The “N” does not stand for anything, but when you pair it with Talbert and Turner it becomes TNT, a nickname that summed up nicely the explosive scoring of Talbert N. Turner, Jr.
“I’m just a firecracker. My dad was the first TNT, the dynamite,” said Turner. Turner has long been the all-time leading scorer for the Pendleton County Wildcats with 3,183 points. With Dontaie Allen poised to set a new record later in the week, many throughout the county are fondly remembering the days of the Wildcat explosive scorer from the early 1980’s.
That dad Talbert, Jr., referenced is Talbert Turner, Sr., the well-known retired Pendleton County biology teacher who was also the most successful high school baseball coach in the county’s history. His mom, Mary, is also a retired Pendleton County school librarian. As is usually the case, parents were instrumental in Turner’s development as a player.
“They would haul me to wherever there was an opportunity to play, whether it was Jr. Pro in Taylor Mill and Newport or tournaments throughout Kentucky,” said the son who inherited their strong work ethic.
That work ethic was turned into talent on a concrete pad that dad made outside their home in Peach Grove, or “the Grove.” It was on that pad that Turner and his friends would play basketball from “daylight to dark,” living out that stereotypical Kentucky basketball dream.
“We would shovel snow off the pad to be able to play. I remember in the summer we would line our cars up around the court to have light to play,” he added. “We would play until mom would come out and make us come in.”
Whether it was the Horns, Roseberrys, Danny Marsh or guys coming from throughout the county, the play on that concrete pad led to entries in the Wildcat and KHSAA recordbooks.
One friend stood out, though--Mark Mains who lived right across the street.
“I’m very appreciative of Mark. He was three years older and pushed me to play every single day of my life. And we did,” gushed Turner.
The play of both Turner and Allen is similar. There are legendary tales of work ethic from both as they honed their skills on the hard court. They both have a great support system that encouraged and invested time in their talent, allowing them to excel. They both are very good outside shooters with Turner playing before the advent of the three-point line. Both began their varsity careers in the 8th grade when they were moved up by the varsity coach--Woody Crum for Turner and Ed Cravens for Allen. Both are strong slashers who could get to the basket, take the bump, and finish the play while going to the line for easier points.
In fact, it was on the free throw line that Turner scored the first six points of his collegiate career at Morehead State University. Playing in Norman, Oklahoma against the #1 ranked Sooners and their All-American Wayman Tisdale, Turner hit six free throws.
It was a style of play that Turner credited to those high school friends, most of whom were older than he was.
One of the voices of the Wildcats is PCRO’s Troy Steele. He has a unique perspective of attending Pendleton County High School as Turner was pouring in points and calling the games while Allen is matching them.
“Talbert was smart and mature beyond his years, even when he played as an 8th grader. He had a lightning quick first step and was very strong with the ball. He could take the hard foul and still score the ball,” said Steele.
Like Allen, if you tried to take away the drive, Steele pointed out, “He would bury you with jumper.”
Many of those creative moves and finishes were a result of the imagination of his father, Talbert, Sr.
“Dad would stay at the court and think up a move, whether it was a layup after a double pump or taking a bump from the defender and then making the basket. Mark, the other guys, and I would stay on the court and do it over and over until we could do the move,” he said.
Mains laughingly agreed, “We would do it over and over and over and over. TJ had big hands and could do whatever he wanted with the ball. He was so strong.”
It was Turner’s 7th grade year that Mains knew he was going to be good, but Turner’s freshmen year was a turning point.
“He could never beat me. Never. Then his freshmen season, he beat me and I thought, ‘He’s never beaten me before.’ said Mains who traveled Europe with the Army basketball team.
Both credited the other for their success and an ability to finish plays because of the style played at “the Grove.”
“When you went to the basket, you got fouled. That was just the way it was, especially in close games. You were going to have to check the ball out front. There were times that it ended in a fist fight, but we would get over it and back to playing later in the day,” recalled Mains.
That is where Turner learned the jump stop, put the ball on his shoulder, take the bump and finish the play according to Mains.
“He was unstoppable. You simply could not guard him and stop him,” added Mains who has guarded Turner more than any other.
Those days in “the Grove” peaked in 1983-84 during Turner’s senior season. According to him, they won 28 games and played in several regular-season tournaments winning or playing in the championship game of each.
“We were a really good high school basketball team. We could adjust to whomever we were playing, whether it was pushing the ball down the court or walking it up and running set plays,” he said while pointing out that Mark Hargett was a very good high school basketball player. He also mentioned Dennis Gosney, Tim Faulhaber, David Roberts and Ronnie Golfman.
After the 38th District title was secured, the Wildcats made the march to the 10th Region Championship game that was played at the Fieldhouse in Maysville.
They were going up against Bourbon County who was led by Jeff Royce. He was at the beginning of writing his own Ky high school basketball legend story. In regional and state tournament play, Royce would hit several last-second shots that would win the ballgame for the Colonels, advancing his team to the KHSAA Sweet 16 championship game.
“Talbert was a good shooter. We knew he would get his points and concentrated on the other guys. Every now and then, we attempted to double team him and get the ball out of his hands,” recalled Royce about that championship game.
Bourbon County would win that game, 89-77, but Turner recalled the atmosphere fondly.
“It was a childhood dream. Playing in front of a packed house for the chance to go to Rupp,” he said.
Bourbon County would jump out early and according to Turner, “we could never get over the hump. We would cut into the lead and they would answer.”
Steele remembered the packed house and “people were there from Pendleton County that had not been to a game all year.”
Pendleton had played Bourbon earlier in the year and lost by just a couple points on the Colonels home court.
This was at a neutral site, and they had the chance to lead their team to the state tournament.
While Turner had a huge game, he said, “We just did not get it done.”
Ironically, that final high school game was the only game of his career that he fouled out.
Steele remembered that a key play in the game was a Tracy Thompson dunk for Bourbon County. Pendleton was making a run and Thompson’s dunk that “was heard all over Maysville” and fired up the Colonels’ fans.
“It just deflated the team and our crowd,” said Steele.
While Allen should pass Turner as the all-time career scoring leader during the Phillip Wood Classic held at Pendleton County High School from December 20-22, with four 50-point plus games this season, he has came close to Turner’s record of 59 points in a single game.
For Turner, it was one of the most bittersweet games in his career.
“My mom and dad were on their way to the game when they were involved in a car accident. They held dad at the hospital for observation and they missed the game. It was the only game they missed, and I scored the 59 points for dad,” said Turner.
It was a game that the basket looked the size of a hula hoop to Turner. For any scorer, they would admit, it often looks that way.
“I always felt I was on. If I hit that first shot, I felt good and it was on but if I didn’t, I figured I’d hit the next one,” explained Turner. “I shot a lot of shots, clearly, but every shot I took I thought I was going to make.”
He added that basketball is an offensive game and about putting the ball in the hole.
While Turner was known for his drives and getting to the line, he also had a smooth, silky jump shot that he would set up by constant movement off of picks and screens. As he worked and moved, when the defense would take a breath, he was burying the jumper.
“People get tired playing defense,” stated Turner who learned to push through any fatigue during those marathon sessions on a concrete pad in “the Grove.”
Those sessions did not end with Talbert but spread to his two brothers, Bill and Dave. Both had good careers for the Wildcats.
The three together combined are arguably the most prolific scoring set of brothers in Kentucky high school basketball history.
As athletic director when we were honoring the 1,000 point scorers in Wildcat and Ladycat history, I reached out to Mike Fields of the Lexington Herald-Leader and one of the most storied high school athletics reporters in the state.
With a little research and names like Stepps from Eastern Kentucky and Myricks from Mason County, only the Selvy’s from Corbin could be considered among the top. While there are three Turner’s who combined for over 6,500 points, there were five Selvy’s.
“Bill started out slow, but became a good player. He was a very good rebounder, fiery and strong. David very good player who unfortunately had a knee injury that ended his career. He did score 53 points in that final game,” Turner said proudly about his brothers.
Turner, who played for Eddie Ford’s Kentucky All-Stars that traveled Europe, was thankful to Woody Crum for giving him that early chance and Gary Turner for those final couple years.
He also graciously thanks Asst. Coach Mike Appleman, who would stay after practice and work with him on his individual development.
“He was really instrumental in my development as a player,” said Turner about his coach from over 30 years ago.
“Without those people I have mentioned, my records would not have been there, and I would have just been a blip on the wall. They are a big part of my success, not only in basketball but in my life,” Turner summed up.