For all the success he had during his freshman season, it was an easy mistake to make.
A few careless keystrokes while typing Evan Turner’s name could easily result in Evan Turnover – an honest mistake, but one that began to make sense as the 2007-08 season went on for Ohio State. As the Buckeyes struggled to get consistent scoring from more than a few players, Turner emerged as an offensive spark capable of leading the team in points on any given night.
Although he finished the season as OSU’s fifth-leading scorer at 8.5 points per game, Turner tied for the team lead in turnovers. His final tally of 99 tied Turner with point guard Jamar Butler, a surprising figure considering the fact that Butler had the ball in his hands on nearly every possession.
To counterbalance those turnovers, Butler dished out a team-high 219 assists. Turner, in contrast, had 98.
Needless to say, it’s something the sophomore from Chicago is working on this year.
“I want to keep the ball and get my assist-to-turnover ratio high,” he said. “That’s important. It’ll be important now and it’ll be important at the end of my career and it’ll be important however long I play basketball.”
It will be even more important this season as the Buckeyes are tasked with replacing their three top scorers from a season ago in Butler, Kosta Koufos and Othello Hunter. Turner is being counted on to be one of the players capable of stepping into the void and making up for the scoring loss.
But before he can put the ball in the basket more frequently, he has to first hang onto it. That’s a directive that has come from OSU head coach Thad Matta.
“One of the big things we’ve been on him in the offseason is his assist-to-turnover ratio was 1 to 1,” Matta said. “Can we get that at more assists than turnovers, because we want him to be a playmaker if that’s what he’s capable of doing.”
One of the keys to seeing improvement in the turnover category is the understanding of just how important every possession is, Matta said. That lesson has not been lost on Turner.
“Those are the difference between winning and losing,” Turner said. “Momentum changes and helps lower your playing time and gets the crowd against you. I’ve been working on that. I’ve been focusing on better care with the ball. Last year I was careless with the ball a little bit.”
An increased effort on Turner’s part has not gone unnoticed by Matta, who credited Turner with having put together an impressive summer. However, the change has to come without sacrificing any of Turner’s ability to drive the basket and create near the rim. Junior guard P.J. Hill described Turner as being the best streetball player on the team.
“Evan, he’s hard to stop one on one,” Hill said. “He can shoot, he can really dribble the ball. If we had a one-on-one thing, he’d win, because he’s a big mismatch.”
One tactic Matta will be able to use this season is the threat of the bench. With a roster of 13 scholarship players, there are plenty of options to put on the court if a player is not performing up to bar.
That thought, plus the added competition the situation will bring to practice, means that Matta will be able to use a few different tactics to get the most out this year’s team. Whether he plays or not, though, Turner said he is simply hoping to help his team out.
“I’m not really concerned about playing time,” he said. “I know what I can do and I know I can help the team. If Coach Matta feels like he needs to sit me down to better the team, then as long as we’re winning it’s fine. I haven’t even worried about that.”
If he has made progress in the turnover department during the offseason, perhaps he won’t need to worry.