Turner Showing Maturity Through Injury

Having never been seriously injured on the basketball court, Ohio State guard Evan Turner said it was tough at first to come to terms with his misfortune but that his teammates have helped him in that regard. Returning the favor, Turner again should be on the sideline offering encouragement as the No. 18 Buckeyes face Delaware State this afternoon.

Before the No. 18 Ohio State men's basketball team took the court against Presbyterian on Wednesday evening, Evan Turner didn't look hurt.

The junior guard was part of the Buckeyes' pregame huddle and was shown on the video board in Value City Arena jumping up and down with the team as it prepared to take the court.

"I don't think they know about that," a smiling Turner said of his trainers to the local media Friday afternoon. "Don't say anything."

Such is the world in which Turner finds himself as he attempts to work his way back from a pair of fractured vertebrae in his back. Everyone is recommending caution in his rehab, yet the bubbly, energetic Turner – who said he had never been hurt before – would like nothing more than to be one of the guys again.

At least he was able to play cheerleader against the Blue Hose, encouraging his teammates from the bench and occasionally dispensing advice during the Buckeyes' runaway victory. He was unable to make the trip to Butler four days earlier when Ohio State dropped its first game without him, but Turner's wish to spend some time on the bench educating his teammates came out in Value City Arena.

"I just did it because I would want somebody to do it for me," he said. "I just want to help the team as much as I can. I was just doing what I do, you know? I was enjoying myself and helping my teammates. That's just what I do and they do for me."

He should be back in such a role today as the Buckeyes face off against Delaware State at 4 p.m. in the first game of a men's/women's doubleheader. Such continued encouragement would be, well, encouraged by his Buckeye teammates.

"He could totally be a coach some day, I think," forward Kyle Madsen said. "I could see that happening. He lives it so much and has such a passion for it. I think he did a great job on the bench. He was down there with the coaches, talking to us in the huddle, pointing things out, telling us we need to do this better, we need to do that better. He did a really good job."

That support came after Turner said he felt the need to apologize to his teammates for the injury, which occurred Dec. 5 during a game against Eastern Michigan when he slipped off the rim while trying to convert a dunk attempt.

"I said sorry to my teammates," he said. "I didn't mean to leave them out by themselves or anything like that. I still want to be with them every single day. I didn't choose for it to happen. I left them out to dry. It's going to be some tough situations like the Butler game where I wasn't there to help them. I had to say something."

Suffice it to say that such an apology wasn't necessary. Turner had done more than enough to help the team during his time on the floor in the first eight games, notching two triple-doubles and averaging team bests of 18.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game.

Such performances had made him one of the most talked about players in the country during the opening weeks of the season, and even after the injury praise continued to flow in from all corners of the nation. Turner said he heard from fellow Big Ten stars Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson of Purdue and Talor Battle of Penn State, while NBA star Kevin Durant – who he's never met – posted about him on Twitter and former Buckeye star Greg Oden called head coach Thad Matta about the injury.

Whether the injury – which Turner said should not result in permanent effects – would make him any more likely to consider leaving school to join Oden and Durant in the NBA after this season, the Chicago native responded in the negative.

"Not really," he said. "Honestly, I said it before, money is cool and everything and I would like to get money for my family and everything, but I just want to be really good at basketball and get the full effect of being in college, being around teammates and enjoying the fruits of life, to tell you the truth, and building memories.

"That's the biggest thing I'm worried about. The only thing I'm really worried about in regards to money is just for my family. All I really like is just gym shoes and Waffle House."

Those teammates have helped him deal with the injury. Buckeye senior David Lighty went through a similar fate last year when an injury ended his season in December, and the OSU team leader spent time talking with Turner.

"When I first got hurt I was having a really rough time, and me and Dave had a heart to heart," Turner said. "I think if it wasn't for him my attitude wouldn't be as positive. I kind of lost faith for a second, but I understand everything happens for a reason and it's a good sign to reevaluate myself and become a better person from it. He just said maybe it's a sign from God you need to slow down for a minute."

Additionally, in the first few days after crashing to the ground, Turner was unable to move off his couch, and when he did try he said he found himself in the unfortunate situation of being stuck on the floor.

"Dallas Lauderdale thankfully came over and he picked me up," Turner said. "I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do for the next six to eight weeks?' "

As it turns out, serving as an assistant coach is one of those duties, even if his reactions on the bench sometimes scare his coaches and trainers.

"The one time I looked and he was the first guy off the bench, and I'm like ‘Oh jeez,'" Matta said. "But I think he's feeling better."

The fifth-year coach said he and the trainers would evaluate Turner's progress after the Christmas break before figuring out what the plan is for his eventual return. In the meantime, Turner continues to work with trainer Vince O'Brien and the coaches do hope to at least take him on the road when the Big Ten slate starts Dec. 31 with four road contests in five games.

As that rehab work continues, Turner is looking forward to the day – which hopefully occurs within the eight-week time frame he was given originally – he's back on the court actually playing with his teammates.

"I'm allowed to dribble, and I just come up here (to VCA) and dribble and kind of act like I'm running plays by myself," he said. "I just can't wait. It's going to be fun."

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