Remembering the Villain: A Look Back at Evan Turner's Career at Ohio State

By Michael Citro on February 2, 2016 at 10:10 am
Evan Turner: Wolverine Killer

Ohio State announced that the school will raise Evan Turner’s No. 21 to the rafters of Value City Arena on Feb. 16. His jersey will hang among other Buckeye legends, such as Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Jim Jackson, and Gary Bradds.

Most Ohio State hoops fans took the news with the appropriate amount of duh-it’s-about-time-ness that such an announcement should elicit, though there was a scattering of people who expressed surprise that this former national player of the year was being honored. There were even a few people who seemed to be against it. Some cited an average NBA career, which has nothing to do with what he did at Ohio State. Some just wanted [insert their favorite player here] to have that honor first.

It’s too much to ask any large group of human beings to share a universal opinion about any topic. So, let's revisit all the Villain’s accomplishments.

In the summer of 2006, the versatile, 6-foot-7 guard/forward committed to Ohio State out of St. Joseph’s High School in the Chicago suburb of Westchester. A prized recruit, both Scout and Rivals gave Turner four stars. He joined a class that included fellow four stars Jon Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale, as well as five-star power forward Kosta Koufos.

Turner made his presence felt early in his collegiate career, starting 30 of the team’s 37 games as a freshman. He averaged 27 minutes per game his rookie season, tallying 8.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per outing. He announced his arrival by exploding against Tennessee, notching his first career double-double with a team-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, adding three assists. Ohio State lost that day, and it wouldn't be the last time Turner played well in a defeat to the Vols (more on that later).

He finished second on the team that season in assists and third in steals, and scored in double figures 15 times, including the final three games as Ohio State won the National Invitational Tournament. Turner got better as the tournament wore on, scoring 11, 17, and 20 points in the final three contests. In the semifinal against Ole Miss, Turner had eight rebounds, five assists and a block to go with his 17 points to help the Buckeyes win 81-69.

If Turner was an important cog in Thad Matta’s machine as a frosh, he evolved into the team’s focal point in his sophomore season of 2008-09. He started all 33 games and led the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 17.3 points. In addition to scoring, he led the Buckeyes in 3-point shooting percentage (44%) rebounds (offensive, defensive and total), assists and steals. Turner was Ohio State’s high scorer in 20 games that year, including the last seven of the season. He led the Buckeyes in rebounds on 22 occasions as a sophomore.

It was a disappointing end to the season, however, as the Buckeyes narrowly lost to Purdue in the B1G Tournament finale, 65-61, and then fell in overtime in the NCAA tourney opener against Siena, 74-72. Turner’s combined output in those two games? Just 47 points and 19 rebounds. No big deal.

He finished his sophomore season by being named to the All-B1G team.

Turner saved his best for his final season as a Buckeye. As a junior, he opened the year with five straight double-doubles and was Big Ten Player of the Week the first three weeks of the season. He was B1G POW seven times in 2009-10, breaking the old single-season mark of five by Glenn Robinson. Those seven awards gave him 10 for his career — more than any other Buckeye.

Turner again led the Buckeyes in scoring and rebounds, averaging 20.4 and 9.2 respectively. He was again the conference’s top scorer. He again led the team in assists but finished second in steals, being edged out by David Lighty. He was also second in blocks.

He was often at his best when the competition was toughest. In 2009-10, Turner averaged 24.3 points and 9.2 rebounds against ranked opponents, shooting 50% from the floor. This was against the best teams Ohio State faced, who were specifically trying to make someone — anyone — besides Turner beat them. They mostly failed at that.

His monster year, leading Ohio State to both a conference regular season and tournament championship, led to him being named the Big Ten and National Player of the Year and he was a consensus All-American.

His list of awards in 2010 is incredible.

  • Associated Press National Player of the Year
  • Oscar Robertson Trophy winner (USBWA National Player of the Year) 
  • Naismith Award Winner 
  • Wooden Award Winner
  • Basketball Times National Player of the Year 
  • Bob Cousy Award Finalist
  • Sporting News Player of the Year 2009-10 
  • Sporting News First Team All-America
  • Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player 
  • Big Ten All-Tournament Team
  • Big Ten Player of the Year, media and coaches 
  • First Team All-Big Ten, unanimous media and coaches
  • Pat Forde/ Player of the Year* 
  • Player of the Year
  • All-America 
  • USBWA District V Player of the Year
  • USBWA All-District V

*Apparently this was a thing. I LOLed.

All of that almost didn’t happen. His junior season was nearly derailed by injury when he broke his back in an early December game against Eastern Michigan on this scary play:

Turner missed only six games.

Upon his return, Turner notched eight points, five assists and four rebounds in a 79-54 thumping of Indiana upon his return in early January. It was one of only three games in which he failed to score in double figures, with the EMU game being another.

It’s fitting that Turner’s No. 21 is being raised on the day Ohio State plays Michigan — the opponent against which he produced the most memorable moment of his OSU career. Just as Ohio State appeared headed for an early exit in the Big Ten tourney against rival Michigan, Turner did this:

You’ve seen it before. It’s etched in your memory, which is why Evan Turner is now immortal. His shot gave the Buckeyes a 69-68 win and broke Wolverine hearts everywhere. But he wasn’t done.

In the B1G Tournament semifinals against Illinois, Turner was clutch, sending the game into overtime with the last two points of regulation, and then scoring the final four points in OT to reach a second overtime. He scored 31 points for the game and 12 of those came after regulation, as Ohio State won, 88-81.

In the tournament final, Turner pumped in 31 points again and grabbed 11 boards, leading Ohio State to a 90-61 humiliation of the Golden Gophers.

On the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament, Turner scored a total of 33 points to go with 19 rebounds as the Buckeyes swept past UC-Santa Barbara and Georgia Tech. But then Ohio State fell to Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen, despite Turner’s 31 points, seven rebounds, five dimes and a block. His magnificent OSU career came to an end on March 26, 2010 in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

The Villain left Ohio State ranked No. 18 on the school’s all-time scoring list, with 1,517 points. He ranked ninth in career assists, with 414. Of those, 185 came in 2009-10 alone — the fifth most in a single season in school history. He also finished his career No. 8 on Ohio State’s career free throws made list (175).

Selected second overall in the 2010 NBA Draft by Philadelphia, Turner perhaps hasn’t had the pro career that many envisioned for him after his time at Ohio State. Currently plying his trade with the Boston Celtics, alongside fellow former OSU great Jared Sullinger, Turner has already had a decent run in the NBA. But even if he’d washed out with the Sixers in 2010-11, it wouldn’t tarnish what he accomplished while in Columbus. His jersey ceremony on Feb. 16 is much deserved.

Matta told reporters this week that he will smile every time he looks up and sees Turner’s number up there. Hey, me too.

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