By Bill Paterson
Sacramento High boys basketball star Josiah Turner is a natural.
That's what Mom says, that's seconded by Dragons coach Derek Swafford and that's what a lot of folks think who have watched the 6-foot-3 junior point guard play.
What people may not realize is that The Bee's 2009-2010 Boys Basketball Player of the Year also is a voracious worker.
It's a work ethic he seems born with. When he could barely walk, he already was dribbling a basketball.
Turner never seemed to get enough of the game, whether playing against older kids in an Oak Park league or through the years in AAU events in Northern California and beyond.
"I'd take him to the Bay Area a lot because the competition was tougher," said Doris Ward, his mother, and a former Sac High point guard. "He played against kids who were older. They were a lot more physical. It didn't matter. He was like a fish in water."
It's not just about playing, however.
Turner admits to being a workaholic when it comes to hoops.
He's a 6 o'clock regular most mornings at the Mather Gym, getting in 90 minutes of shooting practice before heading off to school. After school it's conditioning and weight lifting. He hopes to add 14 pounds of muscle to his 177-pound frame by the time school gets out.
"Even though he's got it all, he realizes he's got to put in the work," Swafford said.
Says Ward: "Josiah understands that that there is always someone working when you're not."
After leading Sac High to a 26-7 season, it's second consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section D-III championship and a third straight Northern California championship appearance, Turner is ready for more.
He can't wait for the AAU season to begin, even though the highly recruited player said he hasn't picked a team.
He played last season with the Southern California-based Pump 'N Run, which he said wants him back. But the Oakland Soldiers and Los Angeles-based Team Odom, which features good friends Darius Nelson and Ramon Eaton of Sheldon, also are seeking his services.
Swafford hopes Turner doesn't put all his focus into AAU this offseason.
For a player who already has gotten at least 10 college scholarship offers, Turner needs to fine-tune his academic game and help prepare his Sac High teammates for a state title run next season, says Swafford.
"I don't think he has to go all over the country and play all these different people to be seen," Swafford said. "I think the coaches know who Josiah is."
He also hopes Turner will keep an open mind about college as the calls and offers continue to flood in.
"A D-I basketball factory may not be right for him," Swafford said. "Maybe a smaller program, like a St. Mary's, could be a better fit. You want to surround yourself with people who want the best for you, want you to graduate and get that degree. There are too many horror stories.
"I want him to realize success is how you complete yourself, not how people define you."
Turner hasn't indicated a college preference and isn't likely to make up his mind until after the summer, if even then.
He doesn't want to make his earlier misstep of a premature decision. He verbally committed to Arizona State at the end of his freshman year at Cordova, then rescinded that commitment last summer.
"I was flattered at the time they made the offer, but I realized later it was too early," Turner said.
Turner hasn't ruled out attending Arizona State.
But now it's just one school on a list that is growing longer by the day.
Also on the list, according to Turner: Kansas, Georgia Tech, Arizona, Oregon, USC, Florida International, Marquette, Santa Clara and Southern Methodist, where current teammate Travon Abraham is headed.
Pretty heady stuff for the former little guy - "Josiah didn't really start to grow until the eighth grade," Ward says.
Back in the day, little Josiah would encounter some of his toughest battles against older sister Quanisha, the ex-pitbull of a point guard for Sac High, now playing at Chico State.
"Back then I'd tell Josiah if he could get around her, he could get around anybody in the city," Ward said.