End of Year Player Review: AJ Turner
By Evan Gray
First posted on bostoncollege.247sports.com
Next up on Boston College 247’s season review of the BC men’s basketball team: Sophomore Forward AJ Turner!
2016/2017 Stats (32 Games):
30.8 MPG, 8.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.0 TOPG, .422 FG%, .371 3FG%, .675 FT%, 12.3 PER, .542 TS%, .528 EFG%
2015/2016 Stats (27 Games):
27.6 MPG, 5.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.7 TOPG, .335 FG%, .260 3FG%, .686 FT%, 9.6 PER, .442 TS%, .413 EFG%
AJ, with his long, 6’ 7” frame, is by far the most physically gifted player on the Eagle squad. His ability to switch onto every position makes him the most versatile defensive tool in Jim Christian’s arsenal, and his elite passing vision makes him a point-forward most ACC programs would dream of.
In his first year on the heights, AJ struggled to find his shot, missing 107 of his 161 field goal attempts—hitting just 33.5% of them. Coming into BC, AJ was the first big score for Jim Christian. A four star recruit with offers from Arizona State, Iowa State, Michigan State, and Northwestern, landing a recruit with such prowess is a rarity for the Eagles.
Flash forward to today, and AJ is still a mystery. Always the guy who seems like is ready for a breakout performance, AJ has yet to put everything together and become the great two way player that he can be.
After hitting 46% of his threes in the first 14 games this season, AJ went into a major slump. Over his next 12 games, AJ would hit just 26.8% of his threes, culminating in the loss of his starting spot to Jordan Chatman. When you are in such a shooting slump, a good way to get out of it is to find other ways to generate offense. AJ, whether due to his role in the offense or his lack of aggressiveness, did not do that at all. Instead, during the 12 game cold streak, we saw AJ take 58 threes to only 28 twos, while also getting to the line 14 times. For someone with his length and athleticism, settling for threes is simply unacceptable. As a result, we saw AJ’s confidence take a major hit, leading to some lackluster defense and the eventual benching. For what it’s worth, I personally thought benching AJ was the wrong decision. After being benched, you could see the pressure on AJ’s shoulders every time he came onto the court. Every jumper he took was do or die, and for someone who needs to just relax and not worry about missing it, having this much pressure is never a good thing. It’s also interesting to note that AJ has never been a great free throw shooter—which historically is a good indicator for three point consistency. A career 68% free throw shooter, AJ will need to refine his consistency from the stripe if he wants to avoid the slumps from three.
Obviously, the easiest game to pick for best game would be the win against Syracuse, where AJ went 4-7 from downtown and scored a season high 16 points—also dishing out 6 assists and 0 turnovers. This game is especially interesting because it offers a peak into an alternate universe where AJ is an elite two-way player—somewhere in between Patrick Heckmann and LeBron James. But even more so, this game shows how much easier basketball is when you are hitting your shots—then again, when your team hits a school record in 3 pointers, everything is easy.
Another solid pick for AJ’s best game would be the victory over NC State. Finishing just 2-8 from the field, you’d think this was a poor performance by AJ judging from his shooting. In actuality, this was one of AJ’s most well-rounded games of the year. Playing a season high 39 minutes, AJ got to the line 5 times, hitting all of them, grabbed 3 steals, and posted 0 turnovers.
Taking both of these games and putting them together, it’s clear that AJ has the potential to be the best player on this team. His ability to play point-forward is a skill greatly needed on a team that lacked a true floor general most of the season. In almost every aspect of the game—ball handling, shooting, rebounding, switching on defense, passing, etc.—AJ has the ability and skill to be elite. Unfortunately, great games by AJ are equally as frustrating, as we often see him completely disappear on the offensive end, rarely attacking the basket either to score or dish it to an open shooter, instead settling for outside three pointers and seemingly being afraid to put the ball on the floor.
Moving into his junior year at Boston College, AJ needs to find a way to put all that talent and potential together. If AJ can grow into half of what his ceiling is, he will be a very valuable player to have. A two-way-wing that can put the ball on the floor, rarely turn it over, and can switch onto any position? There isn’t a type of player more valuable than that. Even with all his inconsistency, the advanced statistics already peg AJ as one of the most effective players on the BC squad. With an offensive rating of 113.3 points per 100 possessions, AJ was the most productive player on the team. Likewise, he, along with only AJ and Ky, was a net positive on both sides of the ball, as the Eagles were 2.7 points per 100 possessions better off with AJ on the floor—second only to Ky’s 4.9. Turning the ball over on just 11.7% of his possessions, AJ rarely coughed the ball up—turning it over just 33 times on the season compared to Jerome’s 102 and Ky’s 93.
Next season, AJ must demand a larger role on the offensive end. Taking 57% of his shots from 3 this season and rarely getting to the line, AJ’s confidence and comfort level will only go up if he is allowed to attack the basket and attempt to create for himself more often. Putting AJ in the corner and asking him to only shoot threes is not the way to utilize a player with such elite length and athleticism. Moreover, AJ’s usage rating was a lowly 14%–absolutely unacceptable for someone who is the third best player on this squad. Here are players with a higher usage rating last season: Ky, Jerome, Jordan, Connar, Johncarlos, Mo Jeffers, Mike Sagay, Nik Popovic, Ervins, Ty Graves, Gordan Gehan. Yes, the only player with a lower usage rating was Garland Owens. Jokes aside, this is not a good thing, and I’m not sure whose fault it really is.
All in all, AJ’s sophomore year, much like his freshman year, remains a mixed bag. On one end, AJ is clearly a player with a massive skillset just waiting to put it all together. On the other end, if he doesn’t put it together soon, it may never happen.