History was made on Tuesday night as Evan Turner became the fifth ex-Buckeye to have his jersey hoisted into the rafters at the Jerome Schottenstein Center. It joins John Havlicek's, John Lucas's, Gary Bradds's, and Jim Jackson's in receiving this honor. The ceremony took place as the Buckeyes played (and beat) the Michigan Wolverines, a very fitting opponent to celebrate Turner's college career. Indeed, his dramatic buzzer-beating three-pointer in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Big Ten Tournament is perhaps the defining moment of the 2010 National Player of the Year's Buckeyes career.
You might think that the ideal opponent was planned, but it was not. Turner currently plays for the NBA's Boston Celtics, meaning that he could only personally attend the ceremony during the NBA All-Star Break. The Buckeyes only had one home game during the NBA break, and it was the luck of the draw that it happened to be against Michigan.
Asked to comment on his memories of Ohio State, Turner did not return to his game winning shot against Michigan but rather the team's 12-1 conference performance in 2010 after a slow start that year. He felt that the turn around was a strong testament to the team's "courage, perseverance, and mental toughness."
The ceremony itself took place during halftime, with Turner speaking at half court after his jersey was unveiled. He was noticeably choked up while thanking his mother, and ended up speaking for over five minutes. Turner was accompanied by his Celtics teammate and fellow ex-Buckeye, Jared Sullinger, who commented that Ohio State alums are a tight knit fraternity. Other former players also attended the event, and even more filmed video tributes that aired throughout the game.
Turner remains close to his old coach, Coach Matta, and recently consulted him for life advice. Coach Matta did not always have the close relationship with his star pupil they enjoy today, however. Matta recalled that he once challenged Turner to "grow up or go home," admitting that he did not particularly care which option the young player chose at the time. In retrospect, Turner's decision to stay on the team was surely the right one for team and player alike.
Asked to sum up his thoughts on the night, Turner replied simply, "It's a blessing."
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