GRANITEVILLE — Midland Valley High School boys’ basketball coach Mark Snelgrove said that senior Taijha Turner doesn’t have as much experience as some of his teammates. What Turner possesses is a long frame and athleticism, as well as the ability and willingness to take long-range shots.
All of those assets made Turner a player the coaching staff at Erskine College wanted to add to the program. On Tuesday, surrounded by family, friends and members of the Midland Valley faculty and administration, Turner signed a letter of intent to continue playing basketball on the college level for the Flying Fleet.
“He’s just now learning how to play,” Snelgrove said. “He’s got a good ceiling. He’s just scratching the surface.”
Snelgrove only coached Turner for one season, after the 6-foot-3 player transferred from South Aiken. Although Turner’s skills ideally suit him to play a shooting guard or small forward, he spent much of last season in the front court because of the Mustangs’ lack of size.
Lack of familiarity with his position or surroundings weren’t an issue.
Turner finished second on the team with five rebounds per game and was third in scoring, averaging 10.6 points per game.
He posted those statistics while filling an important role for the Mustangs, who had one of the best seasons in program history – posting a 23-5 record and advancing to the quarterfinals of the Class AAA state playoffs.
“He was the extra ingredient we needed to make us better,” Snelgrove said. “He brought a dimension of height and length. He was not scared to take a big shot.”
Snelgrove said Turner’s fearlessness – buoyed by his accurate shooting touch – should be an asset for him in college. He expects Turner will move to a position in the back court, where he’ll have to improve his ball handling. But he expects Turner to find success because of his great reach and agility.
Turner agreed those things should help him, especially on defense. He added that his cerebral skills should serve him well.
“It’s a smartness. I let the plays come to me,” said Turner, who said the only thing he’s been guaranteed by the Erskine coaching staff is a spot on the roster. “They have a spot for me, but nothing’s guaranteed. I have to work up from the bottom.”
Turner said he plans to pursue a business degree at Erskine, which he chose while also considering attending USC Aiken and Morris College. He said he made his choice after a visit to the Due West campus that included a workout.
“I walked around and got a home feel. There’s no place like home, and I could see myself here,” reflected Turner, who added he was drawn to Erskine for spiritual reasons. “It has a Christian feel about it. … I want to reach the Christian community; I’m a preacher’s kid.”
Turner said he wants to thrive religiously. That’s his ultimate goal, but he’s looking to succeed in the classroom and on the hardwood.
“I want to leave an impact,” Turner said. “If I can do that in basketball too, I’ll be a success.”
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.