After 17 years playing in the top flight, Jermaine Turner had one big night left in him. Emmet Ryan on Old Man Power finally calling it a day
A Kieran Donaghy free throw proved the final score of the season. The Tralee Warriors star went one of two from the line and that was just enough to give his side the win 74-73 in overtime over Templeogue. The Champions Trophy was heading south.
It was the type of moment that gets Jermaine Turner excited. Over the guts of two decades, he’d seen it all, won it all, and usually been the deciding factor. When it came to that late moment, he wanted to be the guy making that final shot, stepping to the line, embracing the pressure. Turner’s not going to have any more moments like that. His season, his career, ended two weeks earlier.
Despite carrying Killester to the cup final in January with an extraordinary performance over UCD Marian, there was rarely much chance Turner would get a final trip to the post-season. The league campaign was decent but not good enough to be in the reckoning for that weekend in Letterkenny. Instead his swansong was in more apt surroundings.
Taking the floor with Killester for one final time, he squared off against a DCU Saints team he had previously taken to Superleague glory. Going into the game with a 12-9 record with nothing to play for, on any other occasion this would have just been about getting off the floor healthy. For Superman’s final flight, the deal was a little bit different.
Declan King, normally on the PA for Killester, had made the trip up from Kinsale in Cork to call this one. Old clippings and pictures of Jermaine lined the walls on the way into the gym. Even the teamsheet had a special touch, with Superman’s logo beside Turner’s name.
There was no shortage of nerves on the floor from both sides early on. You’d expect that from a Killester team looking to get their hero one final W but even the Saints were making some sleepy turnovers. A Paddy Sullivan drive finally opened things up and a dunk from Turner midway through the first quarter finally woke everyone up. He followed that up with a three and another dunk to get the packed house rocking.
Throughout his career Turner has been a double-double machine in Ireland. That’s largely understating it, a 20-20 night from him is anything but extraordinary. Old Man Power has spent the guts of his adult life on this island destroying all in sight. The first ever game I covered featured Turner in a UCD Marian jersey. It was the autumn of 2002 and I was on duty for the University Observer in the college. His game was more explosive then, with Turner in his late 20s he could bring all kinds of thunder and Denny Notre Dame felt it that night.
As the years wore on, he remained a physical force but his game got smarter. The limitations on imports in some ways forced him to evolve quickly. With only one spot for an American on the floor in Irish hoops, Turner needed to make himself irreplacable irrespective of his age. As an under-sized 5, he was able to use his strength to bash with anyone but knew when to hold back and play with more finesse. The guile was always there, he just rolled it out more as his body demanded it.
Through the second quarter this was still a tight affair but the stats kept racking up for Superman. He already had 10 points after 10 minutes and was at 18 by the half with 6 boards to boot. Balancing the desire to get one last W with the emotion of the occasion was no easy task. The kids game at half-time went on far longer than usual, giving the youngsters all a chance to high five Turner as he returned to the floor. By the end of the third quarter the double-double was in the books and Killester were starting to pull away.
The feats Turner has pulled off in the league would be more than enough for him to earn his Superman moniker but it’s as much down to his and-1 celebration. Every time Turner draws a foul on a made shot, he turns and pulls his arms across his chest. All of the theatrics were part of his focus and he still hadn’t lost it in these final few moments on the court. Never shy about conversing with officials or his team mates, Turner was still pointing out instructions to his black and amber colleges while chastising the zebras.
Finally, it was time. With seconds waning, Killester made one final substitution. Jermaine Turner left the floor one last time and nobody wanted to say goodbye.
Jermaine Turner leaves the court for the final time pic.twitter.com/NOc9WBBN1J
— Ball in Europe (@bie_basketball) March 18, 2017
Killester took that final win 62-83. Turner’s final line in basketball was 32 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. At 43 years of age, that’s not bad. This is goodbye, no numbers were making him come back for another year. He promised that.
Come the gun the presentations kicked off quickly. Everyone wanted to thank Jermaine for what he had done. His wife and children embraced him with gifts representing different parts of his extraordinary basketball journey. A video montage with, what else, the Superman theme was played and he pulled that pose one last time.
Top pic: Michelle LaGrue