How Turner Beat The Deadline

When Evan Turner was announced as being available for the Indiana game, fans wondered how he managed beat his prognosis for a return to the court by nearly four full weeks. As it turns out, Turner was actually late to the party -- a fact of which head coach Thad Matta said he was unaware.

Evan Turner must have felt like the cat that swallowed the canary.

The junior point guard returned to the lineup for Ohio State in a 79-54 home victory against Indiana, beating a public timetable for getting back in the lineup that he knew all along was bogus.

Turner, who went down with two fractured vertebrae in his lower back after a missed dunk attempt Dec. 5 against Eastern Michigan, was projected to be out of commission for about eight weeks.

The real timeline all along was four to six weeks, he said – and he was cleared for action several days earlier.

"I knew like a week ago," Turner said Wednesday night after the victory. "I practiced Thursday and Friday and felt pretty good. I was going to try to come back for the Michigan game but they said to sit out one more game and that was it.

"The thing was that it only takes the bone four-to-six weeks to heal. They said eight weeks so the media wouldn't wonder when I was coming back. I'm blessed. I'm young and blessed that our strength coach got my body right and I was a quick healer."

If it was a trick, head coach Thad Matta insisted his innocence in the plot, saying he did not know what Turner's availability would be until the hours before tipping off against the Hoosiers.

"I honestly didn't know," the coach said. "We tried to research it as much as we could to find out who's had this and it was really an uncommon injury. I honestly didn't know he was playing tonight really until shootaround."

One day prior to the game, Matta told reporters that whether not Turner would have a chance of playing against the Hoosiers would depend on how his body responded to a physical practice scheduled for later that evening.

The practice was more physical than the Buckeyes typically go through one night prior to a game owing partially to the team's calendar in the past week. After road games at Wisconsin and Michigan during the previous week, OSU had an NCAA-mandated day of rest Monday that left just Tuesday for Indiana preparation.

The practice also helped assure Matta that his star player would be physically ready to go against the Hoosiers.

"We haven't got to see him in that light the way we wanted to," Matta said. "He's been doing a lot of the up-and-down, passing, ball handling, but he hadn't played live defense until (Monday) night."

Turner said he was in the thick of things during the practice, even trying to escalate confrontations between his teammates. As a result, the few falls Turner took under the lights at Value City Arena caused him no concern.

"He appeared to be pretty comfortable and confident, which was good," Matta said. "I was glad to see him get knocked down and pick himself back up, which was huge. I was also glad to see him dunk at the other end down there."

However, he admitted to having to conquer one final shadow of doubt in his mind. While pushing the ball down the middle of the court against the Hoosiers, Turner spied an opening that could have resulted in a two-handed dunk from straight on – the same type of play that knocked him out of the lineup against EMU.

Rather than go up for the dunk, he dished the ball to a waiting teammate in the corner.

"I'm not going to lie … I was thinking, ‘Man, this happened a month ago' and I kicked it out," Turner said. "I'm sure if I had to re-do that same play over again I would do it. It was just a freak accident."

As for making his return, Turner likened it to being 16 years old again.

"It's pretty cool," he said. "It feels like having a driver's license and having a car at the same time. I've got a little freedom (to be on the court again) and I'm real excited. I'm real blessed."


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