Before he decided to represent his country, Evan Turner had to make sure his team was taken care of first.
The reigning first-team all-Big Ten swingman from Ohio State learned about a month ago that he had been invited to try out for the 2009 USA Men’s World University Games Team. Although the thought of competing for his country got his blood pumping, Turner stepped back and had a thought.
How would this affect the Buckeyes and their summer preparation? With tryouts set to run from June 16-24, he would be missing out on eight days’ worth of work with his college teammates. Then, if he is one of the 15 invited players to make the 12-man roster, Turner and the rest of Team USA will head to Belgrade, Serbia to compete for the gold against 24 other teams.
That would mean at least 10 more days away from the Buckeyes, as the tournament is set to run from July 2-12.
Finally, at the urging of the head coach for the OSU women’s basketball team in Jim Foster, Turner made the call: he will play for his country.
“He said it’s an amazing opportunity and everybody who plays in it gets better,” Turner told BuckeyeSports.com.
After meditating on that advice for a week and a half, Turner made his decision – a decision men’s head coach Thad Matta was in full support of, Turner said.
“Coach Matta said for me to think about it because this summer is a big summer for me to put on weight,” Turner said. “I thought about it and Coach Matta said whatever I wanted to do, he was very comfortable with the decision. He said they’re both great opportunities, so I decided to try out. I’m just excited that I have the opportunity to do so.”
Prior to the 2007-08 season, senior point guard Jamar Butler decided to work out at his home in Lima, Ohio, rather than go through summer workouts with his teammates. A lack of team chemistry that season helped conspire to keep the Buckeyes from making the NCAA Tournament after reaching the national championship game a season prior.
Skipping out on his teammates was not something Turner – a freshman on that team – took lightly.
“I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to leave campus and be apart from my teammates for so long,” he said. “Then I started sitting back thinking, ‘How cool would it be to win a gold medal for my country?’ You don’t get to do that every single day. I’m just really excited to have the opportunity to be a part of it.”
Two summers ago, OSU’s David Lighty represented the United States in the 2007 FIBA U-10 World Championships, which were also held in Serbia. He was named a team captain for the event and averaged 8.8 points in nine games as Team USA took home a silver medal.
Lighty also encouraged Turner to accept the invitation this time around.
“He said it’s real fun,” said Turner, who will be leaving the country for the first time in his life. “He said it’s a really good trip and a great experience that he’ll remember for the rest of his life.”
Of the 15 players invited for the tryout, five hail from the Big Ten conference. The United States did not field a team in 2007, but the Americans captured a gold medal in 2005.
The team will be coached by Wisconsin head man Bo Ryan. When Turner came from Chicago St. Joseph’s, he wound up selecting the Buckeyes over the Badgers. The two have an amicable relationship, and Turner said he is looking forward to playing for Ryan.
“Coach Ryan is such a great guy,” he said. “He’s a smart coach, and I’m just really excited to have the opportunity to play for him.”
Tryouts will be held in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Turner said he does not feel that they will adversely affect his development for next season. In addition to a goal of reaching 215 pounds – he was listed at 205 in last year’s media guide – the coaches want Turner working on his overall strength and explosiveness as well.
“I’m at 214 right now,” he said. “They just wanted me to get my legs more explosive and keep working on my outside shot more, like I’ve been doing. It’s been pretty good progress so far. I’ll definitely keep working hard when I’m at Team USA.
“What excites me the most is getting to play with some of the best college players in the country. Just being part of Team USA is a pretty cool dream. Representing your country and having an opportunity to go and win a gold medal and to play for a coach like Bo Ryan (is great).”