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VOL. 44 | NO. 1 | Friday, January 3, 2020

Turner’s loss changes plans for Vescovi

By Rhiannon Potkey

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Every athlete wants to end their college career on their own terms. Lamonte Turner won’t get that chance. The Tennessee redshirt senior point guard is having season-ending surgery to repair a long-term shoulder injury.

“I played my last game tonight as a Vol - in a Vol uniform,” Turner said following Tennessee’s 78-53 victory over Jacksonville State on Dec. 21 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Turner’s loss is a big blow to a young Volunteers team reliant on its experienced backcourt.

Turner was averaging 12.3 points, 7.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds this season. His ability to produce clutch shots was evident throughout his career, and his defensive intensity was valued.

But Turner’s pain was obvious this season as he struggled to produce at the rate he expected. Turner was recently diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve issue that causes pain and numbness in the shoulder and neck.

The injury is in Turner’s left non-shooting shoulder. It’s an issue he’s been dealing with for the last few seasons, causing him to miss games and practices while going through therapy and trying to find a solution.

The Florence, Alabama, native had surgery on the shoulder before the 2018-19 season, and had an arthroscopic procedure in mid-April. But it wasn’t enough to rectify the problem.

“It has been extremely hard – the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with in my life,” Turner explains.

“It has hurt my confidence. It has hurt the way I feel about anything. It has just affected every area of my life in a way.

“Basketball kind of wasn’t fun for a while.”

Turner sat down with his family after his recent diagnosis, and decided he needed to end his college career and focus on healing his shoulder for a potential future in professional basketball.

“I cried when I came back in the locker room just knowing that was my last time stepping out there,” Turner said after scoring eight points and dishing out 11 assists in the win over Jacksonville State.

“I have cried plenty of times thinking about it and I have cried plenty of times through this injury.”

Turner and his family informed Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes of his decision in the aftermath of the win.

“He gave everything he had for four and a half years, he earned his degree and he played a key role in establishing the culture of our program,” Barnes said in a statement.

“We all love Lamonte and are saddened that he is unable to continue playing at this time. We’ll continue to support him as he takes his next steps.”

In Turner’s absence, Tennessee could get some needed backcourt help with the midseason addition of Santiago Vescovi.

The 6-foot-2 guard from Montevideo, Uruguay, will begin classes as a freshman Jan. 8. He must await NCAA and SEC clearance protocols before becoming eligible to compete in games.

Before Turner’s career-ending announcement, Barnes said it was “highly unlikely” Vescovi would play this season. But in meeting with the media the day after Christmas, Barnes clarified his comments.

“We got the feel maybe he would, maybe he won’t. It is up to him,” Barnes said. “We said that even when we were recruiting him. You have a chance when you come in and get through everything. It is his call. It still will be his call.”

Vescovi’s playmaking ability and shooting prowess put him on the international radar and got him placed at the NBA Academy Latin America in Mexico City when it opened in the winter of 2018.

He then transferred to the NBA Global Academy, an elite facility at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence at the Australia Institute of Sport in Canberra.

Vescovi led the NBA Global Academy to a championship at the 2019 NBA Academy Games in July.

Turner credits his teammates, coaches and Tennessee fans for their support throughout his injury struggles the last few seasons.

“They were there for me when it first happened and I first realized and started having to deal with it,” Turner says. “No one knew what it was. I have wondered was it mental. We wondered if it was mental. We didn’t know anything. It has been extremely tough. I would not be that dude without my teammates. I have to give the credit to them.”

Having to leave his teammates and walk away from Tennessee early in the season was an emotional decision for Turner.

But with professional dreams on the horizon, Turner knows he needs to listen to his body and try to fix his shoulder for good.

He just wants to get back to being the player he knows he can be.

“It was tough just to know that is my last time to play a game on my home court, on the court I have been playing on for the past five years,” Turner adds.

“It is all I know. I tried to give my all every time I stepped out on that court.”

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