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June 15, 2009

Turner embarking on great American journey

Evan Turner is headed for uncharted waters.

Ohio State's Mr. Everything last season, the Chicago native is likely to make his first ever voyage away from U.S. soil next month as a member of America's 2009 World University Games Team.

"I haven't left the country, to tell you the truth," said the 6-foot-7 forward, who could also play some point guard for the Buckeyes in 2009. "It's different. I'm pretty excited."

Before he makes the trip to Belgrade, Serbia for the 24th World University Games - which will take place July 2-12 - Turner must first secure his spot on the 12-man roster this coming week during team tryouts at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. on June 16-18.

This will be Turner's second trip to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado, as he battles 14 other college players - including four from the Big Ten - for a chance to be included in the final 12 that will accompany Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan on the overseas trip. Among those joining Turner for tryouts this week will be forwards Talor Battle (Penn State), Mike Davis (Illinois) and Deon Thompson (North Carolina), along with both Robbie Hummel and Jajuan Johnson from Purdue.

All that talent is not intimidating to Turner.

"I'm just extremely excited. I can't really say I'm nervous or anything. It's going to be competitive there, so being nervous or being hesitant can get you killed," said Turner, who opted to return to Ohio State for his junior season rather than test the NBA waters. "I'm trying to swim, not sink or anything. I'm just really excited. I was pretty shocked at first, but once it comes to competing and playing, you've got to snap it on and go to work."

Had he chosen to go pro, Turner likely would have been a first round pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. He led the Buckeyes in points, rebounds, assists, minutes and steals last season while playing anywhere from point guard to power forward in just his second go around in Columbus with coach Thad Matta.

Despite all that, and a first team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore, Turner remains humble. In fact, so humble that he needed reassurance from teammate, and team captain, David Lighty that he would be able to make the final roster for Team USA.

"He asked me if he was going to make the team and I said he doesn't have to worry about that at all if he plays his game," said Lighty, who helped guide the USA U19 Team to the silver medal at the World Championships back in 2007.

Along with Lighty, Turner also sought the council of fellow Buckeye hoopster Jantel Lavender, who is in her second stint with Team USA on the women's side.

"She's played with the USA team for the past couple of years and she said to do the little things like rebound and play defense and just play tough and play hard and everything should be all right," Turner said. "That's what I'm going to do, just come in and play my game, do what I've been doing ever since I started playing basketball."

After talking with Lighty and Lavender, along with current OSU teammate Nikola Kecman, who hails from Serbia, Turner knows there will be an adjustment to the international game assuming he does make the team.

"I know they call the games a little bit differently over there," Turner said. "So I guess that's just something I'll have to get used to but I'm not too worried."

As much as that will take some getting used to for Turner, it's not half as intimidating for him as the proposition of trying new, potentially strange, foods during his 10-day stay in Europe.

"The one thing I told him about is the food over there is a little different," Lighty said. "He really doesn't like to eat certain things. He'll go somewhere and just eat four rolls of bread while we're all eating steak or something like that. He's real picky about what he eats."

That could mean a lot of trips to the local McDonald's franchise, which first came to Belgrade back in 1988.


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