The recruiting process was already starting to wear on three-star shooting guard Ralston Turner, well before he made his official visit to LSU this past weekend.
Still, the 6-foot-5, 190-pounder from Muscle Shoals, Ala. wasn’t going to make a hasty decision that would affect him for the rest of his life.
But after Turner spent a couple of days in Baton Rouge, he knew that the long and grueling process that started way back when he was a freshman in high school had come to an end.
“I felt good the whole time I was there so I figured that was a sign,” said Turner. “I went home and talked to my parents on Sunday and after that I decided the next day that I was done.”
The fact that Turner wanted to speak to his loved ones before finalizing his decision comes as no surprise to those close to the family. After all, the recruiting process was one that he did not endure alone.
From his mother Andrea to his father Larry, and even on down to his older sister Channing, this whole ordeal was a family affair for the Turners as each had their role.
“When we first met Coach (Trent) Johnson he seemed to be very knowledgeable and very professional,” said Andrea. “My husband handled the basketball side, and I focused on the personal side.”
Andrea’s point of emphasis was on getting to know the coaches off the court which is typical for someone who is as family-oriented as she is.
“Coach Johnson was very high on academics and educating the players,” Andrea stated. “Knowing where he came from (Stanford), you knew that developing players educational-wise and on the court were important, as well as getting them ready for the world after basketball, because the ball only bounces for so long.
“Something else that was real important was that Coach Johnson wanted us to meet his whole staff and to get to know the whole staff because they all would be working with Ralston. All of them seemed to be real true and they all had an open door policy so that was good.”
With Andrea more than qualified to take care of her business, Larry was equipped to handle the basketball side after playing at Northwest Alabama State Junior College. However, his first encounter with Johnson did not focus solely on round ball.
“He was kind of a laid back guy and we sort of talked about basketball and the ways of the world,” Larry said. “He didn’t push for Ralston to make a choice or anything. They laughed and talked, and Ralston felt comfortable with him. When Ralston felt comfortable with him then I felt comfortable with him.”
Once Larry felt at ease with Johnson and he realized that LSU would be a player for his son’s services, he began to investigate Johnson’s background as a coach. He couldn’t have picked a better time to do so as Johnson won a Southeastern Conference regular season title and was named SEC Coach of the Year in his first year with the Tigers.
“Watching him last year and watching his style sold me on him,” said Larry. “Then when he and I talked about terminology and seeing the knowledge he had for the game, it kind of blew me away. I was just kind of overwhelmed by the knowledge he had and the passion that he had to teach. He has the passion to develop a player and a person, and that’s what I wanted for Ralston.”
With strong opinions already formed on LSU as a whole, the Turners headed to Baton Rouge – their second trip over the last 12 months – to see if everything was in place.
They spent plenty of time interacting with the entire LSU basketball family, because Johnson wasn’t the only person who would be a mentor for Ralston.
“Coach Johnson and Coach (Donny) Guerinoni wanted to make sure that we were comfortable with everyone from the players to the coaches,” Andrea said. “They all seemed to love the players and that was something we were looking for. You could see it was there when they interacted with the players and they were all real.”
Mom and dad were sold on the Tigers, but there was still one other person who needed to sign off.
“Ralston’s sister Channing wanted to talk to the coaches just to make sure that her brother was going to be taken care of,” Andrea said. “She met with them and she was just as impressed as we were.”
With three of the four votes in for LSU, it was time for Ralston to give his feelings on the situation. With offers from Notre Dame, Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia and Butler, he certainly had his share of options.
Ralston took an official visit to Notre Dame – his only other official trip – the weekend before visiting LSU, and when he weighed all of his options there was one common denominator that tipped the scales in LSU’s favor.
“The coaches played a real big role,” he said. “I was comfortable with all of them and that was a real big factor. They are all just genuine, down to earth people, along with being good basketball coaches.”
Johnson and co. did a good job of selling themselves and their program, and they got a little help during the first quarter of the LSU/Vanderbilt football game when former LSU and current NBA great Shaquille O’Neal was honored on the field. That just reinforced what Ralston already thought about the program.
“I knew they had a lot of tradition, but seeing Shaq there and how the fans embraced him made me see some of the history that has been there,” said Ralston. “There have been a lot of great players to play there from Pete Maravich to Bob Pettit to the Final Four team to Coach Dale Brown. They had their share of people come through that program.”
Ralston hopes that one day people will mention his name in the same breath as the former Tigers that he is fond of. He has already made a name for himself in Alabama and around the country – ranked No. 40 overall by ESPN - and now he just wants to help his team to a state title and improve on the 21 points, 9 rebounds, 4.3 blocks and 4 assists he averaged as a junior.
The rest will take care of itself when he takes that next step in life.
“I’m excited that this is all behind me and I’m excited about LSU,” said Turner, who plans to make it official by signing in the early signing period in November. “It’s a great feeling knowing what’s ahead.”