A year ago, Josiah Turner was well on his way to a million-dollar basketball career and, in all likelihood, had never heard of the Halifax Rainmen.
Just 19 years old and fresh out of high school, he was a prized recruit of the Arizona Wildcats and arrived on campus in Tuscon amid much fanfare.
Considered one of the top young point guards in the United States and ranked as a top-20 pick for the 2012 NBA draft by multiple publications, he even found himself part of the video game NBA2K12 as a featured prospect.
But the six-foot-three Sacramento, Calif., native’s fame and promise at a school that had just made it to the NCAA’s Elite Eight brought with it many temptations. He started making mistakes.
“It was my first year in college and I couldn’t control all the girls and the parties and everything that was going on with that,” Turner recalls. “I was just a young man.”
His on-court performance suffered. His draft rankings plummeted. By March of this year, his disciplinary problems led to a season-ending suspension for violating Wildcats’ team rules. A month later, he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.
“It was little kid problems,” says Turner, who averaged just 6.8 points and 2.4 assists during his 29 games at Arizona.
Little kid problems that cost him big. He didn’t get picked in the NBA draft and is now starting from scratch as a professional with the Rainmen.
His biggest challenge isn’t on the court. If he’s as talented as many once believed, he’ll be an instant star in the National Basketball League of Canada when the season opens in November despite being one of its youngest players at age 20.
It’s off the court where he readily admits things need to change.
“I’m looking for a place to come to be my home, to stay out of trouble, and to pursue my pro career,” Turner says. “This is about me being a young man, me being more mature, and me just staying out of trouble, really.”
Rainmen owner Andre Levingston has had his share of reclamation projects over the years — some successful, some that didn’t last more than a week — and says he’s taking Turner under his wing.
“I already told him, if I hear even a rumour of him doing something wrong, I’m going to move him into my house and he gonna sleep in the spare bedroom,” says Levingston, with the tone of a stern father.
Levingston isn’t the only one still holding out hope for Turner.
Larry Brown, an NBA coaching legend, made Turner one of his first recruits via transfer after taking over as head coach at Southern Methodist in May, although Turner later decided college was no longer the right fit for him.
The Toronto Raptors, in Halifax for training camp, sent a scout over to Mount Saint Vincent University to watch him practise this week.
“He’s a good kid, man,” says Levingston. “He’s just made some bad decisions along the way and they’ve cost him. We want to make sure he makes smart decisions. We’re gonna help him out.”