Completely invested, Miller puts foot down with Josiah Turner

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Deville Smith #33 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs drives the ball against Josiah Turner #11 of the Arizona WIldcats during the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches Vs Cancer at Madison Square Garden on November 18, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Josiah Turner has been given all the chances in the world.

It has little to do with what's been going on the court, though that itself might lend evidence that things weren't going the right way off of it.

His overall basketball talent and the playing time given to him through mistakes aside, the Arizona Wildcats' freshman point guard keeps blowing opportunity after opportunity afforded to him by coach Sean Miller. While we don't know the exact specifics of his off-court problems, it's clear in Miller's statements that it's simply come down to a guy who's putting himself before the team.

After all, Turner was suspended for a half of basketball against Duquesne. Then, likely for the same disciplinary action, he missed the entire Florida game. Finally, after failing to do something right, he missed the entire Pac-12 Tournament and now stands in purgatory.

It's the same one Miller placed former Wildcat Sidiki Johnson in -- that itself was an opportunity for Turner to realize he'd better get his act together. The boot to Johnson was, in effect, a Bill Belichick-like move of sacrificing one player to get the attention of the rest of his team.

Turner, apparently, didn't get the message. Still hasn't.

"It's as much his choice as mine," Miller told Bruce Pascoe and the rest of the Tucson media. "I'm not telling any player on our team that he doesn't have the option to come back, but it's more about the path that Josiah wants to go from this point forward that will determine if he's at Arizona or whether he will choose to get a new beginning."

It took a lot for Miller to put his foot down this emphatically.

It makes sense considering how much he's invested in Turner, and how much Turner has to lose himself. He has legitimate NBA talent if he puts in the work, but it's finally come to the point where even Miller can't let things slide. The freshman isn't putting in the work off the court, so what makes Turner think he'll be successful on it?

Through series of outright stupidity, lapses in judgment and then strings that gave a glimpse of how much natural talent Turner has for the game of basketball, we saw why Miller was giving up the playing time despite mistakes. We saw that maybe if he got some confidence in his play, he'd reach that potential. At times, Turner did reach it, but it never lasted for more than a game, arguably a half.

The thought here was he'd be fighting Tony Wroten Jr. for the Pac-12 freshman of the year award, and talent-wise, it's hard to say he shouldn't have been.

But in the end, Turner averaged an underwhelming 6.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. That, from a guy who could blow by anyone in the Pac-12 and naturally runs the pick-and-roll as well as anyone in the league; nevermind his struggles to finish at the rim, but sometimes he didn't even try (see, ASU game, March 4).

So the choice is there, and the issue is set aside as this year's Arizona team moves on to the NIT Tournament without their former starting point guard.

Miller has put his foot down, and it's safe to say it's better late than never.

Should Turner not return, life will move on and Arizona's over-recruiting tactics will again come in handy. A replacement will be found on the team. But it'll be a sad end on a personal level for Turner.

As he watches, maybe he'll realize that basketball is his thing, his ticket to bigger things in life.

Whatever Turner's done wrong off the court, will he choose that over what could lead him -- and his teammates -- to great success?

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