A STANDOUT in his two seasons with the Bendigo Braves, star power forward Ray Turner is the club's first official men's signing for the 2021 NBL1 season.
Turner, the Braves' most valuable player (MVP) award winner in 2018 and 2019, is back for his fourth year with the club and is eager to make up for a lost NBL1 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 31-year-old will head into the new season as the undoubted linchpin of a young Braves team, which is looking to go one better than its runner-up performance in the last season played in 2019.
His role as a team leader is one which rests comfortably with Turner.
"We have got a bit of a young group this year, so getting familiar with one another and building that chemistry like we've always built over the years and continuing that throughout our games will be our focus this year, as well as competing as hard as we can," he said.
"I'm a veteran, an old fellow, or at least getting there, so just trying to keep the guys going and motivated and passing on the things I've learned over the years, hopefully, that continues to impact throughout the games."
Turner described his year without basketball in 2019, his first in more than a decade, as a weird experience.
"I've been playing basketball year-round for the past 13 years, so obviously having a year off was just very strange for me," he said.
"That also felt like a wasted year.
"But at the same time, things happen, we just have to move forward and strive to do better.
"I just tried to go to the gym a little bit, but when they closed down you pretty much did your own thing.
"I bought some stuff for the house, weights, some elastic bands and things like that to work on all the mobility stuff and just pretty much stayed healthy.
"Also, the time off gave me a chance to get a lot more healthier, so at the moment I feel great and it's just a matter of keeping that going."
Turner, who played a handful of NBL games in early 2019 for the Sydney Kings, again shapes as a force to be reckoned with for the Braves after winning NBL1 All-Star team selection in 2019.
He averaged 23.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game as the Braves made it all the way to the NBL1 grand final against the Nunawading Spectres.
Turner, a league MVP in the Western Australian state league prior to his arrival in Bendigo, was also an All-SEABL First Team selection in 2018.
I've been playing basketball year-round for the past 13 years, so obviously having a year off was just very strange for me.Ray Turner
Braves coach David Hogan could not be happier to have Turner back in the Braves' blue and yellow.
"Having Ray commit back to the club is fantastic. Given the current environment in Australia it made getting Ray's signature the priority for us," he said.
"For us, Ray sets the example of everything we are trying to achieve with the program.
"He is a great family man, he is one of the first to help the young fellows at trainings and is just a great person off the court."
The Braves will open their regular season on the road against the Mount Gambier Pioneers on Sunday, April 18.
Their first home game will be against Frankston Blues on Friday, April 23.
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