Turner leading the way for Danville

Published 3:10 pm Sunday, January 14, 2018

If Ivy Turner wasn’t who she is, Clifford Berry wouldn’t be her coach.

Turner is the most valuable player on the Danville girls’ roster and one of the most productive players in Kentucky, and she is one of the biggest reasons why Berry became the Admirals’ coach last summer.

“She is the biggest piece for us, and if I’m being honest, she’s one of the biggest reasons I took the job,” Berry said.

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It wasn’t just that Berry wanted to work with someone of Turner’s talent level, though that would be attractive to any prospective coach. The first-year coach said the junior guard has other qualities that impressed him even more.

“I’ve been around her for a few years, and she’s just a heck of a kid,” Berry said. “Then to see how hard she works to become a great basketball player, that’s what I want to coach. It’s tough to coach kids that just want to go through the motions, that think they’re entitled.”

Turner is one of the top scorers in the state, having produced 30 percent of Danville’s points this season and 42 percent of the points in the 11 games she has played.

She missed five games due to a health issue before returning to the lineup Tuesday, when her percentage of the Admirals’ point production was significantly higher. She scored 34 points in a loss to Boyle County, leading the way as Danville rallied from a 20-point deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter before the Admirals fell 76-70.

Yet Berry said it is Turner’s selfless play that makes her stand out.

“This is probably one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever been around, and obviously one of the best players on the floor,” he said. “You want to have kids like that around, and then when you’ve got young players around her like (we have), she can teach them how to play, how to carry themselves on the floor, how to be a good basketball player.”

Turner said she knows that’s an important role for her now that she’s an upperclassman – one of only five on the 15-person roster – and the most experienced player on her team.

“I’m just trying to be a leader,” Turner said. “Whatever I do, they’re watching. If they see me upset, they’re going to get more upset. I just want to be a leader and communicate on the floor.”

Being a vocal leader doesn’t come naturally to Turner, and Berry is well aware of that.

He’s watched me play. He knows I don’t do too much talking on the court,” Turner said. “All the coaches want me to be more vocal and communicate more.”

As for the other qualities of leadership, that hasn’t been a problem. Turner is one of the last links to the golden age of Danville girls’ basketball,

She played in 27 games as an eighth-grader in 2014-15 for a team that was coming off a 12th Region championship the previous season and that went 20-7 that winter. She learned how to lead from talented players such as Cameron McPherson and Alyvia Walker during her first three years on the squad.

“I watched all of them. Practicing and playing with them, I just picked it up,” she said.

Being on the court with older players was nothing new for Turner, who said she first realized she might be pretty good at the game when she was moved up to Bate Middle School’s eighth-grade team as a fifth-grader.

She said she also gained a tremendous amount of confidence by getting so much varsity playing time before she even got to high school.

“It’s helped me a lot to be confident, doing what the other players are doing, regardless of what the other players are doing, just going out and doing the same things they were doing,” she said.

That included filling up the basket. Turner averaged 9.1 points per game as an eighth-grader, was second on the team as a freshman with 15.9 points and led the team as a sophomore at 19.6.

She reached the 1,000-point mark last year, and she needs only 41 points to reach 1,500 for her career. She is averaging a team-best 25.9 points this season, and she is shooting 52 percent from the field.

She has scored more than 30 points in five of her 11 games, including a career-high 37 in a Dec. 21 game against Western Hills.

Everyone who has watched Danville – including its opponents – knows Turner is at her best on offense when she looks for an opening into the lane and tries to beat defenders off the dribble.

She has been working on other options, including an outside shot.

“Coach Berry has helped me with my form, keeping my arm in,” she said.

Turner said she is also working harder to see the entire floor and to find open teammates – and teammates are often open when opponents collapse on her.

“She will make the extra pass, even though she could go to the basket any time she wanted to. She looks for the open person,” Berry said.

Berry said Turner’s work habits are both an example for her teammates and a tremendous asset for her.

“Every day she’s the first one on the floor and the last one to leave,” he said. “Coaches pay attention more to that stuff than anything, and if you want to develop, I’ll stay an hour extra with you. That’s what we see out of her every day, her work ethic.”

All of that work is intended to bring Turner closer to her goal of becoming a Division I player. Berry said she has one thing working against her – “unless somebody has a magic pill to make her grow” – but she has so much going for her.

“I think she’s got a lot of pieces,” the Danville coach said. “I tell a lot of coaches that call about her, ‘She has more heart than any player I’ve ever seen, so she’s going to make up for a lot of what she lacks in size.

Now she can back you off and she can pull up and shoot, and she’s a great facilitator. She’s going to get the ball to people who can score. The more she proves that she’s willing to rebound the ball, that she’ll attack and that she can guard bigger guards, I think she’ll prove to the college coaches that she’s ready for the Division I level.”