For an NCAA national Player of the Year and No. pick in the NBA Draft, Evan Turner has a curiously low profile and an even lower set of expectations. While most athletes in his position arrive in their city as “The Savior” or “The Franchise,” Turner — averaging 7.2 points and 4.8 rebounds while shuttling in and out of the starting lineup — is just another piece to the Philadelphia 76ers’ puzzle. Meaning he has the basketball world right where he wants it.
*** *** ***
“How’s my piss?”
As he asks the question, Evan Turner’s youthfully curious, caramel face doesn’t register a hint of comedic intent. He’s not trying to be funny, so when the dozen or so doctors, trainers, reporters and agents surrounding him at this pop-up Gatorade Sports Science Institute lab on Manhattan’s 53rd Ave. bust up laughing, it catches him by surprise.
But seriously … he wants to know. Turner is here today taking a fitness test, for Gatorade’s database and his own, which included a pre-workout urine sample. Having been told the sample will determine if he’s properly hydrated, he intensely studies a sheet of cardio test results before popping his head up and asking the question that gets the room rolling.
Turner is serious because he understands that his body is his greatest asset. As the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers guard is a businessman now in a lucrative, highly competitive industry. Turner, a Chicago native who turned 22 years old on the same day as the team’s regular-season opener, has accepted that the pro game isn’t just a game.
“The biggest difference between college and the pros is that you lose that innocence when you leave college,” says Turner, who as a junior at Ohio State cleaned up on national Player of the Year awards before turning pro. “Everything is about money now. The NBA is a business, so a lot of things you do, it’s about making what you’re worth. You only get maybe 12 or 13 years out of this game, and you never know what you’re gonna do afterward. It’s about selling yourself. You are your own brand. You’re like a two-legged machine.”
What sold the Sixers was a 6-7, 210-pound machine that has just eight percent body fat. A machine that dropped 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.7 steals last season, leading the Buckeyes to the Sweet Sixteen while playing up to four positions at one time or another. A machine that racked up triple-doubles against Alcorn State and Lipscomb, and came within three assists or one rebound of a triple-double five other times. A machine that ended archrival Michigan’s season with a buzzer-beating shot just inside half-court in the Big Ten tournament. A machine that broke a bone in his back on Dec. 5 against Eastern Michigan, and made it back on the court by Jan. 6 to face Indiana.
“He’s tough and athletic, but he’s also a smart basketball player,” says Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, who played against Turner in high school. “He has a high basketball IQ, and that can take him a long way. As a rookie, if the other guys on his team make it as easy for him as possible to adjust to the NBA, he’ll make a lot of strides.”
Thanks in large part to Rose’s presence at Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, Turner didn’t have a lot of hype coming out of St. Joseph H.S. (Westchester, Ill.) despite being ranked highly in his class. He was solid as a freshman at Ohio State, before breaking out as a sophomore with 17.3 points per game, good enough to lead the Big Ten in scoring. While another supremely athletic, John Calipari-coached point guard, John Wall, again took most of the national headlines throughout Turner’s junior year, at the end Turner was the one holding P.O.Y. trophies from Naismith, Wooden, Sporting News, and the Associated Press.
“It was a lot of award shows,” Turner laughs now. “I’ve been busy ever since the (college) season ended. Selecting an agent, meeting with shoe companies, working out for Philadelphia, the pre-Draft camp. It’s a lot. But I expected it.”