Jan. 28, 2010
By Matt Winter
SEATTLE - Like father, like son. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Following in Dad's footsteps. Many phrases and sayings have been used to describe a son who takes after his father. While most fathers are lawyers or businessmen or mechanics or firefighters, Husky sophomore Elston Turner, Jr.'s dad does something most kids would want to follow: play and coach in the NBA.
So, when it comes to the Turner family business, that business is basketball. Elston Turner, Sr. was a second round pick out of Ole Miss by the Dallas Mavericks in 1981. He played eight years in the NBA averaging 4.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. Mainly a defensive stopper, Senior's best season came his rookie year when he started 62 games and averaged 8.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. He also played parts of five years in the CBA and in Europe after his NBA career was over.
When his career was over, Elston, Sr. went right in to coaching. He spent four years as an assistant with the Portland Trailblazers, then six with the Sacramento Kings (including two as lead assistant), and now is currently the top assistant for the Houston Rockets under coach Rick Adelman. Twice he has come close to getting a head coaching job--he interviewed for the Suns and Timberwolves vacancies in the last couple years.
All that playing and coaching experience has got to rub off on your son, right?
"My dad has taught me pretty much everything I know since I was two or three years old," Elston, Jr. says, "and I think that's one of the reasons that I have a pretty good basketball I.Q. I don't make that many mistakes because he taught me everything and because he knows the game so well I think it's rubbing off on me."
You don't have to look far to see the similarities between the two players. They are both right around 6'4" or 6'5" and play shooting guard. However, while Senior's specialty was always on the defensive end, Junior is quite the shooter. The younger Turner was a top-100 national recruit coming out of high school and a first-team all-state selection after leading Elkins High School in Missouri City, Texas to a 31-4 record. His first three high school seasons were spent at Roseville High School near Sacramento (when Senior was coaching with the Kings), where as a junior he averaged 22.4 points and 7.5 rebounds.
"In eighth grade, I was playing the four because I was the tallest person on the team," Turner, Jr. explains. "My varsity high school coach freshman year asked me to play point guard, which I'd never done, but I knew I could because my dad taught me everything. All throughout high school I played that position."
This turned out to be a huge advantage. First off, Junior never grew taller than 6'4," which would have made playing the post impossible past high school. Secondly, Turner was playing the two and the three for his AAU team, giving him plenty of experience and developing a broad set of skills.
"I think that just shows the versatility that my dad taught me because I could play any position on the floor."
That versatility stems from a history of being around some of the best players in the world. Elston, Sr. made his living coaching NBA players, so there were definitely some perks in Junior's basketball development. He remembers one time when he was in eighth grade and Senior was coaching the Kings. Senior brought Junior to practice and was having him do some workouts with the team. After going through a workout with then-Kings guard Bobby Jackson, the younger Turner's perspective on basketball changed.
"Me and Bobby were going at it, we were doing cone drills, a little one-on-one stuff, and I think that's when I got my confidence," Elston remembers. "I just felt like if I could do this with NBA players, I could do it with anybody."
Then high school came. If there's anything that will get you ready to change from a forward to a point guard, it's going through a few workouts with Bobby Jackson. It was around this time that Turner discovered his skill and embraced his role as an outside shooter. By the time the family moved to Texas so Senior could join the Rockets coaching staff, Elston Turner, Jr. was a scoring machine. He earned second-team all-conference honors his junior year at Roseville, then took his skills to Elkins where he became one of the state's best players.
After attracting offers from Georgetown, Marquette, Tennessee, and USC, Turner, Jr. chose to come play for Washington. Romar's recruiting class also included Isaiah Thomas, Scott Suggs, and Tyreese Breshers. Since joining the Huskies, Turner has looked great at times but has struggled with consistency and has yet to really find his stroke. As a freshman he played in 30 games, averaging 3.6 points while shooting a solid 36.8% from the three-point line (25-68). His strongest game came in an early-season loss to #24 Kansas (the eventual national champions) in which he hit three three-pointers and scored 11 points.
Lately, Turner may be showing his best stuff. In the Huskies' win over Seattle University, he scored a career-high 20 points and hit 4-of-6 from behind the three-point arc. One of the main reasons the Huskies need Turner's shooting down the stretch is the fact that almost every team will play zone against Romar's fast paced offense.
"Really it doesn't really change from when they play man [defense]," Junior says of playing against a zone. "On the court my job is to make shots and make things happen on the offensive end. If they're going to play zone thinking that we don't have that many shooters, it's my job to make them pay for it."
Make no mistake, just because Junior is playing in Seattle and Senior is coaching in Houston, the Father-Son coaching has not ceased. Dad is constantly providing support like any father would, but in this case the dad is somewhat of an expert on hoops.
"Keep our heads up," says Junior about what Senior has told him through the early season struggles. "He knows we're a good team, I know we're a good team. From the individual standpoint, he tells me to be more aggressive--make it easier for Quincy [Pondexter] and Isaiah [Thomas] to stretch out the defense a little."
Wise words from an experienced basketball mind. All the time, we see the sons and daughters of great athletes excel on their own--Peyton and Eli Manning, Ken Griffey, Barry Bonds, Luke Walton. The reason does not lie solely in genetics; it's rather a combination of nature and nurture.
"Watching him coach other NBA players and having a relationship with a lot of the players," Elston says of his early experiences with his dad, "A lot of them [taught] me things they went through. I think now that I'm older I'm starting to understand it a little more, and using it to my advantage."
Only a sophomore, Turner still has time hone those skills and experiences and turn into a star of the Pac-10. Someday, hopefully he'll find himself playing against Elston, Sr. in the NBA.