By Jonah Bronstein
When Frank Turner flashed onto the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference scene three years ago, his coach compared him to another lightning-quick lead guard that could hardly fill out his uniform — Allen Iverson.
Turner was the first player Tom Parrotta recruited to Canisius, and after the strong freshman campaign, the Atlantic City product was expected to lead the Golden Griffins back to prominence. After winning MAAC Rookie of the Week honors six times, Turner shared the Rookie of the Year honors with Siena’s Edwin Ubiles.
Ubiles became a Player of the Year candidate by his sophomore season, as Siena rose to the top of the MAAC. While Canisius continued to struggle, Turner began to face Iverson-like criticisms of his game.
He’s not a pure point guard. He’s an inefficient point guard. His defense is inconsistent.
“He’s been maligned,” Parrotta said earlier this season. “He’s had a tough paper route. He started out as Rookie of the Year with four seniors on the team. He was able to kind of go in the shadows and step out of it and have a really, really productive year.
“Then everybody looked at him and said, ‘OK, Mr. Rookie of the Year, let’s do what we have to do and put the team on your back, and he struggled some. People looked at the team struggling and said, ‘What’s wrong with Turner.’”
Now, as the senior leader on a junior-heavy roster, Turner is once against being recognized as one of the MAAC’s top players.
“From what I here, he’s having a first-team all-league year,” said Niagara’s Tyrone Lewis, who will be the primary defender on Turner tonight when the local rivals meet at the Gallagher Center for the second time in eight days.
“He’s always been a leader on that team. I know it’s been tough for him, not winning a lot of games. But in my opinion, he’s always been good.”
Through 12 MAAC games, Turner is averaging 16.3 points and 4.9 assists, good for fourth in both categories. He leads the MAAC in steals per game (2.0) and has played 93.6 percent of the available minutes for Canisius, the fourth-highest figure in the nation, according to KenPom.com.
With 550 career assists, Turner is tied with Javone “Bam” Moore for the Canisius record. His 1,640 career points ranks fourth all-time, and he has a chance at passing Craig Wise for No. 3 if the Griffs make in a run the MAAC tournament.