Oh what a difference a year makes.
On March 8, 2019, Edward “Squid” Turner was celebrating with his Foothill High teammates at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center after capturing the CIF State Division III boys basketball championship.
The versatile 6-foot-8, 215 pound senior was a guiding force in leading the Trojans to their second state title.
A year later, Turner — like most of us — spends most of his time at home, and can only think about what could have been after his first season at Santa Rosa College was cut short by cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A first-team all-Big 8 Conference performer, Turner averaged 11.8 points and 7.8 rebounds to help the Bear Cubs reach the CCCAA state tournament, which was scheduled to open March 13 at West Hills College in Lemoore.
Unfortunately, the event was canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
“We were disappointed because we put in all this work during the season and just to get all the way to the (NorCal) Final Four and not be able to finish it was really heartbreaking,” Turner said. “We were all disappointed and also confused because we didn’t know what else to do next.”
Ironically, Turner and freshman teammate Shannon Ferguson from North High, were scheduled to play East L.A. (29-1) in their opening game of the state tournament. The Huskies were led by former Ridgeview standout Levelle Zeigler.
“Man, I was devastated,” said Zeigler, a sophomore, who was a first-team all-South Coast-North Conference player this season after averaging 9.5 points, 4.1 assists and 1.5 steals. “I wanted to get into that environment and play on the stage. I really wanted to win state. When we found out about that we were really upset about that. It hurt a lot.”
To make things worse, both teams found out about the cancelation of the tournament just one day prior to the game. East L.A. was already loaded on its bus when the bad news arrived.
“I didn’t think they were going to cancel it, to be honest," Zeigler said. "We had just shot around a little bit and we were getting ready to leave, but when we got on the bus they announced that they canceled it.”
Santa Rosa’s squad was in the gym working on the game plan when word of the cancelation came down.
“We were actually at the gym in practice to prepare us for the game, and coach told us to go home,” said Ferguson, who averaged 8.9 points per game this season as a reserve guard. “We didn’t understand what was going on. The coach was saying (the games) might be canceled, they might not. But we’re thinking there’s no way they are going to cancel it. So we just went about our day thinking about the game plan. And then it happened and we didn’t know whether we were going to play later or what.
"It was a shock to everybody. We were so excited to play in the biggest game of the year. To be told that we cannot even finish out the season and see how we can go and anything like that, it sucks. It still sucks because we had a great team and we thought we had some good momentum going into the game. It was just disappointing really. It was crazy how it all went down.”
Both Turner and Ferguson have returned to Bakersfield, while Zeigler decided to ride things out in Los Angeles, all hoping that things will return to normal sometime soon.
“It’s really weird, honestly, to not be in school this time of the year,” said Turner, who is due to start online courses next week. “You have a lot of free time and you’re not able to go outside like you regularly could. I can stay in shape a little bit, I’m able to go to the park. I live across the street from a park, but as soon as people show up, then I’m not able to stay anymore because of the (coronavirus) and everything.
“Being out of school this long, it just feels empty, honestly, because there’s nothing to do and you can’t really hang out with your friends. You can’t really talk to people, anything. You just have to sit here and do your own thing.”
Turner and Ferguson plan to return for their sophomore years at Santa Rosa in the hopes of completing some unfinished business — a state title.
“Originally I was planning on staying one year and then heading out to a bigger college, but after the season, I got some offers, but it wasn’t the ones that I wanted,” Turner said. “Now my plan is to stay another year and hope that I can pick up a bigger offer, like Pac-12 or anything on the West Coast.”
Zeigler’s situation is a little more complicated.
“I have a couple of schools looking at me, but it slowed down because of the coronavirus,” Zeigler said. “There’s just a lot of stuff going on that’s going to make the process a little longer. But I’m planning on playing at a Division I school next year and then starting all over and proving myself again. That’s my plan.
“You just can’t take any visits right now, so it’s just been talking to coaches over the phone. It’s just that kind of process right now because you can’t have (physical) contact with the coaches. I’m hoping I can in April, but they push that back again, and least that’s what the coaches are telling me, so I don’t know yet. I know I’m going to be alright. I just have to keep my grades up and wait and see.”