Chris Turner had to know what Sunday's Charm City Challenge boys high school basketball all-star game held for him when he got into town Friday and saw the rosters of the local and U.S. teams.
Turner was the second-shortest player on the U.S. squad, which meant he was going to spend most of his afternoon matched up on smaller and, in most cases, quicker guards, a formula that could have meant disaster because as Wilt Chamberlain once famously noted, "Nobody loves Goliath."
At 6 feet 5, Turner is no Goliath. But pitted against the 5-10 Troy Franklin of Mount Carmel or the 5-8 Omar Strong of Douglass, in their hometown, a town that loves little guards (see Muggsy Bogues and Juan Dixon), Turner had to figure he had a slingshot's target painted on his forehead.
To his credit, Turner held his ground, getting his ankles broken a couple of times but picking Franklin clean once as well.
"A couple of years ago, people just knew me for offense," Turner said. "They didn't say that I could play good defense. But in the last year and a half, I've been working hard on the defensive end. That's why my coach puts me on the best player all year or the shortest point guard. I'm just playing 'D' now. I love to play defense, especially on the little guys."
For Turner, a Durham, N.C., native who is finishing up at Christian Life Center Academy in the Houston area, Sunday's game might have been just an introduction to Maryland fans.
The 180-pound shooting guard, who averaged 21 points, five assists, five rebounds and two steals this past season and is listed 27th in the nation at his position by Scout.com, was reportedly offered a scholarship last summer by the Terps around the same time Sean Mosley (St. Frances) was.
Mosley, this year's Sun Player of the Year, apparently accepted the offer before Turner did, which "really threw off my recruitment because I was really set on Maryland. Now I'm back on the market."
"I lost a lot of interest in [Maryland]," said Turner, who committed to Oregon State in December but changed his mind. "But I still like them because I would like to play in the [Atlantic Coast Conference]."
The fact that Turner has not made a school connection this late in the recruiting process makes his decision to play in the Charm City Challenge a little more daring than just running the risk of getting embarrassed by a little guy. A serious injury without a scholarship offer could be catastrophic to his hopes of playing college basketball, but Turner said he has stayed clear of pickup-type games and has been hitting the weights more frequently to get stronger for college.
Turner, who led the U.S. team in minutes (28), as well as shots attempted (15), posted 14 points and five rebounds. At the end of the day, an alley-oop here, a three-pointer there, getting his pocket picked, as well as doing a little thievery, added up to a good time for Turner.
"It's really fun because I get to play around a lot of players that are either better than me or at my level," Turner said. "That's really fun to do, because most of the time when you play regular high school, like me, you're doing the thing by yourself. I don't really have any help. But I can just sit back and watch these guys go to work. It's fun to watch. I like to be around good players."
Even if they are little guys.