April 2, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -As Evan Turner clutched his trophy and posed for yet another photo, he couldn’t escape a little ribbing.
“That going to fit at home?” Ohio State teammate David Lighty said Friday as Turner walked past with The Associated Press player of the year award.
“This is going to be a window ornament,” Turner shot back as both laughed.
It’s got to be a good feeling to receive almost every player of the year honor and have a couple of teammates make a 2 1/2-hour drive to see you get the latest one as part of the Final Four festivities.
“They have been there for me my whole career, and they are here now,” Turner said. “They really are family, and this shows it.”
Turner, a 6-foot-7 junior swingman who averaged 20.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists, received 54 votes from the 65-member national media panel. Kentucky freshman John Wall was second with nine votes.
Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim was selected the AP’s coach of the year, receiving 39 votes, while Kansas State’s Frank Martin was next with eight.
Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale never hesitated about making the 175-mile drive from Columbus, Ohio, to see the presentation.
“He told us he was getting this, and we said we’d come,” said Lauderdale, who quickly added neither he nor Lighty missed class to be there.
There weren’t many people who thought Turner would win national honors after he broke two bones in his back when he fell after a dunk on Dec. 5.
He missed six games – which the Buckeyes split – then he returned to lead them to the Big Ten title and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
“I was going to be as cautious as I possibly could to make sure he was 100 percent when he came back,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “He would sit and watch practice, dribbling the ball around his chair, between his legs. He was diligent in his work ethic and did a great job.”
Turner said awards were the last thing on his mind during those weeks when he was forced to watch his teammates get ready for the conference season.
“I just wanted to get back to my team and be the same player I was,” said Turner, who hasn’t yet decided whether he will return for his senior season. “I started understanding more that life throws you curveballs, and sometimes it builds a better person in how you deal with that.”
And his teammates rewarded him by taking the trophy back to campus in the trunk of their car.
Boeheim took Syracuse from an unranked team in the preseason to No. 1 in the poll and a No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament.
The Orange, who lost their top three scorers from last season, finished 30-5, giving the Hall of Fame coach 829 wins, sixth-best all-time and second to Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski among active coaches.
The Orange reached No. 1 in the poll this season for the first time since 1990.
“We had a great team this year, and that’s how you win these awards,” said Boeheim, who just finished his 34th season at his alma mater. “We led the nation in assists and were one of the top defensive teams all seasons. And we had low expectations which help you win these awards. We had no falloffs all season, and we had great senior leadership.”
Boeheim, who led the Orange to the national championship in 2003, had never won the award before.
“My first year I won a semi-national Eastern coaching award. It just took 34 years to get the next one,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t take 34 more to get the next one.”