Ohio State’s Evan Turner wins Wooden Award
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Evan Turner posed for endless photographs while holding the hefty John R. Wooden Award, grinning wide enough to show the braces on his lower teeth. His mother sat quietly in an evening dress on the second row of seats at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, waiting for her turn with college basketball’s consensus player of the year.
“I guess I’m going to have to get used to it,” Iris James said with a laugh.
Indeed, the Ohio State star’s life is only speeding up after he claimed yet another trophy as the nation’s top basketball player.
Turner was chosen Friday night over Kentucky freshman John Wall, Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson, West Virginia forward Da’Sean Butler and Kansas guard Sherron Collins for the 34th Wooden Award.
Turner already won The Associated Press player of the year award and the Naismith Award among other honors, essentially making a clean sweep of the sport’s top prizes after his stellar season with the Buckeyes.
“This is absolutely crazy,” Turner said, thinking back on every honor of the past month. “I was hoping for one player-of-the-year award, but to get about five of them is crazy. I knew if my team did well, I was going to do well on these awards. What sent me over the top as a dominant player was our team’s success, and I know that.”
The Big Ten’s player of the year averaged 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists while making more than 52 percent of his shots and leading the Buckeyes (29-8) to the NCAA tournament’s regional semifinals.
The 6-foot-7 ball-handling swingman announced Tuesday he’s skipping his senior season to enter the NBA draft. He’s already getting advice on his future from an excellent source: Kobe Bryant texted congratulations and draft-preparation advice to Turner earlier this week, and Turner expects to meet up with the Lakers star when he attends Sunday’s game against Portland at Staples Center.
“He’s been really great to me,” Turner said. “He just basically tells me to prepare for the draft like it’s just another part of basketball. Awards are great, but it’s about working hard every day.”
Turner also spared a moment onstage to thank his mother, who raised him by herself in the Chicago area.
“You’ve been taking care of me,” Turner said. “Now let me take care of you.”
Connecticut’s Tina Charles won the women’s Wooden Award, beating Huskies teammate Maya Moore by one point in the closest voting in the award’s history.
Florida’s Billy Donovan received a Legends of Coaching award, with the 44-year-old becoming the youngest coach to receive the honor.
Turner received 3,715 points in the voting by more than 1,000 media members and college basketball experts. Wall, the Wildcats’ NBA-bound point guard, finished a close second with 3,331 points, while Johnson was third with 1,871.
The top three vote-getters are spending a whirlwind half-week in Los Angeles. Turner and Johnson appeared on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Thursday – Wall couldn’t go because he had to take a test for school – and all three coached in a Special Olympics basketball tournament on Friday morning.
Turner joins a list of Wooden Award winners including Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Elton Brand, Kevin Durant and 2009 winner Blake Griffin. The former Oklahoma star, who missed the entire NBA season with the Los Angeles Clippers with a knee injury, presented the trophy to Turner at the downtown club.
Turner was selected to the All-America team last month, receiving all but one possible first-team vote. He’s the first Ohio State player to win the Wooden Award.
Turner has won an armful of player-of-the-year trophies despite missing 4 1/2 weeks of the regular season with broken bones in his back, coming back more quickly than expected – partly by using the Ohio State football team’s facilities for rehabilitation.
“I just tried to stay mentally tough and keep an edge for myself,” Turner said of his injury absence. “I built up my mental capacity during that time and prepared myself.”
After Ohio State rallied from a 1-3 Big Ten start to win a share of the conference title, Turner won the Big Ten tournament’s most outstanding player award while leading the Buckeyes to the title.
Ohio State then reached the third round the NCAA tournament before falling to Tennessee. Turner missed two potential tying 3-pointers in the final seconds of the Buckeyes’ upset loss.
“That was one of the toughest moments I’ve had in basketball,” Turner said. “Sometimes you have to pay your dues.”