There was a brief moment when all of 6-foot-7 forward Anye Turner's pent-up aggression erupted on the court during No. 19 WWU's loss to Seattle Pacific last Wednesday, Jan. 15.
Forward Colby Mitchell made a lead pass off a fast break to a wide open Turner who threw down a violent two-handed slam before letting out a ferocious yell.
These are Turner's animated moments coach Tony Dominguez and the Vikings relish.
But for Turner, letting his play speak for itself contrasts his old ways. He admits he hasn't always provided a flattering reputation for himself.
"I think the main source of all my troubles and things were a lack of self control," Turner said. "I'm getting older and learning about sacrifices and things like that."
Dominguez said, this year, Turner has made a complete 180. His positive attitude has matched his stellar play.
Turner, who came to Western last year as a highly-touted recruit from South Puget Sound Community College, is averaging 10.5 points per game and 8.3 rebounds and has helped the nationally-ranked Vikings compile a 10-4 record.
Last season Turner contributed 4.2 points off the bench, giving Western a nice spark as an athletic defensive presence.
His frustration also boiled over at times.
"I think he's a hot-headed guy," Dominguez said. "He can snap in a second mentally. There are a lot of people like that, and he's learning to control himself. He's learning not to overreact to scenarios."
Turner is an impressive athlete. He has an enormous wingspan and is often found during pregame going dunk for dunk with teammate Austin Bragg. He led the NWAACC with 11.9 rebounds per game during his only year at SPSCC and was a prize recruit for Dominguez, which makes one wonder why he didn't at least go Division II out of Black Hills High School in Olympia.
The answer: His on-court production stood out as much as his lack of self control.
"I would literally just walk out of gyms mid-game," Turner said. "I would just walk out, and that was my self control. That was me controlling myself, by walking out of the gym. But obviously you can't just leave."
Western has always been a school that's prided itself in recruiting not only strong athletes, but superior student-athletes with good character.
Adding Turner to Western's roster, at the time, was a gamble.
"We heard a lot of negative," said Dominguez of the contacts he talked to regarding Turner's reputation. "I knew his AAU coach through Brad Jackson. He just kind of vouched for him that he was turning the corner. Last year he had his moments. We were a little nervous and didn't know if he'd make it or not. It was survival. And then this year, he has been great."
WWU wasn't Turner's only option after his first year at South Puget Sound. His hometown University, Saint Martin's, was also actively pursuing, but Turner said he yearned to get out and wanted to play for a top-caliber school. He developed a strong relationship with Dominguez, and getting the chance to play for a national champion sealed his decision.
Turner's maturation process has been slow-growing. When asked, Turner believed his turning point came toward the end of his senior year when his chance to compete for a triple jump state title was taken away due to a spat with a teacher.
Turner got removed from the class and wasn't able to compete in a track meet, which was a pipeline to the state meet.
"I was kind of messing around that semester, but I did track and that was the only thing that was really important to me, and I was really focusing on it," Turner said. "I stopped doing other things just to focus on it because I was actually successful."
Dominguez said Turner's AAU coach told him he was really good with kids. Tuner had helped coached his old AAU team his first year out of high school and was active in working summer camps.
"I kind of knew he had it in him," Dominguez said of Turner. "He just had to control his temper."
Dominguez's intuition has come true this winter. He decided to make Turner a team co-captain with Bragg, and senior guards Richard Woodworth and Dane Thorpe.
Not only does Turner's high-energy play ignite his teammates, his contagious, positive attitude does also.
"He's a very passionate player," Dominguez said. "He just plays with a lot of energy and heart. It's infectious with the other guys. ... Being a captain, he's had to not be the guy who is always upset. I think it's helped a lot."
Turner's leadership role couldn't be more different than last year when he was simply trying to fit in and not disrupt a championship roster filled with established leaders.
He's one of the more experienced players this season and has been relied on to guide many new players who aren't used to playing in front of 2,500 people.
"It has meant a lot to me," Turner said. "I'm honored to get that responsibility; that coach has that trust in me knowing my past and everything. It's definitely a big responsibility to try to lead and try to set a standard and create a culture of hard work everyday."
Turner admits his basketball career has been a wild ride, but he couldn't be more thrilled with how he's developed as a player and a person.
"It's been crazy, I'll tell you," he said. "It's kind of cliché and corny to say, but it'd be hard to imagine where I could be. To be at this school; this is one of the best schools in the state and I've met some great people. We have one of the best teams in the nation. I'm very happy right now."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
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