Strong Stretch Boosts Turnerís Stock

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Kevin Pelton, | April 5, 2006
In her last NCAA Tournament run, Barbara Turner was unable to get her Connecticut team back to the pinnacle of women's college basketball after helping UConn win NCAA Championships in 2003 and 2004. The Huskies' Final Four bid fell short in overtime against Duke in the Elite Eight, with Turner unable to play down the stretch because of debilitating cramps.

Still, Turner ended up one of March's biggest winners. The WNBA was watching, and Turner's dominant postseason - she averaged 22.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament - secured her a spot in the first round of the WNBA Draft when Turner was taken 11th overall Wednesday by the Seattle Storm.

"She really came on strong, especially in the postseason - in the Big East Tournament and then in March Madness," said Storm Coach Anne Donovan. "She stepped her game up and led that team."

"She really came on strong, especially in the postseason. She stepped her game up and led that team."
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With less than a week to put the pain of the end of her college career behind her, Turner headed to Boston for Saturday's WBCA All-Star Challenge and Monday's Pre-Draft Camp, where she continued her hot streak. Turner won Team MVP honors for her losing team in the All-Star Challenge, scoring a team-high 19 points and adding five rebounds and four assists.

"In the Pre-Draft Camp, she continued along those lines," said Donovan, "and almost showed better when she stepped outside the system."

The key question in Turner's WNBA move has been and remains her position. A back-to-the-basket power forward at UConn, Turner - who is listed at 6-0 but measured in at 5-10 at the Pre-Draft Camp - will have to play on the wing in the WNBA. Donovan drafted her to play small forward, encouraged by how Turner has played over the last month.

"She's shown that she can shoot the 3; she's developed her outside game, which most people assumed she didn't have," said Donovan. "She does have that in her game. We'll need to continue to develop it, but she has it already."

"A lot of people questioned that from me coming in because I played with my back to the basket all my college career," added Turner, "but I'm very comfortable playing on the perimeter and I'm looking forward to taking advantage of the opportunity.

"In high school, I played on the perimeter a lot because I had to do a lot of ballhandling to help my team."

Turner hit just 12 3-pointers during her senior season, but one of those was the biggest shot of her career - a fadeaway 3 with seconds left that proved the game-winner as UConn defeated Georgia 77-75 to advance to the regional final. She recognizes the need to develop her shooting and sees the ability to improve.

"That's something that I'm going to continue to work one," Turner said. "I think it's a weakness of mine, but I think it's something that can become stronger with a lot of repetition and a lot of work."

While Turner never played with Storm point guard Sue Bird, arriving the year after Bird wrapped up her career at UConn, the two have gotten to know each other during Turner's college career. In typical Bird fashion, she connected with Turner after getting word of the pick.

"I was talking to her online after I came back to do my photos and media stuff," said Turner. "She was really excited and told me she would take care of me and get in the gym and start working hard.

"I'm excited to be able to come out and have a chance to play with Sue Bird and the Storm. I'm kind of in shock right now, not believing this all has happened so fast, but I'm very, very excited and looking forward to the opportunity."