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January 15, 2013

Former IU star set to coach Lady Scots

Turner arrives to inspire Highland seventh-graders

ANDERSON, Ind. — When Garry Courter first told his seventh-grade Highland girls basketball players a story about Landon Turner, he saw the blank stares on their faces.

So he gave them all a homework assignment. Log on to Google, or whatever other means available, and find out who Turner is.

“Is he famous?” one of the players asked in response.

“I guess we’re gonna find out,” Courter replied.

Today, the Lady Scots will meet Turner in the flesh.

The starting power forward for Indiana University’s 1981 men’s basketball national championship team, he was inducted into the Hoosiers’ athletic hall of fame on Nov. 2.

Turner also was a part of an NIT championship team at IU in 1979 and Big Ten title teams in 1980 and ’81. He was the MVP of the regional final and the national semifinal and was named to the NCAA’s all-tournament team during the national title run.

Turner has been lauded as inspirational and courageous, and Bob Knight himself wrote a letter praising his former star that was read during Turner’s hall of fame induction ceremony in Bloomington.

He won the United States Basketball Writers “Most Courageous” award in 1989.

And he also happens to be paralyzed.

Turner was in a car accident four months after becoming a national champion, and he lost the use of his legs. He’s since written a book and become a motivational speaker.

Courter befriended Turner years ago and regularly attends IU basketball and Indianapolis Colts games with him.

He asked Turner to come and speak with his Highland team today as an example of perseverance. Turner will serve as honorary coach of the Lady Scots during their game against Anderson Prep at 5 p.m. at Fuller Memorial Gymnasium.

Courter knows he’ll provide the same inspiration to the players he’s provided for nearly everyone who’s crossed his path.

Turner makes no concessions to his handicap. He pulls himself into and out of his own car, which he drives, and he even declined to allow Courter to open the door for him when the two first met.

Turner has built a basketball court in his home and gets regular work on it. He likes to say he had three choices after the accident — Quit, give up or continue to live.

He chose to live.

“I was amazed,” Courter said of watching Turner in his daily life. “I couldn’t do what he did.”

Turner had two big questions for Courter when he accepted the invitation to Highland: Do you run a pressure defense, and where are you going to sit during the game?

The answers: Yes, and right down at the opposite end of the bench.

Turner’s hall of fame candidacy was championed by Hoosiers men’s basketball coach Tom Crean, and he remains involved with the program. It’s not unusual for him to be in the locker room before and after home games, and he’s even led the pregame prayer.

When IU comes onto the court at Assembly Hall, Turner often can be seen near the tunnel high-fiving each player as he runs by.

If there’s one thing Courter hopes his players take away from their time with Turner today, it’s that they shouldn’t ever let others determine their limits.

“He’s handicapped by his wheelchair,” Courter said of his friend, “but by nothing else.”

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