Marchel Turner admits quickly and unashamedly that, when he first arrived at Avila University in 2005, his sole purpose was to play basketball. Sure, he knew he’d get an education, but only because he knew he had to keep his grades up to remain eligible to play with the Eagles.
While Turner’s hoops career didn’t exactly pan out the way he hoped because of injuries, he leaves Avila with more than he’d ever imagined – an undergraduate degree in psychology and, as of May 12, 2012, a master’s degree in counseling. He already has put his education to practical use as president of his own non-profit, called Re-Generation Y.O.U., and recently was selected and recognized as “most promising professional” by the Avila psychology faculty.
“Marchel is already on his way to fulfilling his dream of helping youths,” said Marcia Pasqualini, Ph.D., chair of Avila’s psychology department. “I think he exemplifies Avila’s mission and values.”
How Turner found himself at Avila is a story in itself. A highly-touted 6-foot point guard out of Jacksonville, Ark., Turner first landed at a two-year community college in Iowa, but soon after his arrival, the coach who recruited him was fired. He transferred to Eastfield Community College in Dallas, but the team he played for there – the entire team - was disqualified for rules violations.
“After that, I kind of got the label of someone who jumped around a lot,” Turner said. “At Eastfield, I was one of seven sophomores, and I was low man on the totem pole. But, the coach called me and told me about Avila.
“I talked to (then Eagles coach Anthony Hall), and decided to give it a try.”
Unfortunately, Turner’s basketball career at Avila also had its bumps. During the 2005-06 season, he played in 15 games and averaged 8.6 points while shooting 40 percent from three-point range before suffering a broken toe. The next season, he played in all 29 games and led the Eagles in steals and assists. He was voted by the team as its most valuable player.
Later that year, he received his bachelor of arts in psychology. It was a field he said he found himself becoming more and more immersed in as his time at Avila passed.
“I’ve always been a thinking person,” Turner said. “One of my biggest assets in sports was mental toughness. Once I got into it, I just found that I understood the mind. I was always analyzing everything that had to do with the mind and how it works.”
Turner was the first male from his family to earn a college degree.
“I just always took it that I was the guy who could make positive changes in my family,” he said. “I wasn’t so much proud, as I just expected to do it.”
Graduate school was never in his plans, however. He looked at opportunities playing basketball professionally overseas. But, while playing at an open gym leading up to pre-draft camps that summer, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, effectively ending his playing career.
Because he wanted to stay close to the sport, he became Hall’s graduate assistant coach the next fall and entered grad school.
Just as he helps children with his non-profit organization, Turner said Avila has been there to help him every step of the way through his educational journey.
“It’s been a real good experience,” he said. “You get what you ask for. The faculty was willing to answer all 1 million of my questions. They were willing to do whatever it took to get me where I wanted to go.”
Today, Turner still coaches basketball at the youth level, but works mostly with his non-profit, Re-Generation Y.O.U.
“I’ll always have love for the game, and I still coach at the AAU level,” he said. “But, my passion for helping people overcame my passion for just coaching basketball.”
Turner said Re-Generation Y.O.U. (the Y.O.U. stands for Youth Options Unlimited) is based on going out into communities and reaching out with the three Rs – restore, recover and recreate. Restore characteristics needed to lead a positive life, recover lost talents and skills and recreate a person who can go forward with his or her options.
As to what lies ahead, Turner said he isn’t so sure. He knows he’d like to earn a doctorate in his field. He knows he wants to keep moving forward with his non-profit. Beyond that, he’s simply focused on keeping his focus straight ahead.
“I’ve never known exactly what I’m going to do next,” he said. “I know I want to be helping kids.
“I never know what’s going to happen, but life has never gone the way I’ve thought. I just know that, with the Lord guiding my path, I want to keep moving forward.” AU
Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434