Turner Turned Helper At University Games

Evan Turner's game grew immensely from his first to his second year at Ohio State, and his time at the World University Games earlier this month could have been a preview for another leap to come. While suiting up for the United States, he stepped aside from his OSU role as a scorer to lead the team in assists while also cutting down on a turnover problem that has plagued him.

Ohio State fans know Evan Turner as a dominant offensive player. In 2008-09, Turner took the most shots of any Buckeye, led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists and became one of the Big Ten's best scorers.

The Turner that showed up for the World University Games, played in early July in Belgrade, Serbia, showcased another part of his game for the United States squad.

The junior from Chicago was last among the 12 players on Bo Ryan's U.S. squad with just 4.0 points per game, a far cry from the 17.3 he averaged as OSU's No. 1 option last season. Playing in an offense that focused on getting the ball into the post, he also led the bronze-medal winning team with 18 assists and, with just six turnovers, placed fourth in the entire tournament with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.0.

While Turner's always been willing to look to his teammates at Ohio State even while being asked to be the first option, his performance for the Red, White and Blue showed he could also take care of the ball at a new level.

"I just figured I had to start somewhere, you know?" said Turner, who had team highs of 99 turnovers as a freshman and 117 a season ago. "I just was trying to better myself and be better to come back and work on things. I've always had trouble with giving the ball to other teams, just sometimes trying to keep my composure. I was thinking about the next play, like Coach Matta tells me. My teammates over there can really get open. They made it easy for me as well."

Ryan split starts amongst the 12 players on the roster, and all averaged at least 10 minutes per game. Only one, Penn State's Talor Battle, topped 10 points per game for an American squad that placed fourth at the tournament in scoring with an average of 90.1 points.

The United States reached the semifinals of the event at 5-0 before a late loss to Russia eliminated them from gold medal contention, but an earlier game had a major impact on the way Turner played.

During a tune-up contest against the host nation, Turner exploded for 16 points but the U.S. lost by double digits. Afterward, the Buckeye decided – on his own, with no suggestion from the coaching staff – that he needed to change his approach from scorer to facilitator.

"We lost to Serbia and I scored big that night," he said. "After the game a couple of people were complaining about the ball and moving the ball around and what not. I knew I didn't have to score to play well, so I figured I could probably do a better job of just passing the ball around, getting teammates involved and just trying to build chemistry and camaraderie, keep everybody happy. We're all stars, we kind of have egos here and there. I was just trying to make it easy and try to fit in."

Some prodding from Ryan, the Wisconsin head coach whose teams are build on intensity and fundamentals, also helped Turner realize the importance of his role and of keeping possession of the ball.

"He's a fair coach," Turner said. "The reason why I didn't turn the ball over was that Coach Ryan wasn't taking it. He stayed on me a lot and tried to push our team, and I just learned a lot as far as being tough and sticking things out. He's all about getting the job done and finishing that one pay and making the most of every opportunity."

Turner, who played as a "2" or "3" for the United States, put everything together in the bronze medal game of the tournament. Starting for the third time, he finished 5 of 6 from the floor for 10 points while adding three rebounds and three assists against just one turnover.

He ended the event shooting 12 of 23 (52.2 percent) from the floor with 26 rebounds, six steals and four blocks to go with his sterling assist-to-turnover mark.

"I think I learned patience a little bit," he said on how he developed as a player at the tournament. "Sometimes things didn't go my way. Sometimes trying to adapt to another environment, which was that offense, was kind of tough. You have to work with different types of people, and I think I handled it better, more grown-up as a person and as a player."

Turner has since returned to Columbus to work with his Ohio State teammates in preparation for improving on last season's first-round loss in the NCAA tournament.

"I've been playing pretty well with my teammates the past couple of days and trying to get back in the workouts," he said. "Just pretty much keep building a good team, a successful team, trying to become a leader and just enjoy my time here. I'm around great guys and great people, so I'm just taking full advantage of everything that's here."


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