To say Turman proved up to the challenge might be the understatement of the month. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound future Vol limited Lubin to 4-of-12 shooting as Morgan County High blasted Buford 69-45 to claim the state championship. Turman, not known for his offense, actually outscored Lubin 15 points to 12 in the title matchup. That didn't surprise Morgan County head coach Charlemagne Gibbons, who believes Turman is grossly underrated.
"He's a dominant player at this level but he'll be a much better college player, and Tennessee knows that," Gibbons told InsideTennessee. "C.J's still new to the game. Sometimes you look at him and think, ‘I don't know how good he's going to be.' Then you look at how little he has played and realize he's going to be a really good player."
Because of his size and The South's fascination with football, Turman expended a lot of energy on the gridiron growing up. His shift to the basketball court was a relatively recent development.
"He's only been playing since about eighth grade and he didn't start playing seriously till his freshman year of high school," Gibbons said. "With that kind of size he was playing football, but his basketball ability just shined through so much."
Because of his late start in hoops, Turman's development is still in its infancy. Not surprisingly, his defense is well ahead of his offense at this stage. That's why he was able to neutralize Rakim Lubin on Saturday night.
"For him it's positioning and anticipating well," Gibbons said. "C.J. understands timing and angles."
Positioning, anticipation and timing enabled Turman to block approximately four shots per game during his senior season of high school ball. He was on pace for an even better average but opponents quit challenging him as the season wore on.
"He had some big block games earlier in the year, when we played a lot of man defense," Gibbons recalled. "He had double-figure blocks in at least three early-season games."
Turman's offense remains very much a work in progress but he is making strides. He wound up averaging 13.1 points per game for the season.
"It came along real well the second half of the season," Gibbons said. "We didn't need him to score a lot because we have some other really good players on the team (including Mississippi State commitment Tookie Brown)."
Like current Vol post Jarnell Stokes, Turman does most of his scoring within five feet of the basket but is capable of hitting the occasional mid-range jumper.
"That's something C.J. periodically did – step out and hit the 15-footer," Gibbons said. "That's one thing he can do that surprises people: He can step out and make that shot."
Another similarity to Stokes is Turman's physical approach to backboard play. He averaged 11.4 rebounds per game as a senior.
"He creates a lot of space," Gibbons said. "It takes two guys to block C.J. out."
With senior Jeronne Maymon almost out of eligibility and junior Stokes expected to declare for the 2014 NBA Draft, Tennessee may have to replace both starting posts next season. That has caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the fan base. Gibbons, who has seen 6-foot-8, 210-pound Vol signee Phil Cofer (Fayetteville, Ga.) play several times, thinks that pessimism is misplaced.
"You take C.J.," Gibbons said, "then you add Phil Cofer – who can go above the shot clock – to that mix, and that's a great duo there."
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