St. Joe junior guard Turner hopes to finalize plans over summer
St. Joseph's Paul Turner (20) makes a long jump shot against St. Ignatius in an IHSA 3A sectional semi-final March 7, at Riverside-Brookfied High School in Riverside. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Saturday Baseball: Holy Trinity at St. Joseph, noon
Baseball: Holy Trinity at St. Joseph, noon
Sunday Boys and girls track: at Chicago Catholic League indoor championships at University of Chicago
Boys and girls track: at Chicago Catholic League indoor championships at University of Chicago
Updated: April 15, 2013 6:18AM
St. Joseph seemed like the perfect fit for Paul Turner Jr. for many reasons.
The 6-foot-5 junior guard from Bellwood grew up attending Chargers’ coach Gene Pingatore’s basketball clinics at the Westchester school.
But even more important were the family ties. His dad, Paul Turner Sr., played football at St. Joe’s and graduated in 1986.
Grandmother Alice Turner desperately wanted to see her grandson attend the same school where she sent her son.
“My grandma really wanted me to come here,” Turner said. “Unfortunately she passed away (in September at age 78) but I’m still trying to live up to her expectations. It means a lot she got to see me go here. I think about her a lot and it makes me play harder and go harder. I use it as a positive tool.”
Turner had plenty of options, but none had the pull of St. Joseph.
“There were other schools he was looking at,” Turner Sr. said. “He has close friends in Jahlil Okafor and Paul White and they were all thinking about going to Whitney Young together. But I graduated from here and he had such a special relationship with Coach Ping that it was just a natural progression for him to go here.
“He went to all of the camps since sixth grade and he just had an instant relationship with Coach Ping. They’re like water and oil, but they mix with all of the vegetables and it works out. It’s been a good decision. I’ve seen him mature as a basketball player, being versatile instead of one typical type of player.”
Turner Jr. has been turning heads on the court for quite some time. As a freshman at St. Joe’s he received scholarship offers from Illinois and Purdue. Since then the offers have continued to pour in.
He has yet to make a decision and insists there are no front-runners.
“I just want to get myself gathered and I want to figure out where I’ll fit in,” Turner said. “I can fit into a lot of styles — up-and-down, motion. I just want to see where I feel comfortable at and where I can be successful.”
He expects to make his college decision during the summer AAU season. He’s played for Indiana Elite in the past and is deciding whether to return, or join Indiana Spiese or Mac Irvin Fire.
“I’ve talked to a few players who have went through the process, going to their senior year and not being committed,” Turner said. “This summer I want to commit and get it out of the way and focus on the season, try and get downstate. That’s all I want to focus on.”
Turner had an up-and-down junior season. He led the team in scoring with 12 points per game — the only Charger in double digits — but he had trouble with his shot. In St. Joe’s regional title win over Westinghouse, Turner had a game-high 15 points.
“He’s having a tough year shooting, for whatever reason,” Pingatore said. “Maybe pressure on him, maybe other team’s keying on him or maybe his shot selection isn’t as good, but he’s definitely a solid player. He’s our go-to guy.”
While Turner is a quiet player on the court — in the style of Derrick Rose — there’s no question he’s the team leader. Other players look to him, especially when the game is on the line.
“Paul is more quiet but he leads by example,” said teammate Jordan Ash. “Sometimes you just have to know the guy to know what he’s saying to you without using words. Paul is a dynamic scorer and he can score from the outside or the inside. I think he’s one of the most important players on the team and he needs to score the ball efficiently for us to win the game.”