Turner leads Cougars on and off court

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 | 1:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:41 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Terrell Turner, center, along with Jason Ellis, left, and Taylor Evans sit in the Columbia College men's basketball team's locker room after practice on Monday. A senior at Columbia College, Turner said he picked the No. 24 for his jersey because a day has no more than 24 hours.

COLUMBIA — Most jobs require good communication skills.

With graduation looming in May, Columbia College senior Terrell Turner has shown he has those skills. Right now, however, Turner isn’t worried about using those skills in the workforce.

He uses them on the basketball court.

“Terrell has great communication skills,” Cougars coach Bob Burchard said. “The way he communicates is so important. It’s always positive.”

Turner is the unquestioned vocal leader for the No. 23 Cougars (25-7),  who face No. 5 McKendree (28-4) in the championship of the American Midwest Conference Tournament at 7 p.m. Tuesday at McKendree.

Leading his Cougars to victory is the job he is focusing on right now.

During practices and games, Turner has no problem yelling out plays and encouragement to his teammates.

Freshman Taylor Evans agrees that Turner is the vocal leader on the team.

“He has no problem directing people around,” Evans said.

Turner is also encouraging off the court and his easy-going personality has helped people like Evans get adjusted to the college lifestyle.

“He treats me like one of the guys,” Evans said. “If I have a question, he’s there to help me with it.”

One thing that has brought Turner, Evans, and several other members of the basketball team together are video games. Turner said he enjoys his battles with Evans in "Call of Duty," a World War II-themed action game. However, Turner said, his biggest current video game rival is senior Christian Lewis in "Tiger Woods ’09."

“Me and Christian have our battles. I had been owning him, but now we’re tied,” Turner said reluctantly.

Turner gets even more competitive on the court.

In most games, whoever Turner is guarding becomes visibly frustrated. Turner said he does whatever it takes to get in his opponents head. Quick elbows to the chest, a brief tug of his defender's jersey, or anything the referees can’t see is all fair game, according to Turner.

“Everybody knows I’m like that," Turner said. "I’m like a little bug trying to get in their head. I might give them a quick forearm. The same tricks always work.”

Burchard said opposing players' negative reactions towards Turner’s play can be attributed to Turner’s willingness to do things other players aren’t interested in doing, such as playing tight defense and taking charges.

“He’s hard on you," Burchard said. "That makes people react.”

Burchard said he and the Cougars players like to tease Turner by saying he's “too short.”

However, when Burchard makes fun of the 5-foot-11 point guard at summer basketball camps, Turner shows onlookers height doesn’t matter.

After a number of high-flying dunks, people look around in disbelief, thinking "I can't believe he can do that." Burchard said his dunks are “truly amazing.”

“He relishes the challenges,” Burchard said.

Turner realizes the Cougars' next loss could be the last game he ever plays. However, Turner, a human services major, said he knows he can be happy in life after basketball. The communication skills he has developed on and off the court should help him find a job that fits his personality.

“Hopefully I can be a counselor at a school or something like that,” he said. “I want to help kids.”

For right now, graduating and real world life can wait.

Turner has his sights on getting his first ever win against McKendree. A win Tuesday would give the Cougars an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament. Losing to McKendree would put the Cougars at the mercy of the NAIA selection committee.

“I feel like if we can beat them (McKendree), we can beat anybody,” Turner said.

Turner said he is grateful for the role basketball has played in his life.

“It has given me an opportunity to get a free education and it has kept me out of trouble,” Turner said. “When you’re depressed or having a bad day, basketball is always there.”




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