preparatory sport | Turner is a two-sport difference maker for Nashville | college sports
GEARY DENISTON For the South
Isaac Turner’s high school athletic career was one for the record books.
A member of three championship teams in two sports, the football and basketball player’s incredible career comes to an end as the Nashville boys’ basketball team enters the final weeks of the regular season.
“It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of this Nashville community, with all the support that we get and to be able to be with the type of athletes that we have here,” Turner said. “You don’t see athletes of this caliber every day, at least not at the high school level.”
Gymnast and excellence went hand-in-hand throughout his career, with a championship appearance every year except the last due to reduced seasons and the cancellation of the postseason for both sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be on three teams that competed in state championships,” Turner said. “Unfortunately we haven’t been able to be part of a championship team yet, but hopefully that will happen soon. We have a chance at it.”
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If its Basketball Hornets manage another championship run, Nashville would join only the 1998-99 Carlyle Indians and the 2006-07 Moroa Forsyth Trojans as the Illinois high school football and boys’ basketball teams to reach the championship games in the same school year. Both teams won championships in both sports.
Turner’s final season got off to a great start, with the Hornets basketball team reaching the No. 1 ranking before losing on a two-game losing streak to Breese Mater Dei and Central.
“Isaac is the heartbeat of our offense,” said Nashville basketball coach Patrick Weathers. “He’s unlike any other player I’ve coached as he’s a very tough competitor – one of the most ambitious guys I’ve ever met. More often than not, he leads us in most offensive categories. It averages about 16 points per game and is our number one 3 point shooter and leader in free throw percentage. We’re definitely walking like Isaac.”
Nashville is currently 19-4 and 4-0 in the SIRR Mississippi Division. If the Hornets pull off another championship run, Turner could retire after playing on four teams in four championship games in his four years — a level of excellence few athletes south of Tom Brady can hope to achieve.
Turner’s senior year began with the football team advancing to the championship game for the second time in his career. The season ended on a 12-2 record and ended Turner’s high school football career on four playoff teams while posting a 37-7 record.
Turner was a finalist for The Southern’s Football Player of the Year award after a record-breaking senior season and set a Nashville season record in receptions, yards and touchdown catches with 78 catches for 1,349 yards and 20 touchdowns and career marks on in in those categories with 168 catches for 2,964 yards and 38 touchdowns. On defense, he set a career record for interceptions with 11.
“I enjoyed it because one of my wide receiver coaches — Ethan Reid — was the previous record holder for almost all of those records, so being able to break his records was pretty cool,” Turner said. “He was a great help to me. He helped me learn a lot of things that I could apply in games and be successful.”
One of the most amazing things about his soccer stats was that they were essentially all achieved in less than three seasons.
“Isaac Turner is a special player, really trainable and has been a huge part of the success we’ve had in recent years,” said Nashville soccer coach Stephen Kozuszek. “He’s a complete receiver who runs good distances and has excellent ball skills. Aside from his talent, he has great field awareness, instincts and a really high football IQ. That really stood out this season as we had to move him all over the field to find different ways to give him the ball and avoid him collaborating twice and he managed that very well.
“The same attributes carry over to the defensive side of the ball, where he started safely for us for three years. Like most big players, he would improve his game in the biggest games and had a knack for making a big game when we needed him. In 10 career playoff games, he averaged 7 receptions and 117 receiving yards and posted 11 TDs.
Turner’s record-breaking career began in his freshman year when he was a reserve player on the football and basketball teams. His career began with an 8-2 record in Nashville football, overcame a two-year playoff drought, and ended with Nashville basketball advancing to the IHSA championship game with a 35-3 record.
“As a freshman, I was a reserve player for the basketball team that made this state work — I didn’t actually get to play in the state, but I got a few minutes here and there sometimes,” Turner said.
In his sophomore year, he earned starting jobs in both sports. His year began with the football team going to the championship game for the first time since 1998 and only the second time in the program’s history, ending with a 12-2 record.
“I started playing football all year, but this year we had a lot of guns, and with me as a sophomore, I wasn’t targeted very much,” Turner said. “I only started producing numbers in the playoffs. That’s when I started to come into my own and make an impact. I also started playing defense and had seven interceptions in my freshman year. I like to play attacking because that’s kind of my thing, but I really enjoy defending. I like to sit back, read the quarterback’s eyes and play with the ball.”
Turner’s sophomore year ended with the basketball team winning the regional title. But the season ended in the section finals with a 28-7 record.
“I was a point guard on the freshman team and then when I got called up to varsity. I was a 2-3 watch for the rest of my freshman year and my sophomore year and junior,” Turner said. “I’m really comfortable with the ball in my hands and I like putting it up and being able to pass. Giving myself an assist is one of my favorite things to do as a point guard.”
After COVID caused the spring 2020 basketball playoffs to be canceled just before the Final Four, the 2020-21 football season was postponed and eventually played in the spring with an abbreviated season of just six games and no playoffs. where the Hornets finished with a 5-1 record.
Like the football team, the basketball team was poised for success this year but ended the postseason with a 13-1 record without a chance.
With just a few months left in his high school athletic career, Turner looks back on his academic and athletic collegiate career.
“Right now I’m leaning more towards football, but I haven’t made a firm decision about where I’m going or what I’m going to play for sure,” Turner said. “I went to Millikin University for basketball. I played one game day at Quincy University and Culver-Stockton College Football. I recently went to McKendree University for football. I also got in touch with some other coaches.”
If Turner’s future doesn’t include playing football or basketball at a professional level, it will be a career in sports.
“I come from a sports family,” Turner said. “My mom played softball and my dad played basketball in college and my mom was an athletic coach and my dad used to be a basketball coach so I’ve been involved in sports my entire life. I think I’ll be majoring in Athletic Training and Physical Therapy because I want to either go to a D-1 college or maybe either work professionally. I want to stay in sport because I really enjoy it.”