He broke his back. On December 5, 2009, against Eastern Michigan, in a game the Ohio State Buckeyes won by 51 points, national Player of the Year candidate Evan Turner suffered transverse process fractures of the second and third lumbar vertebra in his back from a fall after a breakaway dunk. Season over. Career over. Ohio State is done. Right? I mean, he broke his back.
Nope. Turner was back in the lineup a month later and Ohio State needed him. The Buckeyes went 3-3 in his absence, including starting the Big Ten season 0-2. After his borderline-miraculous return, Ohio State went 18-3 and Turner still topped many Player of the Year lists in leading his team to the Big Ten Tournament championship and a two seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Since the injury, Turner has averaged 37 minutes, 21 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block a game. And the Buckeyes are still dancing in a Midwest region that looks as open as ever with surprise losses by Kansas, Georgetown and Maryland.
Evan Turner joined 790 the Zone in Atlanta with Pollack and Bell to talk about bouncing back from his injury, Thad Matta, Northern Iowa’s upset, playing Tennessee, and the NBA.
On bouncing back after breaking his back:
“It made us tougher as a unit. Everybody had to step up. We persevered through a lot. It brought us to the success we have today. We were able to win the Big Ten Tournament title. Right now we have a full head of steam in March. We are ready for whatever. We made it through the storm and are ready for sunny days.”
On his thoughts on Kansas’ loss to Northern Iowa:
“I saw a little bit of the Kansas game. You know, Coach Matta always says that the tougher team is always going to go on to the next round and Northern Iowa really came to play. Our motto is ‘dominate and advance’ not survive, but dominate.”
On Thad Matta:
“Positive reinforcement. He is always showing confidence with his players. If you mess up or miss a couple shots, he still has a lot of confidence and urges you to step up and make plays. On to the next play he always says. You can’t really worry about the last play or the last shot you missed because it’s in the past. He just tries to give us confidence and urges us to play basketball. He has taught me a lot as far as mentality and trying to make sure my head is right and have confidence in everything I do.”
On playing Tennessee:
“We know they are a transition type team. And they thrive off pressure. We just have to play Ohio State basketball. We just have to be prepared to attack. We can’t let them attack us. We need to attack and make sure we have control of the game.”
On his future in the NBA:
“I honestly don’t think about it right now. Right now, we have an opportunity to do something special. I am just trying to seize every day, every moment and enjoy the time I have with my teammates and share time with my family. I haven’t really thought about it. I really like my place right now. We have a big game this weekend and I am just trying to seize the moment and seize the opportunity.”
And on the guy in the NBA that he patterns his game after:
“Brandon Roy. We are big guards. We have the ability to run the point a little bit. And at the end, he is always good at taking over the game. I think I am decent at taking over the game. We kind of have the same type of dribbling moves and stuff like that.”