Last spring, I had the pleasure of covering all four weekends of March Madness. This college basketball vocational voyage, which I dubbed the “Midwest Swing,” granted me a lot of face time with the national player of the year Evan Turner. This kid from my hometown of Chicago swept all the player of the year awards en route to winning the Big Ten Tournament, reaching the sweet 16 and becoming the #2 pick in the NBA Draft.
From March until the beginning of the NBA season I saw Turner: become a national sensation by hitting a half-court buzzer beater to eliminate the Michigan Wolverines, whine to the media about Illini trash-talking him the next day, win a conference tournament and later every important individual award, get eliminated by Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen, get drafted second overall, get rattled by trash talk again (this time from the Purdue Boilermakers Student Section Twitter account) struggle massively in Summer League and begin his professional career.
By Paul M. Banks
Yep, what a long strange trip it’s been for “His Royal Smoothness,” as my favorite tOSU blogger nicknamed him.
Unfortunately, the #2 pick has gotten of to a very rough start during the first few games of his pro career. According to PhillyBurbs.com
“Evan’s had two tough games in a row,” said Sixers coach Doug Collins. “I just told him, ‘You’re a pro — you bounce back.’ He’s got a chance to break out of it. Evan is a thinker. I just don’t want him over-thinking things. I worry about Evan because he’s a guy who lets things bother him.”
Again, problems in Turner’s head.
Again, he’s let opponents get inside of it and rattle him. Turner isn’t exactly living up to his “royally smooth” nickname right now. And this was predicted back in March, by a coach who went against Turner and Ohio State on the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend.
At the hotel bar that night, this coach went off-the-record with me. Given a player of Turner’s national stature, he was unimpressed by him. Turner appeared better on film than in reality, and his gait and posture left a lot to be desired, in this coach’s view. Ohio State still won in a rout, despite Turner having a terrible shooting night. And the OSU superstar appeared moody and complained about calls and breaks not going his way that night.
On Tuesday, Turner came back to play in front of the Ohioans who loved him. Unfortunately, his Sixers fell to 2-9 as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat Philly 101-93. He reverted back to his “Evan Turnover” ways, committing four of them in 38 minutes, yet he was also one rebound shy of a double-double (16 points, 9 boards). But his shooting was off, as he went 4-13.
On the season he’s averaging 8.5 points per game, 2.1 assists, 6 rebounds, and 44% FG. Not horrible numbers for a rookie, but certainly nothing close to franchise player production. And the #2 overall pick is about as franchise as it comes. I wonder how someone who’s displayed the public sensitivity Turner has is going to hold up long term in a city infamous for having a harsh fanbase?
But don’t feel too bad for him. He’s got in his own sportswear brand in China.
Not to mention I also caught up to his good friend, and fellow Chicagoan, Demetri McCamey at Illini Media Day. And I asked how Evan’s doing.
“He’s living the life now. he had a little struggle this summer, but he had a learning curve and new intensity about getting his body in shape. He texted me two weeks ago that he ran a 5:04 mile, and that was faster than anybody on our team. And it’s all fun and games, and he’s out there living his dream playing basketball and doing everything for his family. So it’s good to see a friend be so successful,” McCamey said.
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank