By Rubin E. Grant
Colin Turner let his emotions get the best of him following a poor play during his first two seasons on the Spain Park boys basketball team.
“If he made a mistake, he would let it affect the next play and the next play and the play after that,” Spain Park coach Chris Laatsch said. “He couldn’t get out of his own way.”
Turner acknowledged his coach’s assessment of his emotional struggles.
“He was not kidding,” Turner said. “My freshman and sophomore years were really bad with my emotions on the court.”
Laatsch finally convinced Turner that he had to put any mistake behind him and just keep playing.
“He persistently told me I had to go on to the next play and flush any bad thoughts I had,” Turner said.
Now a seasoned senior, the 6-foot-9 Turner keeps his emotions in check and just makes plays.
On Monday, Turner scored 25 points, sinking 9-of-12 shots from the field and 7-of-7 free throws, and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Jaguars (26-7) to a 60-51 victory over Huntsville (23-11) in the Class 7A Northeast Regional championship game at Jacksonville State’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Josh Harrington added 15 points as Spain Park earned its second consecutive berth in the state tournament, which will be played next week at Birmingham’s Legacy Arena.
Turner was selected the 7A regional MVP. He scored 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field with a few dunks sprinkled in and collected nine rebounds while leading the Jaguars to a 59-46 victory against Sparkman in the regional semifinals last week.The Panthers routed Vestavia Hills 70-42 in the regional semifinals. Win Miller scored 18 points and Reese Gurner 11 to lead the Rebels, who finished with a 25-5 record.
After watching Turner mature, Laatsch now raves about his demeanor.
“He’s an absolutely great young man,” Laatsch said. “His freshman year was the first year I worked with him, and he’s matured since then. He doesn’t get rattled. He’s a hard worker, a great leader and a real pleasure to coach.”
Turner went into the regional final scoring 18.3 points per game while shooting a blistering 68.0 percent on 2-point field goal attempts and 75.0 percent from the free-throw line this season. He also was averaging 10.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
“I think I have had a really good season,” Turner said. “It’s the best basketball I’ve played throughout my career. It’s been a dream come true. I got my commitment out of the way early so I could just worry about making sure I did what I needed to do to help our team win a state championship.”
Turner committed to the University of North Georgia last fall and signed earlier this month.
“Early on they showed they really wanted me while a lot of other schools were waiting to see me play my senior year,” Turner said. “I felt good about that.
“I went to visit last summer and it’s a great place with a nice campus. Plus they have great coaches.”
Laatsch believes Turner will flourish at North Georgia.
“They are getting a guy with a high ceiling who is hungry to be the best he can be,” Laatsch said. “He can play with his back to the basket, and he has improved as a three-point shooter, and he can put the ball on the floor. We used him some to break the press against Sparkman.”
Before he heads off to North Georgia, Turner was hoping to get the Jags back into the Final Four next week at Birmingham’s Legacy Arena. Spain Park reached the state tournament last year but suffered a heartbreaking 57-56 semifinal loss in double overtime to Enterprise on a putback at the buzzer at Bartow Arena.
Turner was elated that the Jags had put themselves in position to reach the state tournament again.
“Last year we had eight seniors who graduated, so coming into this season a lot of people didn’t think we would be that good,” Turner said. “We have had an enjoyable experience proving people wrong.”