By Joe Davidson
Derek Swafford has made a stand, and now he's made a statement.
Josiah Turner's days with the Sacramento Dragons basketball team are over.
Swafford, the Dragons coach, said this afternoon by phone that the prolific 6-foot-3 scoring guard who was The Bee's 2009-10 Bee Player of the Year and is bound to Arizona via scholarship next fall will remain a student at the Oak Park school but the efforts to bridge a return to the program have ended.
"Josiah Turner won't be with the team the rest of the season for violating athletic rules and regulations and team rules and regulations," Swafford said shortly before taking his team to tonight's Common Good Classic at Antelope High to play top-ranked Sheldon.
"We want him to continue with school and to go to Arizona, and Arizona wants him to remain in school. We want him to do well as a student, but I want to put this basketball thing to rest. I want to make it clear that this was my decision, clearly, and that my administration backed me up. We have to move on."
So concludes an odd and troubling few weeks for Turner and the Dragons, who came into the season determined to repeat as Metro League and Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champions.
Turner has missed games and practices, some not excused. Doris Ward met with Swafford on Tuesday to announce that she was pulling her son out Sac High and headed elsewhere. Turner never left, and even if he did, the section office wasn't going to grant him playing eligibility as this clearly would have been an athletically motivated transfer.
Turner and Ward have not respond to Bee interview requests.
Turner's career has been marked by unrest. He started on the varsity basketball team as a freshman for coach Bob Jones at Cordova then suddenly wound up at Sacramento as a sophomore, where his game and profile started to grow.
For eight days at the start of the 2009-10 academic year, Turner attended powerhouse Sheldon, a turn of events that sent shock-wave ripples across the region. But the section wasn't going to clear Turner play for Sheldon as it clearly looked to be an athletically motivated transfer. So Turner returned to Sac High, told The Bee that he felt at home and followed through on his vow to help power the Dragons to the Northern California D-III finals at Arco Arena.
Turner beamed of pride during national letter of intent day in November at Sac High, pointing to teachers, coaches, teammates and family for his growth and future. He talked earlier this season about being more of a leader, about the dream of winning a state championship, but he and his mother have since declined to speak to The Bee.
Swafford hasn't even talked to Turner this week, either. The cold war is over. The Dragons will march forward.
"If this turns out to be a success story for all of us later, including Josiah, then we can all feel good about it," Swafford said. "Right now, it's not a basketball issue for Josiah. It's remaining in school, being a student, still building character.
"I think the team will be fine, and we can be great as a team," Swafford continued. "They're very motivated to do well. They're young, but we'll surprise people. We're going to get through this."
Sacramento plays Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland on Monday night at Cal in a Martin Luther King showcase, followed by the De La Salle-Concord-Sheldon showdown of D-I powers.