Having already spent a few days in the quarantine bubble in downtown Columbus, Evan Turner grabbed his seat in front of the camera.
On Monday afternoon, the general manager for Carmen’s Crew was the fifth of seven speakers representing the Ohio State alumni team as what served as a virtual media day. Wednesday, top-seeded Carmen’s Crew will open its quest for a second straight title in The Basketball Tournament with a 4 p.m. game against No. 16 seed House of ‘Paign, a team of alumni from the University of Illinois.
Turner sat down with a smile and showed off his T-shirt. It was a Homage shirt paying, well, homage to the NBA Jam video games, and Turner’s shirt featured a pair of famous fellow alumni: Michael Redd and Scoonie Penn.
And when asked why he wasn’t wearing the version that featured himself alongside former teammate and part-time nemesis Mark Titus, Turner laughed.
Here are the five most interesting things said from a media day that included coach Jared Sullinger and players William Buford, Aaron Craft, David Lighty, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Deshaun Thomas.
1. Sullinger, Turner not playing
Together, they have more than a dozen years of experience playing in the NBA. But for now, both Sullinger and Turner said they don’t plan to take the court as players in TBT anytime soon.
Sullinger, after two seasons in China, took the last year off from the sport as he and his wife welcomed twins last fall.
"I’m not playing in it," he said. "If you think about it, this is year four (for us). The first two years I played in it, we lost. The year I go to the sideline and coach, we win. I don’t understand why I would step in and play."
Turner, meanwhile, was part of a massive, four-team trade in February that ended up with him moving from Atlanta to Minnesota, where he did not make an appearance.
"I’ve been in Columbus, working out, staying low-key, enjoying myself, hanging out with my daughter," he said. "That’s pretty much it. Free agency starts in October or something like that and next season starts in December, so I’m staying in shape for that, keeping my options open for that and staying out of the way until then."
That’s not to say he hasn’t been working out. Turner flexed and kisses his bicep when asked about his physical condition and said the NBA’s shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic has allowed him to rest and heal his body after the constant grind the sport and league demands.
Turner didn’t rule out potentially playing in TBT someday, citing the desire to possibly go out like Aaron Craft, who will retire when this tournament is done and begin attending medical school at Ohio State. Sullinger, too, said he plans to get back to the court – possibly soon.
"I always put basketball first, but when you’re married and you’re about to have twins, you want to make sure your family’s straight," Sullinger said. "That was my biggest priority this past year. Coming up this year, my ultimate goal is to make it to the NBA again but whoever pays. At this point, I’m 28 years old, I was blessed to play five years in the league.
"I’m not really worried about where I’m playing at, it’s more just how can I take care of my family? I’ve got a different aspect now."
2. Where’s the statue?
It became almost a rallying cry during Lighty’s final season at Ohio State. As he went through a fifth season, Lighty cemented his name in the program’s record books by playing in more games (157) and having more wins (129) than any other player in Buckeyes history.
Coach Thad Matta was so enamored with Lighty that he publicly campaigned for a Lighty statue to be erected at Value City Arena. It hasn’t happened yet, and Lighty gave a joking jab to current Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann when asked about that.
"I guess we’ve got to get Holtmann on the bandwagon, tell him to get that statue up there of me," he said with a laugh. "I was there forever. If you ask fans and people around college basketball, I probably played 20 years."
3. Hello again, Mike Daum
During Holtmann’s first season, the Buckeyes avoided an upset challenge from No. 12 seed South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament despite the best efforts of prolific scorer Mike Daum, who hit five threes and finished with a game-high 27 points in Ohio State’s 81-73 win
Daum will suit up against Carmen’s Crew on Wednesday as part of team House of ‘Paign after scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in that team’s TBT opener. It could be an intriguing matchup between Daum, who finished his career as the No. 7 scorer in NCAA history, and Deshaun Thomas, the No. 9 scorer in Ohio State history.
"He’s got some height to him," Thomas said of Daum. "He can shoot it. A little similarities when they switch a smaller guard onto him he can shoot over the top. He’s a good player. He’s a good scorer. Also, I’m a good scorer too. I think what I have an advantage of against him is the physicality.
"Guys like him, you’ve got to work. You can’t let them just throw it around and stand in the corner. Guys like that, you’ve got to move around, make them play defense. I think by having me, we can exploit that."
House of ‘Paign is not conducting interviews in advance of Wednesday’s game.
4. Two experiences
When the pandemic shut down much of the globe, Craft was in Italy, near one of the country’s biggest virus hotspots. There, he sheltered in place with his wife and young son, where they remained for weeks before being allowed to return to the United States.
Craft’s first-hand experiences showed him how the two countries have handled their COVID-19 responses differently.
"I think the biggest difference I’ve seen was the seriousness with which all of the public took the virus, whether it was on their own or because of the regulations and laws put in place by the government," he said. "My wife got yelled at twice by random public people in their house because she was outside walking or running by herself. They both told her to go home because that’s how serious they were taking it. Cops pulled her over twice to ask her how close she was to home.
"I haven’t seen that a ton here in the United States. It seems like there are pockets of areas that have taken this very seriously and have listened to the rules and worn masks, but there are also a lot of people who haven’t done that. That’s one of the biggest differences I’ve seen in the public response to everything going on."
5. Close and getting closer
For the last three years, Smith has been involved with the plans to be part of Carmen’s Crew. Instead, this year marks his debut after what he said were a set of different circumstances holding him back each year.
"I think I was supposed to be rocking in it since the beginning, but unfortunately injuries and bad timing and stuff," he said. "It’s a blessing now to be back with my boys. I’m excited to get cracking."
Last year, when Carmen’s Crew brought home the title, Smith said he had a front-row seat.
"I was actually there in Chicago every step of the way," he said. "I just didn’t suit up. I got the vibes, the camaraderie, the brotherhood. I got all of that, I just didn’t get to get out there and work with my brothers. That’s what this year is for."