from his dorm room.
In addition to that, Turiaf thought he would have a chance to contribute
immediately at Gonzaga. At 6-10, he knew the Bulldogs would need someone to
fill Casey Calvary's considerable shoes.
North Carolina also came to see him play twice (including when he scored 30
points and had a triple double game). The Tar Heels were interested, but
Turiaf knew that if he went to North Carolina, he'd be sitting on the bench
with promises of future playing time.
He figured they would tell him that they knew he would be "good, good, good."
"But I think that is for the top players," he said, modestly.
Even at Gonzaga, Turiaf knows he needs to bulk up. He's 227 now. He needs to
be at 235 or 240.
"My challenge is finding a place on the team and getting stronger," he said.
Toward that end, he is working out in the weight room three times a week,
compared to just once a week in France.
"I like it but it is tough," he said. "But I must like it. If I want to be a
top player, I must get strong."
When Ronny was the ripe old age of 15 he started playing hoops in Martinique. Each town had a team (over 40 towns) and even though the competition was not the greatest, it gave him a chance to play and eventually get noticed. Little did he know that he'd be playing with the likes of NBA first-round pick Tony Parker and be considered the best big man in all France just two years later. He has played in championship games across Europe, most memorably in a wild game against Croatia at Croatia where 5000 Croatian fans were chanting their favorite player's name and "just going crazy."
Ronny made the winning basket for France to win by one, stunning and silencing the home crowd. Turiaf, who played for INSEP in Paris, France, is looking forward to playing before big crowds, not only in the Kennel but also on the road.
"I know the Kennel gets crazy," he said, his voice indicating excited
anticipation of experiencing it first-hand.
Gonzaga's tough schedule doesn't bother Turiaf.
"I can tell you our whole team right now is so good. We have shooter, driver,
rebounder. I think we can have a great, great, great season.
Basketball is his game now, but Turiaf also has participated in soccer,
tennis, handball and swimming.
Turiaf isn't at Gonzaga just for basketball. He's also hitting the books and
has his eye on a couple of majors.
"I want to choose between two: business administration or sports management."
When not playing or lifting, Turiaf likes to play computer video games, read books, listen to all kinds of music and, as soon as he knows English better, go to movies.
"I don't want to pay $10 and not understand all the words!"
His native language on Martinique is Creole, and he speaks French, Spanish and some Italian, in addition to English. Asked about Spokane, Paris and Martinique and he can't believe how happy and nice the people in Spokane are and on the GU campus. "It is 85 degrees everyday in Martinique; it gets so cold at night in Spokane; in Paris I had good blankets; I only have two here!"
Ronny has yet to experience an Inland Northwest winter, but the heat generated in the Martin Centre will more than offset the cold temps outside for him.