Ohio State men's basketball | Evan Turner's new heights
It was a decade ago that John Havlicek's No. 5 Ohio State basketball jersey was hung in the rafters at Value City Arena. As it was making the 136-foot ascension from hardwood to ceiling, Havlicek stood alongside former coach Fred Taylor's widow, Eileen, and experienced a series of emotions and thoughts.
"You feel very proud and you start to reminisce about all the things you did while you were in school, regardless of whether it was a class or a practice or a game or travel," Havlicek said last week. "You bring them all together and figure out the best parts of what happened while you were there, and it's just a wonderful feeling. To have the whole stadium cheer you is something you'll never forget."
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Evan Turner will hear such cheers tonight as he joins the exclusive club of those who have experienced that moment. At halftime of tonight's game against Michigan, Turner will become the fifth player to have his number placed in the rafters. Turner's No. 21 will be displayed next to Jerry Lucas' No. 11, Gary Bradds' 35, Jim Jackson's 22 and Havlicek's.
Turner's number is not being retired, as those of the other four were, but that doesn't make the honor less meaningful for coach Thad Matta. Turner is the first Matta-coached player to be so honored, though he also is one who was literally shown the door early in his career.
"Evan could be a little bit moody at times when he first got here," Matta said. "He and I would go 'round and 'round, to the point one day where I kung-fu-kicked the side door of the gym open and told him, 'You either grow up or go home, I really don't care which one it is.' Thank goodness he stayed and chose the growing up. I'm probably as close to Evan as any player."
The two talk regularly, Matta said. Turner calls him on Father's Day and the coach's birthday. Now in his sixth professional season, and second with the Boston Celtics, Turner also makes a point to return to Columbus in the NBA offseason. Current Buckeyes forward Jae'Sean Tate said Turner will take on players in one-on-one games, imposing different rules for such games, including no jump shots or only three dribbles allowed.
Turner was the 2010 national and Big Ten player of the year during his junior season, his last with the Buckeyes, when he averaged 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists while leading Ohio State to a Big Ten title and a Sweet 16 berth in the NCAA tournament. Months later, he was selected No. 2 overall in the NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.
It was during his sophomore season, when Ohio State bowed out in the first round of the 2009 NCAA tournament one year after winning the NIT, that Turner started to take control of the team and his natural abilities.
"Halfway through the season, coach Matta almost handed him the reins, and the light bulb went off," former walk-on teammate Mark Titus said. "I think in his mind he always knew he was great, and that's what frustrated him so much, that he wouldn't get the playing time. We came back the next year, and we knew what our team was, and Evan exploded from there."
Titus, who took tongue-in-cheek swipes at Turner on his Club Trillion blog and his book Don't Put Me In Coach, said he's thrilled for his former teammate.
"We were not a good team" in 2010, Titus said. "(Our success) was almost exclusively because of Evan. Go back and watch the 2010 season again. Go back and watch the games where Evan broke his back and we didn't have him, and how bad we were without him. I'm really happy for Evan. He totally deserves it."