Josiah Turner’s exit from UA basketball was no surprise

It wasn’t a really big surprise to hear that Josiah Turner has moved on.  Again.

The talented, young point guard was the first-ever 5-star recruit for University of Arizona‘s head basketball coach, Sean Miller – either during his three years in Tucson or his five prior years at Xavier.  Yesterday, the school announced that Turner has decided to transfer out after he completes this semester’s studies.

This was a prized catch that Miller had hoped would return some of the glory of yesteryear when Arizona was often referred to as Point Guard U.

But, as we are reminded once again, talent is only part of the equation.  Particularly with youngsters fresh out of high school.

It’s often what they do off the court that defines their success in a major college program.

An unsettling nomadic lifestyle has been a pattern for Turner long before he arrived in Tucson.  He bounced around from one prep program to another (See March 17 phxfan article) – generally a result of  dedication and discipline issues.  And now it looks like the pattern continues at the college level.

This time, however, it may be his biggest mistake.  He’s leaving just before the No. 1 recruiting class in the country arrives on campus.  If he had been able to blend his skills with those arriving in the much-heralded Class of 2012, it might have meant some great NCAA Tournament runs to remember when he’s through with the game.

But he would have had to show more than he did last season when he averaged just 6.8 points and 2.8 assists in his 29 opportunities on the floor; his high mark was 15 points against USC.

He worked his way into the starting lineup and wound up starting 17 games.  And next season he would likely have been the starting point guard right out of the chute.

But he was suspended just prior to the Pac-12 Tournament, his second suspension of the season, and the Cats went on to lose to Colorado in the championship game.  He was also not on the floor when the No. 1-seeded Cats suffered a huge first-round upset in the NIT Tournament.

Miller hasn’t made the reasons for either suspension public, but most observers understand the young man was having trouble with his work ethic and didn’t always adhere to the team-first philosophy that’s necessary to win game, let alone titles.

And now, by leaving the program, he will be toting that excess baggage with him when he tries to convince the next head coach that it will be different with him… that his next stop will finally be the last.

This season’s suspensions had to be tough calls for Miller.  Turner had the tools to be a great college player, and maybe some day find some success at the pro level.  He would have helped the Cats regain their national prominence.

Now, Miller is looking at the prospect of getting through next season with plugging someone who isn’t a true point guard into the slot, something he already had to experiment with last season while waiting for his freshman to get his college legs.  The likely choices will again be Jordin Mayes, who would  at least bring some upper-class leadership to the position as a junior, or sophomore-to-be Nick Johnson, who is more comfortable in an off-guard role.

After the last suspension, Miller expressed his disappointment in his point-guard protege.  “Hopefully, Josiah will learn a valuable lesson from this experience,” he said at the time.

Unfortunately, the kid isn’t sticking around to get the full benefit of Miller’s teaching.  He’s off to find a program that will be willing to let him do it his way.

And that may take some doing.