Benefiting from Bo

At the end of the recruiting process, Evan Turner felt that being close to family was the main reason he picked Ohio State over Wisconsin. With his attachment to Bo Ryan, it meant a lot to Turner to be able to play for UW coach over the summer, and it will mean a lot to be able to compete against him Saturday for perhaps the final time.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Bring up Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan to Evan Turner and Ohio State junior star can't help but crack a smile.

For the past four years, Turner has been warmly greeted by Ryan at different functions and events and vice versa, which made the opportunity to play for Ryan overseas this past summer at the World University Games so appealing for Turner.

"Coach Ryan is a great guy," said Turner, who won a bronze medal on Ryan's team. "We always talked when we'd see each other in passing, and it was a lot of fun to finally get to play for him."

The moment was likely bittersweet for Ryan, too, seeing as the Badgers were so close to getting Turner's verbal commitment.

A two-year starter for St. Joseph's High School, Turner was a standout athlete, averaging 25 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and three steals per game as a senior. Having known Turner's older brother Richard for many years, UW assistant coach Howard Moore knew Turner well before he blossomed into that caliber of player, which was one of the reasons the Badgers were one of the first schools to start recruiting Turner.

"It's hard to talk about because I am still mad at him for not putting on that Wisconsin uniform," Moore said with a chuckle. "He was a great kid when he was young and as he got older, you started to see glimpses of what he is today. I knew we had to get on him because he has a great future in front of him. We thought we were pretty close to getting it done."

So did Turner, who had Wisconsin as the top school on his list until he had interactions with future Buckeyes Jon Diebler, Kosta Koufos and Dallas Lauderdale at a summer camp. Combine the fact that Turner had family in Ohio, including his estranged father, the prospect of playing close to his family was too much for Turner to turn his back on, so he committed to the Buckeyes over the Badgers.

But he never forgot what the Badgers and Ryan meant to him and his family.

"I really felt at home with the school and the coaches," Turner said. "Coach Ryan and Coach Moore are great guys. They all spoke sincerely about me and about their program. You could tell he knows a lot about the game and what it takes to win. For awhile, I thought Wisconsin was where I was going to go."

"We weren't exactly pleased about it, but we had to respect it," said Moore, who still sends a text to Turner on occasion. "I've got a relationship with his family, so I am not going to throw them out to the curb just because he didn't go to Wisconsin. Although we play and compete against him, we still have a good relationship."

So good, in fact, that Turner was one of the influences in Diamond Taylor giving his written commitment to Wisconsin for the 2009 season. While playing on the same AAU team (the Illinois Wolves), Turner was very proactive in telling Taylor about Wisconsin's program and about Moore, which helped the Badgers get a leg up on Marquette and Notre Dame during Taylor's recruitment.

The move is a moot point now with Taylor's arrest and subsequent dismissal from the team, but speaks to the character and respect Turner has for the Wisconsin program.

"Coach Moore is my boy," Turner said. "I just loved something else (Ohio State) a little bit more."

Even now, seeing what might have been is tough for Moore, especially after how vital Turner was to Ohio State's success last season. A unanimous first team All-Big Ten selection and a honorable mention AP All-American, Turner led the Big Ten in scoring (17.3 ppg), was third in defensive rebounds (178) and rebounds per game (7.1), fourth in steals (58), eighth in assists (131), ninth in field goal percentage (193-384, .503) and 10th in FT pct. (175-222, .788).

So imagine the horror when Turner - the Buckeyes' leader in scoring (18.5 ppg.), rebounding (11.4 rpg.), assists (47) and field goals (62) - fractured vertebrae in his back on a dunk attempt on December 5, an injury that was supposed to sideline him up to eight weeks. In the next six games, the Buckeyes – averaging 81.6 points per game before the injury – went 3-3 and scored over 70 points just twice.

Imagine the horror for Wisconsin fans when Turner returned 3 1/2 weeks early and will be in the starting lineup Saturday when No.13 Wisconsin (14-3, 4-1 Big Ten) looks for the regular season sweep over Ohio State (12-5, 2-3) at Value City Arena.

Playing three games since returning January 6, Turner has shot 52 percent from the floor and has averaged 19.7 points and seven rebounds per game. Last time out against No.6 Purdue, Turner, who Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said was only at 50 percent, scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half to earn a four-point upset.

"If you look at the last three games, you can tell how much he adds to the dynamic of their team," associate head coach Greg Gard said. "He's aggressive, he's opportunistic, he's a good rebounder and he's a solid defender. Those are things that he has gotten better at each season because of the work he puts in."

After a couple weeks spent under Ryan in Serbia, Turner admitted to learning to improving in the areas of ball control, getting teammates involved in the offense and becoming a leader, all things that, he said, is going to help him become a better player.

More bad news for Badgers fans, but good news for Turner, who finally was able to learn from his original ‘coach.'

"Coach Ryan stayed on me a lot," Turner laughed. "I just learned a lot from me about what it means to be tough and not giving in. He's all about finishing plays and making every opportunity count on both sides of the floor. It was a big learning lesson playing for him."


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