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Northwestern men’s basketball player previews: F A.J. Turner

The junior transfer will be relied on to defend and shoot the three, and may have to extend his role further than he has in the past.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Who he is:

Redshirt junior; small forward; 6-foot-7; 188 pounds; Mount Clemens, Mich.; transfer from Boston College

2016-2017 review:

As a transfer, Turner was forced to sit out all of last season, so his most recent in-game action was during his sophomore season at Boston College. He showed vast improvement over his freshman campaign: though he averaged just 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game, he improved his three-point percentage from 26 percent to 37.4 percent. He didn’t get much usage offensively, but largely thanks to his defensive skill, he ranked second on the team in minutes played, becoming a relatively reliable role-player for what was an atrocious Eagles team. After the squad finished 9-23, Turner took off for Evanston. Surprisingly, in his redshirt year he seemingly gained no weight. He was listed at 188 at BC as well, and even dropped two pounds from his freshman-year weight of 190.


As mentioned above, Turner is a prototypical 3-and-D wing. But one non-shooting stat does stick out: his turnover rate. Despite playing on one of the most turnover-prone teams in the nation, Turner turned it over on just 13.1 percent of his possessions. Though that number is slightly artificially deflated by his identity as a shooter, Turner still did a good job of holding onto the ball. For context, only Scottie Lindsey (12.6 percent) was below Turner via the same measure for the Wildcats last season (out of those who played >40% of the team’s minutes). So in addition to shooting and defending, ball security can be classified as a strength for Turner.


Typically, somebody who shot as many threes as Turner did last year compared to twos (131-98) struggles from inside the arc. But he put in a respectable 49 percent of his two-point attempts. Turner’s offensive weaknesses lie elsewhere. Namely, he has struggled in the past with free throws, shooting just 67.5 percent his sophomore year. More generally, Turner has never really been able to create consistently off of the dribble, which is non-ideal but shouldn’t be something he’s asked to do too much of. As a skinnier player, he also can struggle to guard bigger forwards, though he is quick enough to stay with small guards. The weaknesses currently present in Turner’s game seem minor, but as he is asked to do more and more over the next two seasons they should become more prevalent.


Turner is not going to be an immediate game-changer for this program, but he should fit in nicely as a valuable and dependable role player. He adds shooting, relative length, and solid defense, three things that this Northwestern team can certainly use. In the absence of a true starting point guard, Turner’s name has been bandied about for the lead guard role. His ball security bears that out, but he probably won’t be able to attack like a true point guard, and definitely will take some time to grow into the role. But the junior will almost certainly be a consistent starter in his final two years of eligibility, and if he remains dependable, avoiding significant slumps or turnover-prone moments he should help this team win. Turner is just another piece to the puzzle, but he has the potential to be an important one.