Turner brings legacy up the ranks

Photo by Ryan Hermens/ Paducah Sun

Story by Bryan Edwards, Sports Editor

In the few weeks that she worked as the Murray State women’s basketball coach, Rechelle Turner and her staff have already started building the program for next season.

Turner, who spent 21 seasons in the high school ranks, accepted the job after the university announced they were parting ways with long-time Head Coach Rob Cross. Turner said she wasn’t sure if she wanted to take the job when Athletic Director Allen Ward initially offered it to her.

When I first talked with him [Ward], we talked for over three and a half hours and we had the same vision for the program,” Turner said. “I felt like there was a calling to come here. God called me to this job and I felt like it was the right thing to do.”

McCracken County High School girl’s basketball coach Scott Sivills said Turner will bring a winning culture to Murray State.

“Coaching is coaching at any level and she will do a great job,” Sivills said. “She will adapt very well to the college level. She will recruit to her style. She will fight for her kids, her staff and her university.”

Sivills and Turner played at Murray State simultaneously and have coached against each other at the high school level. Sivills said they were both very competitive with and against one another.

“Off the court, we got along very well,” Sivills said. “On the court, we both wanted to beat each other but we both respected what each did to prepare our teams each night.”

Turner left a rich legacy behind at Murray High School. In 21 seasons, she led the program to a 460-178 record, coaching them to 13 district championships, an All-A state championship and back-to-back trips to the semifinals of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Sweet 16 State Tournament.

Over the weekend, Turner was honored by the Murray Independent School District by having the court in the Murray High School gymnasium named the “Rechelle Turner Court.” Turner said the achievement was an honor.

“It was an awesome and humbling experience for me,” Turner said. “For them to feel that I warranted to have the court named after me is a dream come true. It shows that they appreciate everything that everybody in the last 21 years has done for the program.”

Turner also said her accomplishments at Murray High wouldn’t have materialized if it hadn’t been for the people that helped her along the way.

“I didn’t get here by myself – I didn’t get 460 wins alone,” Turner said. “I had so many assistant coaches and so many good players help me do that.”

Since being hired, Turner has wasted no time, announcing her plans to host a basketball camp over the summer and has started recruiting players for the future. Murray High junior guards Macey Turley and Lex Mayes verbally committed to Murray State to become Turner’s first recruits for her 2018 class.

Even though transitioning coaches can be difficult, Turner said she has high expectations for the team next season.

“You have to set the bar high so the players understand the level that we need them to be at,” Turner said. “This first year will be a transition year for everyone, but you won’t hear any excuses from me or my players.”

She said she expects to bring the winning tradition back to Murray State women’s basketball.

“We will take the floor with the expectations to win every night,” Turner said. “We want to get these kids back on track. They deserve to be winners, they deserve to be in the tournament and they deserve to have a shot to go to the NCAA Tournament every year.”

Turner said building relationships with returning players is one her goals.

“The first thing I did was have individual meetings with the players to get to know them,” Turner said. “We wanted to see what we could do for them. It wasn’t about how many points they can score for the program, but it’s about how can we make you a better player, a better person and a better person in general.”

Turner has an experienced bunch returning next season, including First-Team All-OVC Player Ke’Shunan James. The senior forward finished second in the voting for OVC Player of the Year last season. The team also returns junior guards Bria Bethea and Jasmine Borders, as well as sophomore forward Abria Gulledge.

Coaching in high school and in college has its differences, but Turner said the transition between the two has been smooth.

“The transition has been great,” Turner said. “Everybody at Murray State has been outstanding and so helpful. It’s a whole different level as far as the job goes, and with each passing day, we’re getting more grounded.”

In the end, Turner said it was hard to leave Murray High but she’s ready for the challenge Murray State offers.

“Leaving Murray High was very difficult, because it was all that I knew,” Turner said. “It felt like I needed to take this opportunity and I had to see what was next, but I’m excited to get started here.”