It’s the end of February. Time to start polishing off the shiny trophies and big awards. And everyone’s favorite Buckeye these days, “His Royal Smoothness” Evan Turner, is up for college basketball’s player of the year award.
Barring any surprises, it’s a two-man race between Turner and Kentucky’s John Wall.
On stats alone, Evan is the man. As a matter of fact, Turner is on the brink of putting together one of the greatest stat lines in recent college basketball history.
After Wednesday night’s Penn State game, His Royal Smoothness stands tall with 19.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. If he can boost those rebounds up a few tenths, we can round Turner’s totals up to a 20/10/5 season. That’s rarified air.
A lot big time college players, like 2009’s player of the year Blake Griffin (22.7/14.4/2.3), put up giant numbers in two of the big three categories, but few have delivered across the board like Turner. Compare Turner’s stats to a few legends. Tim Duncan almost got to 20/10/5 (20.8/14.7/3.2). Jason Kidd made a run at it in his sophomore year (16.7/6.9/9.1). Turner’s stats look a little like another oversized Big Ten point guard, Magic Johnson (17.1/7.3/8.4).
No doubt, John Wall has blown up the NCAA. Wall is dynamic, crafty, and incredibly talented. thesportbank.net’s own David Kay has Wall as the NBA’s number one pick (Turner is number two) in his NBA mock draft, and rightly so. Wall’s explosiveness gives him a slightly better chance for success at the next level, but right now, we’re talking about the college player of the year.
The two candidates play vastly different styles of ball. John Wall’s game makes you jump up and yell, “Did he just do that!” Evan Turner’s game makes you lean back, mouth open in amazement, and say, “How did he do that?!” He is, after all, His Royal Smoothness. Wall has the lightning quickness and the aggressiveness that can turn a game around in a heartbeat, but he can’t match Turner’s ability to completely take over a game.
Turner’s complete game, his ability to do just about everything (score, rebound, put his teammates in the best position, play lockdown defense, get to the foul line) allows him to control games and later put them on ice. This year, Ohio State is 20-0 when leading with five minutes to play. Turner has put Ohio State in great position for a Big Ten championship, especially since Purdue’s Robbie Hummel went down with a torn ACL.
Turner and Wall currently have their teams in the top ten (Kentucky is #2 and OSU #9 in the AP), but those seven spots are gigantic. Wall’s Wildcats are a juggernaut loaded with blue chip talent like Demarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson. Turner’s Buckeyes are talented too, but far less imposing. Without John Wall, Kentucky could still win the SEC. Without Evan Turner, Ohio State falls to a slightly above average Big Ten team. (They went 3-3 earlier this season when Turner was out with injury) When player of the year voters take a look at the evidence, it shouldn’t be an issue deciding who is most valuable to his team.
Turner even gets the nod from the all-knowing, all-seeing college basketball sage, Tom Izzo, “He does make other people better and that’s his biggest strength. The other thing is he rebounds pretty well on the defensive end. When he gets it; he goes with it like a Magic Johnson used to.” And if Izzo says it, it is so.