Anye Turner grew up watching Atlantic Coast Conference basketball, particularly North Carolina and Duke, and the basketball rivalry between the schools that are separated by eight miles.
Turner, a 2011 Black Hills High School graduate, is a sophomore this season on the Western Washington’s men’s basketball team, the defending NCAA Division II national champion.
The team just returned to Bellingham from the trip of a lifetime to North Carolina – where the Vikings played Duke, one of men’s college basketball’s most storied programs, against coach Mike Krzyzewski, at historic Cameron Indoor Stadium. Krzyzewski has invited the defending Division II national champion to visit Durham and play the Blue Devils in an exhibition game five times in the past six seasons.
Duke beat WWU, 105-87, on Saturday, but the 6-foot-7 Turner called the entire five-day experience “incredible.”
“Just to see that level of basketball and the whole environment,” Turner said Wednesday, two days after the team returned to Bellingham from North Carolina. “And to play that level … it was just incredible.”
The experience was more than Turner could ask for. Western left Seattle early in the morning Oct. 25 and arrived in North Carolina around 5 p.m. (EDT). Later that day, the Vikings got a tour of the basketball facilities at UNC and its rich hall of fame dotted with legends such as Michael Jordan and Dean Smith. A shootaround at the Tar Heels’ practice facility followed.
The following day, WWU players had a practice at Cameron Indoor before Saturday’s exhibition game with the Blue Devils. Turner scored three points, grabbed two rebounds and fouled out in 11 minutes of play against the country’s No. 8 team in Division I. He even blocked a shot by Duke’s 6-10 All-America candidate, Mason Plumlee, who finished with a game-high 22 points. But Turner was called for a foul on the play.
Turner said playing at Cameron Indoor was everything he expected.
The “Cameron Crazies,” Duke’s student section, was loud and obnoxious the entire game.
“It was pretty wild,” Turner said. “For an exhibition, it was still crazy in there.”
Turner signed a letter of intent to play at Western in May after a sensational freshman season at South Puget Sound Community College. He is little more than 18 months removed from leading Black Hills to the school’s first state tournament appearance in boys basketball as a senior in 2011.
Last season at SPSCC, the 185-pound Turner averaged 15.3 points, a NWAACC-leading 11.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, which earned him Western Region defensive player of the year honors and co-freshman of the year recognition.
In just six months, he’s gone from playing in front of maybe 75 fans a game at SPSCC to a sold-out crowd of 9,314 at Cameron Indoor. Western also played an exhibition Oct. 24 at Washington, where Turner had four points, and three rebounds in 14 minutes in an 88-78 loss to the Huskies in front of 8,077 at Hec Edmunson Pavilion.
“It’s been a complete 180 from what it used to be,” Turner said. “It’s so much fun to play at such a high level in front of so many people. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Western, which plays in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference with Saint Martin’s, plays the Saints in Lacey on Jan. 19.
Preseason polls pick the Saint Martin’s men’s and women’s basketball teams are picked to finish eighth and ninth, respectively, in the GNAC.
Senior forward Roger O’Neill made the 15-player preseason all-GNAC men’s team and junior forward Chelsea Haskey made the all-GNAC women’s team.
The SMU women begin the season Nov. 9 against Cal Baptist at the Western Oregon tournament, while the men open the season Friday against Boise State in an exhibition in Boise.
The Evergreen State College men’s soccer team (11-5-0 overall) clinched its first playoff berth since 2005 with one regular-season game remaining.
Evergreen ranks first in the Cascade Collegiate Conference in shutouts (eight) and second in goals (32).
After a pair of shutouts against Warner Pacific and Oregon Tech, senior midfielder George Bundy was named the conference’s defensive player of the week.
Evergreen’s final regular-season home game is at 1 p.m. Saturday against Northwest University. The first-round of the CCC tournament is Wednesday, and Evergreen will host a team to-be-determined at 1 p.m.
Get your first look at the Evergreen men’s basketball team at 7 p.m. today when it plays host to the Seattle Mountaineers of the ABA.
Twelve of the 14 players on the Geoducks’ roster are new to Evergreen, which went 1-26 last season.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com @megwochnick