UPDATE: Turner suspension learning experience for player and Arizona coachby Javier Morales on Mar. 08, 2012, under Sports
Javier Morales is a former first-place award winner in the Arizona Press Club’s Metro Sports Reporting category. Please visit his Web site at WILDABOUTAZCATS.net
Twice suspended and three times disciplined, and Josiah Turner‘s freshman season is not even over yet, or is it?
His season may be over because Arizona coach Sean Miller suspended him indefinitely, according to the school. The Wildcats play today in the Pac-12 tournament against UCLA in Los Angeles. If they lose, they are likely bound for the NIT. An indifferent Arizona team might only last one game in that secondary tournament.
My hope is that Miller stand firm with this indefinite suspension and prevent Turner from returning this season. Turner should not return until it becomes obvious and sincere that the young man is remorseful and ready to grow up. Miller should not open the door for Turner simply because he needs the highly-touted point guard for victories on the court.
If Miller caves in and thinks of wins more than setting the right example, it will fall in line with the mentality that has allowed Turner and many other players to become wayward. It’s that AAU mentality of caring only about a player’s raw skills rather than the makeup of the player’s character. Some of its coaches are viewed as street agents.
“College sports are no longer for pleasure; it’s a business that must meet the supply and demand of the high rollers and overzealous benefactors who have no idea of the pressure of the student-athlete,” high school counselor Julius Holt, a football letterman at Arizona from 1981-83, commented on my personal Facebook site last night.
“(That) is a shame because the innocence and purity of college athletics is no longer present. Athletes are considered great way too early and some haven’t even proven that they’re good, but we praise them as a star.”
The Catch-22 of these AAU summer leagues is that while they prepare the athlete for the rigors of travel and playing against top-notch opposition, they also create self-centered players who think they can play in the NBA after only one college season. An education to them is far from a priority.
These players behave the same as before they came to college — they do not grow up — because they were successful before with these bad personal habits. They think they can ask, “If it’s worked before, why can’t it now? I’ll be gone before too long any way.”
We have seen college basketball erode because of this mentality. Look at the number of suspensions and dismissals of some of the players this season.
Arizona is a prime example with Turner now suspended twice for violation of team rules. He also sat two games for being late to the team’s shootaround. Another freshman, Sidiki Johnson, did not last more than a month before transferring after receiving a suspension for violation of team policy.
The Pac-12 has been rocked by other suspensions, none more than UCLA’s Reeves Nelson, who was kicked off the team by coach Ben Howland because of behavioral issues. In January, two standouts were dismissed — Utah leading scorer Josh “Jiggy” Watkins by coach Larry Krystowiak and ASU’s Keala King, who is one of the most heralded recruits in the Herb Sendek era.
Alabama coach Anthony Grant suspended his four best players, including one permanently for the remainder of the season, because they violated team policy. Late-season suspensions have also been levied at Purdue and Miami.
Players involved in an ugly brawl between Xavier, Miller’s previous coaching stop, and Cincinnati were also suspended.
Suspensions occur every year but not at this alarming rate.
Arizona’s recruiting process under Lute Olson, especially in the first 18 years of his 25-year run with the Wildcats, included the premise of landing quality character guys to go with their talent. We all know the story of Olson’s late wife Bobbi having a say on whether the player was a good fit because of his character.
The Olsons and the existing players would vote on the personality of the prospect to determine whether the coaching staff should sign him after the official recruiting visit.
That process sadly came to an end after Arizona’s last Final Four appearance, which was 11 long years ago. Bobbi Olson died from ovarian cancer that year in 2001. As she went, so did some of the Wildcats’ wholesome values during the recruiting process. Her famous apple pancakes were no longer part of the recruiting pitch.
That time also coincided with the evolution of AAU basketball and its increasing impact on college basketball and the recruiting process.
“Some of these damn (AAU) coaches working with these kids are in it for all the wrong reasons,” Holt writes. “I keep a close watch on my son’s academic and athletic progress and he’s pretty good at 6-2, 250 and only in the 8th grade and heading to Salpointe Catholic for academics to get in college.
“He will play football. However, I’m always reminding him that you need to keep things in perspective and treat athletics as a hobby and an opportunity.”
The players are becoming worse in this “Me Generation” and the coaches are no better. They sacrifice character for victories. As Miller is experiencing with Sidiki Johnson and now Turner, that win-at-all-cost or see-what-happens mentality can come back to bite the coach.
Johnson was kicked off the Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy team last year because of violation of team policy. Turner left his high school in Sacramento midway through his senior year to enroll at the Quality Education Academy in North Carolina, an institution the NCAA investigated concerning its qualifying curriculum.
This begs the question: Is attracting questionable character guys unavoidable for Miller, Howland and their colleagues in today’s climate? Perhaps this is a development in college basketball we should accept because the AAU influence, and the street agents that go with it, will not subside.
Miller should at least learn from this as he targets highly-touted prospects in the future.
This is an indictment on the NCAA for allowing the AAU to impact the recruiting process and create today’s breed of players who believe they can do no wrong.
Turner is not a bad seed. He is just part of the today’s failing process. A true test of his character will be how he responds from this situation. He has been disciplined twice before, so this certainly does not bode well.