Friday, November 19, 1999

'Beast' Turner a heavy burden for Xavier foes


You can question his height, but not his heart

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Xavier players and coaches call Aaron Turner “The Beast.” Let them explain.

        Senior Darnell Williams: “The first time I ever saw him play was when he came here on his (recruiting) visit. He was on my team playing against Torraye (Braggs) and he said, "I got Torraye.' I said, "You got who?'

        Braggs, XU's center at the time, was 6-foot-8, 230 pounds of muscle.

        “Then he guarded him and held his own,” Williams said. “From that day on I was like, yes, we need him. He was only in high school and he wasn't scared to bang with Torraye and Terrance (Payne).”

        Assistant coach Mark Schmidt: “I remember watching him in AAU out in California when he was playing for the All-Ohio Red. He sprained his ankle ... and he played the whole game on one foot. He's a warrior. No excuses. He brings it every day.”

        Coach Skip Prosser: “He was playing in an AAU event in Columbus and a lot of guys didn't show up. (Other teams) were saying, "We need a guy.' He was on a million teams. He played himself to exhaustion. He started cramping up, but he was always ready to play the next time. One thing people don't question is his effort and his grit and his heart. That typified it.”

        A sophomore from Columbus, Turner will be in the Musketeers' starting lineup Saturday when they open the season against Maryland-East ern Shore (4:07 p.m. tipoff, Cincinnati Gardens).

        Turner is listed as 6-foot-7, 230 pounds. He's probably closer to 6-6. He usually plays center. In last Saturday's exhibition game against Athletes in Action, he started against 7-1, 339-pound Lorenzo Coleman. You do the math.

        “He didn't care,” Williams said.

        Coleman was in foul trouble all day, finishing with zero points and two rebounds in 12 minutes. Turner had 13 points and six rebounds.

        Turner started 12 of 20 games last season and averaged 5.4 points and 5.2 rebounds. He runs the court like a wing. His jump shot from 15 feet out is improving. He is intense every possession of every practice.

        In rebounding drills, which include 6-10 Butler, 6-10 Obi Harris and 6-9 Marcus Mason, it's common for Turner to outwork his bigger teammates.

        “I may be able to box him out at first, but he's not going to let up until somebody has the rebound,” Butler said. “That's what makes it hard. Aaron just keeps on going.”

        There are times during practice when a coach or player will say to nobody in particular, “If he were 2 inches taller ...”

        What if?

        “He might not be at this school,” Williams said.

        “He'd probably have a shot at being a first-round draft choice, too,” Schmidt said.

        Turner was not highly rated coming out of Mifflin High School and compensated by working harder and showing no fear of better known opponents.

        “I don't really know why,” Turner said. “I have never been scared. Never.”

        Of anyone?

        “Probably (Michael) Jordan,” he said. “That's it.”

       



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