Hoosier Scoop Sage Take of the Day, Nov. 12, 2012

HOOSIER SCOOP SAGE TAKE OF THE DAY, Nov. 12, 2012

Landon Turner’s story may seem tragic at first glance, but is certainly not irredeemably so, not when one is confronted by his courage, by his triumphant determination to succeed at life.

That was reinforced as I watched the excellent Big Ten Network “Big Ten Elite” production showcasing Indiana’s 1981 NCAA basketball champions this past weekend. And it was only a week ago or so that I saw Turner inducted into the IU Athletics Hall of Fame, wheelchair-bound but spirit soaring.

Just before those induction ceremonies, I told Turner a quick and I think somewhat humorous tale that I’ll now share here below. First a little context.

Everybody, his teammates and coaches included, always recognized the 6-foot-10 Turner’s vast potential as a player. IU fans certainly did, and had ever since Turner had forged a prep career at Indianapolis Tech that made him a McDonalds All-American.

But Turner’s inability, even unwillingness, to fully realize that potential at IU proved frustrating throughout much of his college career until the stretch run of his junior season. After spending a whole lot of time benched in coach Bob Knight’s doghouse, Turner turned it around, turned it on, and helped key that great 1981 IU team as it set a record for margin of victory during its NCAA title run.

The story I told Turner last week developed during Landon’s doghouse days, around 1980, when he only sporadically saw the court. It’s been over 30 years since I heard about it, but I think I still have the gist of it right.

I had a friend named Bob Addleman who went to med school and then did his residency at St. Vincent’s up in Indianapolis. There were lots of IU people on staff there in 1980, many of whom followed Hoosier hoops fervently. Addleman, who was one of them, related the story.

Addleman said there was an invocation read over the St. Vincent’s intercom at the same time every morning, and that the guy who did it was really good at it.

The invocation topics were widely varied, well-chosen and eloquently explored, and the staff tended to listen attentively. But the staff especially approved of how each invocation ended.

No matter what the topic had been, the invocation always concluded the same way. The guy would say:

“And please, dear Lord, we beseech Thee, let Bobby play Landon. Amen.”

And everybody would say “Amen.”

And just maybe those prayers, whimsical in their conclusion as they may have been, were eventually heard.

Bob Knight himself marveled, in a letter read at Turner’s induction last week, about how he almost never played Landon again at one point during that 1980-81 season.

It was the night of the Northwestern game at Assembly Hall, and Knight had already arrived at the conclusion that Turner had no further future with the IU program. Knight planned to tell Turner and his parents, that very evening after the game, that Turner should probably declare hardship and enter the NBA draft.

Turner’s first brief stint in the game that night went badly, quickly, and Knight benched him. But then Knight, almost as quickly, put Turner back in. “I don’t know why,” Knight said, in his letter, of the decision to reinsert Turner. But it was Turner’s second stint on the floor that night when he began turning things around decisively. On and then off the court. Knight said in his letter that he never, before or since, saw anybody turn their life around more completely than did Turner after that night. Knight also said that, of all the great kids he coached, he respects none more than Turner.

Bobby played Landon.

Can I get an amen?

2 comments

  1. Andy I have always been reasonably well wired into IU sports and was aware of RMK’s evaluation “to declare hardship” of LT but never knew of the invocations at St. Vincents.

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