COLUMBUS, Ga. — A relaxed Gerald Turner admitted this week that he is a demanding coach. So demanding, in fact, Turner said he would have a difficult time playing for himself.
Now, as he and his boys from Jordan prepare to face Laney at 5:30 p.m. today in the semifinals of the Georgia High School Association Class AA boys basketball Final Four in Macon, there are three members of Turner’s team who know just how difficult it is playing for Turner. He is known for not only running a strict program on the basketball court and in the classroom but for running a program that literally runs itself.
Ask senior guard Jeff Blanton, a four-year letterman, what the Red Jackets’ strategy is going to be against Laney (26-4).
“I’m guessing we’re going to run,” the 5-foot-11 Blanton said with laugh. “All we can do is run. We’re going to run them. I don’t know too much about them, but I know we’re going to run.”
Marcus Powell, the 6-5 senior center, agrees that Turner couldn’t play for Turner.
“He knows we love playing basketball, and he knows we will do whatever we need to do to be able for play for Jordan,” said Powell, who averages about nine rebounds a game. “As seniors, we know that it’s really hard to want to play basketball for Jordan. Coach Turner helps us understand that. He teaches us to listen. As a freshman in this program, you just don’t want to listen. Now, I listen.”
The third senior on the team, Brandon Simmons, looks back on his early days with some fondness.
“The first couple of years were really hard; they were brutal,” the 6-4 Simmons said. “But it’s all in your mind. If you really want to do something, you will do it. That’s how we all feel.”
This is Turner’s fourth Final Four in his 25 years (1992, 2002, 2007), and he’s not making predictions about his Red Jackets (27-3).
“We will play our game, and if we win, then we’ll play again on Saturday,” he said. “That sounds simple. But if we go out, play pressure defense and run hard and run a lot and we lose, then we’ve done all we can do. … If we can make a team adjust to how we play, then we’ve already won half the battle.”