Back in late October, I compared Evan Turner to that of a young Jimmy Jackson and said Matta would lean heavily on him with the game on the line. So far, Turner is doing his part to uphold that projection. Not that many of you went out of your way to disagree but it's definitely a lofty comparison.
Jackson was an absolute magician on the floor. The guy could do everything. To this point, the main difference I see between the two is JJ played with more seasoned teammates, had better handles and was a little more heady leading to about one less turnover per game.
Trust me, I'm well aware of the fact OSU has played exactly five games in a long season but I see no reason to think Turner can't continue to blossom into a college star and future NBA performer. Even with the six TO's against the Irish, he still flashed the same ability Jimmy had of being in the right place at the right time. One example that sticks out is when he jumped from under the OSU basket, saved the ball and dished a perfect bounce pass to Lighty leading directly to a layup all in one motion in a possession that was otherwise lost.
If anything, Turner's progress could be slowed by the fact exactly zero of his perimeter teammates have shown any type of scoring consistency meaning teams will soon dedicate double teams to make other Buckeyes beat them.
Many were quick to jump on the Diebler bandwagon but just as quickly, he reverted back to his three-point-only-shooting alter ego while Lighty and Simmons struggle with consistency issues of their own. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised to see Buford emerge as the second consistent perimeter scorer but we'll cover that another time.
For now, let's just take a look at how Turner's freshman numbers compare to Jimmy:
As you can see, JJ stepped on campus and immediately became the second best player on the team behind Perry Carter. That said, he played on an underachieving team featuring solid players Jamaal Brown, Mark Baker, Treg Lee and Chris Jent that were one season from putting it all together.
Jimmy was essentially the point forward similar to Scottie Pippen. Interestingly, he struggled with turnover problems of his own that freshman season averaging 3.2 per contest (1035 minutes played) compared to 2.7 miscues per game from Turner (1004 minutes). That said, JJ's scoring average blows away Turner's as he typically defaulted to Butler, Koufos, Hunter and Lighty, all of which averaged more points per game.
Bottom line, JJ was at an entirely different level as a freshman though I think it's fair to say Turner showed glimpses of things to come (@ Tenn, Minn, @ Mich and Purdue come to mind), he just couldn't sustain any consistency.
Fast forward to 2008 and Turner has done some special things thus far putting up numbers rivaling those of Jackson's First Team All-American sophomore season:
Annoyingly, the turnovers are up but every other category has improved dramatically comparing very favorably to Jackson.
Again, it's just five games but the 6'7" wing is shooting a blistering 56% from the floor, including 50% from distance leading to an extra 8.1 points per game. And check out the boards, he's raking 7.8 per game, an increase of 3.4 per game and 2.3 more than Jimmy pulled down. Sure, those numbers will tumble a bit as the season progresses but I don't think anyone can knock Turner's rebounding ability from the wing.
Even more staggering so far are the 3.0 steals compared to Jimmy's 1.8 per game. Those numbers will decline over time but there's no denying Turner's ability to create steals with his length on the 2-2-1 making him a cornerstone of Thad's defensive approach both in the full and half court.
The one thing that scares me is if his teammates don't step up, not only will other teams key on him but it could slow Turner's basketball IQ growth if he feels the need to try and do too much to compensate. To some degree, it's on him to make his teammates better but he can't physically shoot the ball for Lighty nor force Simmons and Diebler to shoot something other than a three. (Diebler's up to 33 of 44 FGA's coming from deep while Simmons is sitting on 25 of 36. Ridiculous.)
Bottom line, he's not Jim Jackson but there's no convincing me he doesn't have the potential to be an All-American cut from the same cloth as the stat stuffer from Macomber.