By CHRIS LARICK
Grand Valley graduate Justin Turk (Class of 1998) remembers his best high school basketball game well.
"My most memorable game was at Bristol my senior year,” Turk said. "It was a game to decide the league early on in the season. We played a terrible first half and were down 24 points at halftime. We came back to win. I scored 29 points in the second half, but the greatest part was doing it with a great group of guys. I can't say enough how much I enjoyed playing with Brad Dolan, Al Rubosky Mark Dobay and the others. We had a great team and they deserve a lot of credit for those years.”
Turk, who will be inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on April 3, got started in the game of basketball earlier than most.
"My dad (Ralph) was involved in coaching youth sports when I was born, so I was always around the baseball, football or basketball fields/courts,” Turk said.
In the third and fourth grades Turk and his classmates learned the game from Mustangs' long-time basketball and football coach Tom Henson (a member of both the ACBF and Ashtabula County Touchdown Club Halls of Fame) on Saturday mornings.
"It was more drills, ballhandling, and then games at the end,” Turk said. "Coach T loved the fundamentals. My dad was my coach early on when we started. He coached our fifth-eighth grade years. We rarely lost.”
"I played with basically the same group of kids since the third grade. We played everything together (baseball, basketball and football). We won a ton of games in the various sports and it was special to do it with the same group. Not like today where kids want to transfer to try to find a better situation....I loved every minute playing and working hard with guys I truly cared about and still do to this day.
Turk played small forward and shooting guard at 6-foot-2 for the Mustangs, who went 15-6 and won the East Suburban Conference championship his senior year.
“I loved every minute playing with my teammates,” he said. "Mark Dobay and Steve Pandur were our point guards, Al Rubosky was a guard, Ralph Childs and Brad Dolan were our posts and Scott Redford was a wing player.”
Turk liked playing for Henson.
“He was old school and hard nosed, no-nonsense,” Turk said.
Turk finished his high-school basketball career with 737 points (ninth all-time in school history), a game-high of 35 points (seventh all-time) and with a free-throw career shooting percentage of 75 percent (third all-time). He won numerous honors his senior year after playing varsity ball for four years and starting for three of them. Among his awards were MVP of the league (ESC), first Team All-County and conference and honorable mention all-state. He was also honorable mention all-state in football as a defensive back.
The football team, coached by Touchdown Club first-ballot Hall of Famer Jim Henson, posted undefeated regular seasons his junior and senior years and made the playoffs. In his senior football season (1997) the Mustangs lost to Applecreek Waynedale in the regional finals, 14-12. He remembers starting at safety and receiver and notching eight catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns in the regional game.
In addition, Turk played baseball, lettering two years and winning second-team all-county and all-conference honors as a senior.
He was recruited by a number of Division III colleges and eventually decided on John Carroll University. He played two years there before turning his focus to his schooling and career preparation.
At John Carroll Turk majored in business, taking a B.S. B.A in accounting, then going on for his master’s in business administration. After finishing those degrees, he accepted an internship with a small accounting firm his junior year of college and was then hired on full-time after graduation from JCU. He worked for there for six months before joining the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, where he has spent the past 17 years, currently as Controller. Six years ago he added a job as boys basketball coach at Grand Valley, the past five years as head coach.
"It is truly special to be able to be the head coach at the school I attended,” he said.
Turk and his wife, Laura (a year behind him at Grand Valley) hung out with the same group of friends in high school.
“It wasn't until the college years that we started hanging out more and eventually started dating,” Turk said. "It was unexpected and a surprise to many at first. She attended Akron while I was at JCU. She's truly a special person.
The couple has been married for 17years.
“It has been 17 great years,” Turk said. "We have 13-year-old twins, Carter and Cloe. We spend a lot of time allowing them to pursue many of their interests which include basketball, baseball, softball, football and soccer.
“I have also been lucky enough to coach many of their sports teams. We also love our St. Bernards, Eva and Lucy. “
The dogs are three years old. Of course. St. Bernards are among the largest of dog breeds so there is a lot needed to care for them.
"We do have a decent yard that allows them to run and burn off their energy,” Turk said. "As for food, they will each as much as someone will give them!”
The family lives and (and the children go to school) in Orwell, giving Justin a long drive back and forth to work in downtown Cleveland and coaching in Orwell.
"I love my job put my passion is coaching, and work has allowed me to do both,” Justin said.
"I coach both at the high school and youth levels. I coach my son’s fifth-grade basketball team. It definitely makes for a chaotic winter and very few family meals at home but I wouldn't have it any other way.
"I say work has allowed me to do both, but the reality is that it is my wife and kids that have allowed me to do both. My wife has been unbelievable great and understanding and has fully supported me doing both. She's a true supporter of the teams and the school.
“Basketball, though, has turned in to much more than just a winter sport. It has evolved in to a year-round sport. With summer workouts, lifting, summer camps for the youth, open gyms, team camps. etc., there is very little down time. Plus, I coach travel baseball in the spring and summer for my son's team."
Even if Justin wanted to participate in sports, he would have difficulty finding time to do it.
"I rarely play much, other than to prove a point in practice,” he said. "I enjoy coaching at GV and am lucky my wife continues to let me do it. Winter definitely makes for a busy time of the year in our household."