Evan Turner Schooled You
Humility and confidence are stained all over him. He is able to hold onto his core values and live his dream, a feat many of us wish we could accomplish. Former Ohio State basketball star and winner of the Naismith College Player of the Year award, Evan Turner, is a hero among OSU fanatics. Now a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, all of the hard work and countless hours hooping in the gym seem to have finally paid off. Turner’s road to the NBA wasn’t like many other stars that have graced the hardwood of the world’s top basketball league. He wasn’t expected to be this good, yet those around the former Buckeye knew something about him that many others didn’t.
Turner grew up in Chicago and faced more than a few difficulties as a child. From having a learning disability to living with a speech impediment, he didn’t let any of it get in the way of reaching his dream. And he owes it all to his mom, who he said is his hero. “[Late nights] she would come home from work to make sure I could keep up in class,” Turner says in our interview. Family has always been important to him, and his brother, Darius, was his main competitor growing up, teaching him his relentless work ethic. This work ethic is what took him to new heights as he gained national attention during his sophomore year at OSU, then won the Naismith award his junior year, being recognized as the best college basketball player in the country. Another great achievement was on the horizon: Turner entered the 2010 NBA draft during his junior year and was drafted number two overall by the 76ers.
Although he resides in Philadelphia, Columbus will always have a place in his heart. “I grew up and became a man in Columbus,” he says. Now this man from Columbus is a levelheaded, hard working starter for one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference of the NBA. Along the journey from his humble beginnings in Chicago to the NBA life in Philadelphia, Turner has never forgotten what is most important. His family and values stick close to him as he puts them ahead of basketball—something he describes as “just a game.” Learn much more about the well-spoken and humble Evan Turner in our exclusive Q&A with the former Buckeye.
You were voted the 2010 National Player of the Year in college. Where does that place on your list of accomplishments? It was deﬁnitely cool—I think that was one of the coolest awards. One time after I won the award, I was in New York, and I was like, “Man, no matter where I go in the country, I’m the best player in college this year.” I think it was great to represent The Ohio State University and represent everyone that was involved and helped me to get where I am.
In high school you were often head-to-head with Derrick Rose. Has that rivalry carried into the NBA?
Every time you compete and see someone you know, you want to beat them, and I think we always have great matches with The Bulls. He’s representing well for Chicago and I’m happy for him.
What do you hold dear to your heart?
Memories. There are times when I’m having the best time of my life, and I just stop and wish I could freeze this time and go and keep it forever, you know? All these memories of my mom and my brothers and people who have supported me, close friends, I will never ever trade that. A lot of people wonder why I do so many nice things for others, and it’s because I can’t repay you for the friendship you’ve bestowed upon me or the love you’ve bestowed upon me— that means more to mean than anything.
How much of your preparation for a game is visualization?
For me, it’s all mental. Coach Matta always said, “When you’re mentally right, you can do anything.” It’s all visual and seeing it and believing it. If you can believe it and have faith in it, anything can happen. If I don’t see something or believe it will happen, I don’t think it can work. You know, when I was a little kid, I always used to
tell my friends, “I can’t wait to get older because something special is going to happen.” I think that’s part of having faith.
What surprised you the most about the NBA?
How physically demanding it is. Hopping on planes, playing four games in ﬁve nights, ﬂying to different cities, going on two-week road trips, forgetting what room number you are or key you’re supposed to use ...
What’s your strongest virtue?
Realness, truth. Realness in myself and realness in other people. I think it’s all about looking in the mirror. I’m big on looking in the mirror and being able to see myself in the mirror and knowing fully if I did the right thing or the wrong thing or if I’m going to try my hardest that day.
Coolest guy in Columbus is?
Probably David Larry or Thad Matta. They’re so positive. That’s the most important thing. They have the mentality that if the ship’s going down, they still don’t believe it. They feel like they can survive through anything.
Who is your favorite player of all time and why?
My favorite player of all time is obviously Michael Jordan. His work ethic, his intensity, his class on the court. He revolutionized the game in nearly every way.
If you were given an elephant, where would you hide it?
In a zoo.
Got a favorite movie?
I’d say Ali or 8 Mile.
What is your favorite childhood tradition that you hope to pass on to your kids?
My family and I used to meet up every Sunday and eat dinner. I want to do that. I felt like that set the foundation for how close our family is supposed to be.
Got a celebrity crush?
I’d say Mila Kunis.
What animal would you be?
Who is your hero?
My mom. She had to take me to speech therapy sessions and sit at the table with me late at night when she came home from work to make sure I could keep up in class. She found my opportunities to play basketball and everything.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Two and a half months ago I quit drinking soda. I like Pepsi and Orange Soda. Most people relax with beer, so if I had a rough night, I’d have a soda. In my house in Philadelphia, there’s no soda allowed because I’ll start to twitch for it [laughs].
What is your favorite sport to watch on TV? In person?
I like watching women’s basketball in person. On TV, boxing.
What was your ﬁrst job?
I used to walk one of my neighbor’s dogs. That’s probably my only real job. I had to walk the dog before school in winter, and winters in Chicago are horrible. I made $5 a week—after a while she stopped paying me!
Do you have any hobbies?
I just read, to tell you the truth. I didn’t ﬁnish college, so I try not to get dumber.
Out of everything you have accomplished, what can you say is your biggest achievement to date?
I always wanted to be a big basketball player and the greatest player I could be, but the cool thing that I thought, and I told my family this on vacation, I wanted to set out and make sure my mom didn’t have any “wants” or anything. So I got her a house and an Escalade and everything. People will say, “I want to get my mom a house and I want to do this and do that,” and my biggest accomplishment is doing what I say I want to do.
What are your most notable characteristics?
I’m really competitive and really impatient.
Vince Vaughn or Will Ferrell?
Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy?
What were you like when you were a 13-year-old?
I was really goofy and friendly, but I was really driven. I was always so competitive, and I think I’ve been the same way since I was younger until now, but obviously I’ve matured a lot and learned a lot. I always had that competitive nature.
What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Intense, caring and relentless.
What three words would your mother use to describe you?
Sweet, hard-headed & impatient.
Why is Columbus so special to you?
Besides the great weather, I think people in the Midwest are super nice, and Columbus always treated me well. I love just coming back here and the genuine people.
What is your favorite book?
I like the book Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell.
Oatmeal and a banana or steak and eggs?
Steak and eggs, no doubt.
It’s raining and you have a day off. What are you going to do with your day?
Sit inside and watch movies.
What is your most favorite nighttime city?
There’s no place like Chicago.
If you were President, what would be your ﬁrst order of business?
How do you want to be remembered?
As a selﬂess person. I feel like when you do for others, you’re all good.
Which position do you prefer?
What part of your game do you feel a lot of people overlook?
I feel like people overlook how good of a ball handler I am. When I was ﬁve years old, I started dribbling every day because my brother told me I was going to be tall. There’s not a situation that I can’t get out of with a ball.
What are your pre-game rituals?
I always just pray before a game—make sure I’m able to compete at a high level and that nobody gets hurt.
What was the ﬁrst thing you bought with your ﬁrst paycheck?
I bought a Range Rover. Gray. All my cars are gray.
What ex-Buckeye do you most admire and why?
I’m a big fan of Scoonie Penn. He’s a real positive person. Ever since I met him, he’s always been like a big brother to me. He’s always talked to me about stuff, he’s always opened up his house to me, tries to help and be in the community. I admire Scoonie a lot.
How old were you when you ﬁrst dunked?
Man, I was 16-years-old. Most kids dunk at 13 or 14. I’m a horrible jumper, so I was 16. I think it was a day after my sixteenth birthday.
You’re from Chicago. What made you pick OSU?
I used to visit here every summer when I was nine or ten. My dad used to live in Reynoldsburg, so I would go to the Ohio State camps and everything. When I had the opportunity, you know my mom really liked Wisconsin, and my AAU coach had opportunities at Illinois. And being a high school rebel, I chose Ohio State.
Got a pet peeve?
When people eat off my plate. I can’t stand that. And repeating myself, I can’t stand when people do not listen. Like you’ll tell somebody something, and they’ll say, “What?” and you’ll tell them three more times. I hate when I have to raise my voice for you to hear what I have to say.
Which designer owns the most real estate in your closet?
Honestly, I like Astor & Black suits, but if I were shopping at the stores, I like the casual, classy look of Burberry. A lot of people say Burberry is played out, but that stuff is sophisticated. I like to be the James Bond type— classy and reﬁned. My friends and I dress nice and clean.
What ﬁres you up? Pisses you off? Makes you cry?
Competition ﬁres me up. People who cheat piss me off, and people who lie. There’s no reason to cheat or lie. And sometimes when you look back and see everything I’ve accomplished, that brings a tear to my eye, like, “Man, I really did it.”
Fondest memory growing up?
My mom would take us to Wisconsin Dells, and it would be fun — my mom, my brother and I.
You’re swept up by an F4 tornado and dropped in a little village with munchkins and a yellow brick road. What do you ask the wizard for?
What talent would you most like to have?
Flying, but that’s kind of like a superhero talent. As far as a real talent, I really want to play guitar. I’m a big John Mayer fan.
What would be your last meal?
Pepperoni pizza, watermelon, fried chicken and orange soda.
What was the most important resolution you ever made?
I think the most important thing is waking up and reading The Bible. I try to start my day with the right frame of mind.
Eminem or Lil Wayne?
I’ll never put anyone above Eminem simply because of the fact of how he helped me develop during my life. There were times when I had the roughest day and I felt like no one understood except for Eminem. He tells great stories of overcoming. He was an underdog, and his whole life was overcoming.
If the best offense is a good defense, what is the best defense?
The best defense is to intimidate the other team.
What one condiment should you never put on a hot dog?
I like all of my food plain. I feel like condiments are overrated.
If you could invent a candy bar, what would it be and what would it be called?
Probably something similar to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and it would be called ET.
The measure of a man is his ability to … ?
His ability to overcome adversity.
When was the last time you felt intimidated by a player?
The only person I ever felt intimidated by was my older brother Darius. I always thought, “If I can beat my brother, I can beat anybody.”
What do you love most about playing on a team?
The brotherhood. When you’re playing on a real team, you start to enjoy the work.