Luke DeCock

Ralston Turner took turn for better at NC State

N.C. State’s Ralston Turner (11) leads a fast break after making a steal in the 2015 College All-Star game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday in Indianapolis.
N.C. State’s Ralston Turner (11) leads a fast break after making a steal in the 2015 College All-Star game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday in Indianapolis. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Ralston Turner gave up a year of his life to transfer from Louisiana State to N.C. State. He took a risk. He gambled on the future. Now that it’s over, he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I expected people to be passionate about basketball,” Turner said Friday, standing in a hallway deep under Lucas Oil Stadium. “I expected to play in meaningful games. I expected to play with good players. That was all true. When I got there, each one of those happened.”

Turner, who averaged 11.7 points and hit 171 3-pointers in his two seasons at N.C. State, got the call this week to come to the Final Four and play in the NABC College All-Star Game, on the same floor that the national championship will be decided on Monday. Playing alongside Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton, Turner scored 5 points in an unexpected coda to his college career.

The Wolfpack’s tournament run stalled in an East Region semifinal. Turner made it to Indianapolis after all.

“Yeah, but I would have liked it to have been another way,” Turner said. “But I’m here, so I’m blessed.”

Turner’s selection was a reward for two seasons at N.C. State that saw the Wolfpack advance to the NCAA tournament twice, beat Duke and win at North Carolina for the first time in a decade.

As painful as last season’s collapse and elimination by St. Louis were, his second NCAA tournament had it all, from a comeback opening win over Turner’s former school to the upset of top-seeded Villanova to move on to the second weekend.

N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried, who watched Turner play Friday from seats just off the floor, remembers a different moment: Turner putting his arm around him as they walked off the court after winning at Tennessee in 2013, the kind of big game Turner was hoping to play at N.C. State. The fact it came against a familiar SEC opponent only underlined the point.

“When a kid transfers, you never know how it’s going to work out,” Gottfried said. “For him to have a great experience like he did, it makes you feel good.”

After the Villanova win, Turner knew N.C. State had as good a chance to get to Indianapolis as any of the other three teams in Syracuse, N.Y. That’s not how it worked out. Michigan State is here instead, but even a week later Turner was struck by how narrow the margin between N.C. State’s elimination and advancement really was.

The Wolfpack was eventually undone in unlikely fashion by Anton Gill, a Raleigh native who scored all seven of his points in the NCAA tournament in 2 1/2 minutes against N.C. State – and has since left the Louisville program, intending to transfer somewhere else.

“Really?” Turner said, shaking his head. “He ended our season and he left.”

As for Turner’s season and career, that wasn’t how he wanted it to end, but he said there wasn’t much else from his time in Raleigh he would complain about.

“A few years ago when I got here, I thought that I could benefit from the off year,” Turner said. “Each year, my college career has been better, in all phases. I look back at it; it was positive. It got better every year. I don’t think anyone would have a problem with that.”

Turner made it to the Final Four. He hit a 3-pointer in Lucas Oil Stadium. He had a chance for a dunk, on a breakaway, but laid the ball in instead. It didn’t come in an N.C. State uniform, but he had no regrets nonetheless.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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