Breana Turner emerges from injury better player

“Offensively, she can do pretty much anything she wants. She’s special to have in that way. Defensively, I think it’s a work in progress  for everybody.” Kellie Lewis-Jay, Florida Atlantic coach

Breana Turner called her former high school coach at De La Salle with troubling news. Turner had just torn the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee, a devastating injury to suffer during her senior year of college basketball.

Nancy Walsh’s reply?

“This is good news.”

“What?”

The October phone call marked the beginning of the latest chapter of Turner’s career at Florida Atlantic.

“You’ve always wanted to be a good shooter,” Walsh told her. “The first thing you’re going to do when you come back from an ACL when it comes to basketball is that you’re going to start working on your shot all over again. And the second thing is you’re going to get another year of school paid for and get to work on that masters or your second degree. I’m looking at this as a positive for your game.”

That’s just what happened. She never questioned whether she wanted to return for a redshirt senior season. She had to. For her teammates, for herself.

This season, Turner is back on the court, averaging 12.5 points entering tonight’s Sun Belt Conference game against Middle Tennessee. While the season has had its share of rough stretches — the Owls are 10-10 and 7-5 in conference play and have lost three consecutive games — there have been moments to rejoice.

On Wednesday, Turner scored a career-high 32 points in a 90-86 loss against Louisiana-Monroe, converting 11-of-19 field goals. She also made 10 of 11 free throws, moving her into 11th place in the Owls’ career scoring record book with 872 points.

Not that Turner ever had a problem scoring, but her game has improved, especially using her left hand.

“Offensively, she can do pretty much anything she wants,” said first-year coach Kellie Lewis-Jay. “She’s special to have in that way. Defensively, I think it’s a work in progress for everybody.”

She’s no longer known just for her scoring, like she was at De La Salle. Her game day duties also include defending bigger, more talented defenders in the post. FAU is still adjusting to Lewis-Jay’s defensive scheme. It often calls for 40 minutes of full-court pressure and places emphasis on matchups.

“I’m playing girls that are way bigger than me,” Turner said. “So, I have to box them out every chance I get.”

Off the court, she postponed her graduation until this spring when she will graduate with a double degree in multimedia journalism and sociology.

“To come back from that injury shows a lot about her character,” said Walsh, now girls basketball coach at Cabrini. “She didn’t have to come back and play. She could have just gone on with her life. But she loves the game more than most.”

Not that she’s focused on it, but a solid final season at FAU will also give her momentum heading into a potential professional career overseas.

Turner still misses home, especially during Carnival season. But that’s when her mom delivers her a special treat from her favorite local bakery.

“When the season comes,” Turner said, “I still have my king cake.”