A third of the way through the regular season, Arizona Wildcats freshman point guard Josiah Turner hasn’t always made a positive first impression.
He lost his starting job after the first game, was benched for the third game, suspended for the ninth. He’s not, as some in the NBA Draft projection business extolled in the summer, headed to the NBA after one season.
Amid the rocky start, Turner was back on the court Saturday as the Wildcats defeated Clemson 63-47, the latest step in his adjustment to college basketball, to college life.
This does not appear headed to the same kind of case where freshman big man Sidiki Johnson was suspended indefinitely before deciding to transfer at the semester break.
Turner is a key part to any kind of success the Cats will have late in the season, and coach Sean Miller sounds like he still has faith that could happen.
“When you suspend a guy, sometimes unfairly he is put into a category that he’s a malcontent or a bad kid,” Miller said. “Josiah Turner is neither.”
Turner played 17 minutes against Clemson, scoring six points with five rebounds. On the other hand, he had five turnovers and only one assist — although it was a beauty, leaving a bounce pass to a trailing Nick Johnson on a fast break. Johnson finished with a two-handed dunk.
“I think you can see what he is capable of moving forward. It’s exciting,” Miller said.
“He’s had a great attitude over the last two or three days, which is really telling in that he wants to do this, wants to be here. More importantly, it’s him understanding that it’s nothing against him; we’re just trying to help him.”
Turner has not been the immediate impact point guard that everybody hoped for, that Arizona craved, after losing MoMo Jones to a transfer.
He is averaging 7.1 points, 1.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds. He isn’t a 3-point threat, hitting just 2 of 14. He sometimes has trouble finishing drives after he gets into the lane.
But his presence allows Miller to split the point guard position between Turner and sophomore Jordin Mayes, allowing Johnson to thrive at the shooting guard position, his natural spot.
“As long as Josiah and Jordin are a part of what we’re doing, Nick is going to be best off the ball,” Miller said.
Junior forward Solomon Hill, one of the team’s leaders, admitted that “Josiah threw us for a loop” when he was suspended for the Florida game.
“You see how much more fluid the offense is when Josiah is there,” Hill said.
Hill said talked to Turner even before the Florida game about what is at stake this season.
“Just to say, ‘We’re trying to do something big here, and for you to be a part of it, you have to change some daily habits — maybe wake up and get to a class on time or maybe come to a practice and get ready.’
“I think he’s buying into it now.”
Miller, too, sounded upbeat.
“I hope that not playing in the Florida game does nothing but inspire him, get him on the right track,” Miller said. “And I hope that together we never look back.”