Senior LaToya Turner has been a dependable force for the Buckeyes this season, scoring in double figures in all but a few games, grabbing rebounds, blocking shots and making the mark repeatedly from the charity line. Named the 2000 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Turner led the conference with 12.8 points an outing as a rookie and held the stats across the board for the team. Her sophomore year, Turner left the season midway leading the Buckeyes in points and rebounds and established her career high mark with 37 points in one game. Following a redshirt season, Turner returned last season for a full year, starting in 26 games and leading the team in blocked shots. Turner looks to finish her last season with the Buckeyes strong and to take her game and life to the next level.
When did you start playing basketball?
“I began playing basketball in seventh grade, and not because I really wanted to play, but that coaches and everybody wanted me to try it because of my height and size. I was around 6-feet tall in seventh grade, which was not normal at all. The coaches wanted me to play and go to the camps and try new things. I ended up sticking with it because it became fun after a while and I never wanted to consider myself a quitter. I got to do different things like travel and play against different players and meet new people and make great friends. There was also the excitement that game day brought, and the support from the fans, teammates, coaches and family. Basketball allowed me to step out of my usual environment and eventually gave me the opportunity to come to college on scholarship and play basketball.”
Do you consider yourself a natural athlete?
“I wouldn’t call myself a natural athlete. I think I can catch a lot of things really well. People asked me to try things, so I tried volleyball in high school and soccer in eighth grade, but a lot of it was people using me for my height. They both were fun and enjoyable and I found myself able to compete in both sports.”
How does your family feel about you playing basketball?
“My family came to every one of my games when I was little. Now they try to come as often as they can, but they work and I have two little sisters and a brother. I look for them before each home game to make sure they are there because it’s important to me to know for sure that I have support from my family and that they wish me the best. They also were there for me throughout all of my injuries, which in the end, there were a lot, and always told me to keep my head up. I see them after the game to say ‘hi,’ and my mom and her friends bring me little goody bags. My favorite is lemon cookies, which my mom’s friend, Mr. Rich, makes.”
What do your sisters and brother think of basketball and how do they play a role in your life?
“I have three siblings, a 13-year-old brother, a 14-year-old sister and a 21-year-old sister, all who I feel look up to me and respect me in all the things that I do. They are all great kids with different dreams and love their sister Toya, the basketball player. They think it’s cool to see what I do and it makes me feel good that they look up to me and can come to me for anything.”
How did it feel to finish your senior year at Pickerington High School as 1999 National Champions?
“When we won the 1999 National Championship, it was such a wonderful experience for me. I don’t think I had ever been so happy in my life. Not as many teams got that opportunity and it was great being No. 1. It was also exciting as my last game and I wanted to finish out strong. It’s something I wanted to finish and be proud of and really remember my last year at Pickerington High School.”
You rank second in all-time scoring with 1,720 points in high school. What did you do to become such a great shooter?
“At that time in high school, stats and records didn’t really matter to me. It was always a team effort. We would practice during and after practice on the little things, but I felt I was doing most things on the natural talent I had. When I came to college, I realized I had to work a little harder and build on the skills I brought from high school.”
Did you think you had a different basketball experience than most playing for a school such as Pickerington?
“There was always pressure because everyone expected us to be good and we had to work hard to live up to that potential and live up to that reputation. Everyone was counting on us to win a national championship or state title, but we could still relax and have fun. When I came into college basketball, I felt better prepared to play because I was ready to win and really wanted to win every game. I was on a high school team that was winning and not too many people get the opportunity to be on a national championship team.”
Why did you decide to become a Buckeye?
“I signed with Ohio State before basketball season started my senior year so I could remove the pressure of deciding what school to go to. I got it out of the way so I could concentrate just on basketball my senior year. I was looking at a variety of schools, but Ohio State was at the top of my list because it was close to home. The one thing that was important to me was my family.”
How does it feel playing for a Big Ten school?
“There is a lot of competition and you can feel the tradition when you play. The support is great and it is always exciting.”
Do you see a lot of your Pickerington fans at home games?
“At home games, I see a lot of my Pickerington fans — mostly my high school buddies and a lot of my friends’ parents. I always appreciate seeing them and knowing that they still support me.”
In April of your senior year in high school, you suffered an injury which kept you off the court for 10 months. How did you react to the injury?
“I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) at an All-American game and had 10 months of rehab before I could play again. It was kind of depressing because I was going into my freshman year of college and wanted to be ready, but I had to step back and rehab and still try to learn what college was all about. I never had a serious injury before that, so it was kind of shocking to me and I didn’t know what to expect. I also was overwhelmed because all I wanted to do was play, and instead, I had to take 10 months off.”
What motivated you to get back into the game?
“Former Buckeye Jamie Lewis tore her ACL once, and then again at the same time I tore my ACL. So she knew what to expect and she pushed me to get back. She motivated me to work hard and come back and keep my head up. As a freshman, you can get discouraged really easily, but she kept me going. It took the spring, summer, and through the fifth game of the season for me to get back, but I was motivated and wanted to come back strong.”
How did it feel to step out on the court for the first time your freshman year?
“I was very nervous and excited at the same time. It was my first college game and I was coming off a knee injury and unsure if I was 100 percent. It seemed a little overwhelming at the time, but I went out there, put away all those feelings and just played.”
How did you balance basketball and school work as a freshman?
“I had two things to focus on. It was my first real experience in college academics and my first real experience in college athletics. I had to decide if I really wanted to play basketball, and if I did, I needed to take time for my school work and put time into it. And that’s what I did. If you take care of the things you need to, everything else will fall into place. That’s something that I found at first difficult to balance, but it became easier as time when on.”
You began your sophomore year as a leading scorer for the team, averaging 17.8 points per game and 6.6 rebounds. What was your reaction to missing the rest of the season after re-injuring your knee at the Michigan State game and redshirting the next season?
“It was kind of stressful, but I had been through it before and I knew I wanted to play, so all I cared about was getting my knee better. I thought it was important and if I wanted to play basketball the rest of my career here, then I needed to take care of my body. I rehabbed harder and listened to the trainers tell me when I could and couldn’t play. I missed playing basketball, but I really couldn’t dwell on it. I attended practice, traveled and attended rehab. The only thing I didn’t do on the team was play. It meant a lot for me to be with the team and to be there for the team in other ways. You can see a lot of things from the side, so I gave people tips and learned a lot of things for my own game. I kept other people motivated to work hard and to play every second like it is their last.”
You started 26 games and averaged 26.7 minutes per game last season. How did you feel starting strong and getting back on the court?
“It was exciting. I hadn’t played a full season of college basketball yet and it was great to start a new season healthy and feeling good and positive. I wasn’t worried about getting hurt again because if you get paranoid about getting injured, that is when you get injured. You put away those fears and just get out on the court and play. You just can’t prevent an injury when it comes down to it.”
How did your game change last year?
“I think I was having more fun and I was excited to be out there playing. Coming back from a redshirt season, I was cherishing every moment because I didn’t know when my knee would give out next. Playing a full season I got to do a lot more things that I couldn’t do in previous years. Working on stepping-away from the block, facing up, shooting more from the outside, allowing other people to bust in and moving in on offense instead of staying in one spot, are just a few things I got to work on that made me a more confident player.”
What other hobbies do you have outside of basketball?
“I enjoy drawing, hanging out, watching movies and just kickin’ it. I hate to paint but I like to use charcoal and pencil drawings to draw landscape, people, cartoons or just about anything. It’s kind of like a journal for me and can also be a stress reliever.”
What do you do during your summers?
“I play pick up every once in a while outside with the guys. At first, the guys I play against try to give me a break and let me play, but when I start to really play they realize they don’t have to take it easy on me. It’s very helpful over the summer to play outside on the court. I also try to visit friends I haven’t seen in a long time, go out, and have fun, and just relax.”
What would you like to do with your art major?
“I’m hoping to go into art therapy. It’s another form of counseling where you can help people solve their problems through art, instead of talking. Some people feel more comfortable drawing, and you can read that art.”
What goals have you set for your final season with the Buckeyes and what do you see as the team’s strengths this year?
“Overall, I just want to finish out strong. We are a very versatile team and have a lot of young talent. I see a big future ahead for the younger players and I hope to finish this season playing our best and making it to the next level. As for me, I want to play strong enough to maybe be able to go pro.”