One-on-one with OSU's Evan Turner

Jason King
Yahoo! Sports

Ask anyone who follows Ohio State's program – or college basketball, for that matter – to list a position for Buckeyes standout Evan Turner and the common response is a blank stare.

Turner passes like a point guard, hits outside shots like a 3-point specialist, slashes like a small forward and rebounds better than most centers. Even Turner isn't sure what to call himself.

"I guess you should just say that I'm a basketball player," Turner said. "I pass and I dribble and I shoot and I play defense – all the things you're supposed to do."

And he does them well.

A 6-foot-7 junior, Turner leads Ohio State in points (21.8), rebounds (14.8) and assists (6.0). There aren't many players out there as well-rounded as Turner, an All-American candidate who had 23 points and 11 boards last week against North Carolina. Less than two weeks earlier, he posted a triple-double – 14 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists – in a season-opening victory over Alcorn State.

During a recent interview with Yahoo! Sports, Turner talked about his progress, his team and his life off the court.

Q: You averaged 17.3 points and 7.1 rebounds in 2008-09. Still, as well as you played as a sophomore, you seem to be taking things to a new level this season. What's the biggest difference?

A: I just think I'm maturing mentally more than anything. Coach [Thad] Matta always says that when your mind is right, your game is right. So now that I'm mentally ready, I'm able to do a lot of different things.


Turner and the Buckeyes hope to challenge in the Big Ten.

(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Q: You were a member of the U.S. team that captured the bronze medal at the World University Games in Serbia over the summer. What was that experience like?

A: I was pretty upset that we lost overseas. That really wasn't cool at all. I don't really know what to say about it, other than it was a tough situation and I was glad to be able to get back around my teammates.

Q: Still, it had to be nice to get out and see a different part of the world, right?

A: Definitely. It was actually kind of crazy at times, though. Everyone wanted to beat us because we were Americans. When we got our award at the awards ceremony, there were 23,000 people booing us all at once. When we beat Serbia in one of the early rounds, the fans started throwing coins and nickels and stuff at us. People were walking up to us in the streets, telling us we were going to lose. When we did lose in the playoffs, people were getting on our Facebook pages saying, "Ha, ha, ha – America goes down."

Q: Purdue standout Robbie Hummel was one of your roommates in Serbia. How much trash-talking was there about this year's Big Ten race?

A: We definitely joked around about it. Robbie hasn't won in Columbus yet, but I've never won in West Lafayette. So we're both going to be trying to get some big victories.

Q: For a guy who plays on the perimeter, you get a ton of rebounds. What kind of mentality does it take to succeed on the boards for someone who's a bit undersized at 6-foot-7?

A: You have to want the ball – and I mean you have to want it. That's the biggest thing. Also, for me, once I get that ball, I have to be ready to do something with it. We have the ability to score real well in transition, so I've got to get the rebound and then get us into our offense.

Q: Speaking of your team, despite last week's loss to North Carolina, this clearly looks like a squad capable of winning the Big Ten. What do you like most about this group?

A: Honestly, we're one big family. We all get along well from a chemistry standpoint. When we practice, it's actually not a bad experience. We're out there having fun and getting better. We like to work. We're a versatile group that can play with a bunch of different lineups. We're all about competing and all about winning. We've paid our dues. We want to win big this year.

Q: In the preseason, most people picked Michigan State and Purdue to finish No. 1 and No. 2 in the Big Ten race. Are people sleeping on the Buckeyes?

A: I don't know, maybe. Either way, we just have to go out and play. Whatever people write about you doesn't matter. You have to show improvement. We have a lot of opportunities this year to show we're a dominant team. Besides the games in New York [last week], we play Butler on the road and then we've got all those good teams in the Big Ten. To be considered a great team, you've got to win some of those big games.

Q: Other than you and Michigan's Manny Harris, the Big Ten doesn't appear to have too many players who seem like locks to play in the NBA. How good is the competition you're going to be facing?

A: The physicality of the Big Ten will get you ready for the next level. It's half-court basketball. Every possession counts, as opposed to a game when you're going to have 90 possessions. There are a lot of good coaches in the league. You've got to be smart and you've got to come prepared or you're going to get beat.


Turner hungers for the perfect shot, and deep-dish pizza.

(AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)

Q: You played high school ball in Chicago, which is also the hometown of guys such as Derrick Rose and Sherron Collins. Did you ever get jealous of the attention some of them received?

A: I used to think that way. There were times when I thought I wasn't getting enough [credit]. But I didn't let it bother me too much. I just told myself that I was going to wait my turn and pay my dues. I knew there was still a lot to learn, still a lot of room to get better. I had people doubting me, but in the back of my mind I always had faith that things would work out like I wanted them to. They obviously did.

Q: Demitri McCamey of Illinois was your teammate at St. Joseph's High School. How much do you still talk to him, and who else from the Windy City do you still keep in touch with?

A: Demetri and I talk a lot. And I still keep up with guys like Mustapha Farrakhan at Virginia and Sam Maniscalco at Bradley.

Q: Where do you like to go when you return home?

A: Lou Malnati's pizza for some deep-dish pepperoni.

Q: Speaking of food, any favorite restaurants in Columbus?

A: I like to go to Genji, which is a Japanese steakhouse. And I love the Waffle House. I get a double waffle, two orders of sausage patties, hash browns and orange juice every time.

Q: Who is the craziest guy on your team?

A: David Lighty and Mark Titus. David has so much energy, which is weird, because the guy hardly ever goes to sleep. You know you can always text him at whatever time, because he'll be up. We can have a 5 a.m. workout and he'll show up laughing and smiling and bouncing around like the Energizer Bunny. You can't slow him down. Mark Titus is the same way. They like to have fun and they don't care what people think about them. They just do what makes them happy. They make the locker room a fun place to be.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: I mainly just like to sit on the couch and watch TV. I DVR all the episodes of "The Game" and watch them over and over. If I'm not doing that, I'm usually on YouTube looking at all kinds of different stuff.

Q: What are the two songs you listen to the most on your iPod?

A: "History" by Jay-Z and "Hey Mama" by Kanye West.

Q: So you're still a Kanye fan after his episode with Taylor Swift?

A: A lot of people may think he's weird, but hey, they say the great ones are different. They say the great ones are crazy. I guess that's just who he is.

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