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The long and winding road of Josiah Turner

Josiah Turner during the 2KSports Classic at Madison Square Garden, scoring as D`Angelo Harrison watches.
Josiah Turner during the 2KSports Classic at Madison Square Garden, scoring as D`Angelo Harrison watches.

It takes a coach with a great deal of confidence to handle players with a lot of talent on the college level. The game is often about having better players than the opposition; great scheme means nothing without execution, without players who can finish.

And to raise the talent level in the program, St. John's is looking at some dynamic players who will also be considered "risky". One of those dynamic ballers is Arizona transfer Josiah Turner. The 6'3" point guard out of Sacramento has all the talent of a one-and-done player...

...But he hasn't been able to stay on the court - not in northern California, and not at Arizona under Sean Miller, where preseason predictions had the Wildcats ranked on Turner's ability to handle the point guard spot and lead the team through the Pac-12.

Instead of leading a talented Wildcats squad back to the NCAA Tournament, Josiah Turner will transfer out of the Arizona program after a pair of suspensions for the amorphous "violation of team policy."

Turner will leave Arizona (in good academic standing) and is looking at St. John's, along with Iona, Southern Methodist, New Mexico, and Louisville, according to a comment on Point Guard U. Iona, St. John's, and Southern Methodist interest has been corroborated by other sources.

Where has Turner been?

And should St. John's fans worry about Turner's long and winding road, littered with school transfers and disciplinary issues? Read on, below the fold.

Turner was a highly-regarded scoring point guard - meaning he was a guard who made plays with the ball in his hands, a lot. He was flashy and spectacular, running with the talent-rich Oakland Soldiers in AAU play. After decommitting from Arizona State in 2009, Turner attracted attention from elite programs Kansas, UCLA, Louisville, Oregon, and Arizona.

But his high school career was that of a vagabond, playing at Cordova High School, moving to Sacramento High, and transferring to Sheldon High in Sacramento before California Interscholastic rules decreed that he sit out a year for the transfer. Turner went back to Sacramento High and flourished for a time.

Derek Swafford was Turner's coach at Sacramento High. Swafford and Turner - and Turner's mother - clashed over playing time. Turner wouldn't play in blowout wins, and in response Turner missed some games and practices. He was dismissed from the team, and transferred to Quality Education Academy (QEA), where he played with current Red Storm swingman Sir`Dominic Pointer. From the Sacramento Bee:

"Josiah Turner won't be with the team the rest of the season for violating athletic rules and regulations and team rules and regulations," Swafford said. "We want him to continue with school and to go to Arizona, and Arizona wants him to remain in school. We want him to do well as a student, but I want to put this basketball thing to rest. I want to make it clear that this was my decision, clearly, and that my administration backed me up. We have to move on."

Turner looks like a villain, a player hungry for shots.

But as a top player, does it help his development to sit on the bench for full halves of games? Did he have a real worry about low scoring totals that would make him less impressive to the McDonald's All American game (which he did not make)? Was there a chance to Josiah to mark his name in California record books; and isn't that a worthy pursuit for an elite talent?

Just thoughts to consider. Is there more to the power struggle between he and his coach? After all, the coach's side of the tale is the one that gets the most ink, the same coach who is likely responsible for wiping Turner's 2010-11 numbers out of the records on the MaxPreps site.

Despite an ugly exit from Sacramento High School, Turner played well at QEA. "The QEA experience is more to Turner’s liking," wrote Javier Morales of the Tuscon Citizen, "because of the exposure to more talent with a high-profile prep program." And he was impressive at IS8 last summer, playing alongside Dom Pointer.

But as you know, his Arizona career was checkered with comments about Turner's effort, with a suspension for being late to practice early, with sometimes-sloppy play, and with a second suspension just before the Pac-12 Tournament. He frustrated the team and fans, and finally, he transferred from Sean Miller's Arizona Wildcats program.

Along the way Turner started 17 games, generated solid numbers of steals, passed decently (but could improve his passing and turnover numbers), and shot just under 47% from inside the arc and a bit under 23% outside the three-point line. Turner drew 102 fouls and had a 67% free throw to field goal attempted rate, which is very high for a guard.

Clearly, he's quick and he's talented.

Clearly, he can make an impact with a few tweaks.

And clearly, it takes some players a few tries to learn how to play within the rules set out before them, to learn how to be on time, accountable, and to conduct themselves well off of the court.

But is Turner worth the risk? Can he abide by a coach's rules? Can he be rehabilitated and flourish if he decides to end his winding path through amateur basketball at St. John's?

Can he flourish alongside other guards who need the ball in D`Angelo Harrison, point guard Jamal Branch, and Phil Greene?

Josiah Turner's itinerary takes him to St. John's as soon as this weekend, per Adam Zagoria, and St. John's fans might find out if the risk is worth it in a year.

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