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Turners make basketball a family tradition

CLOQUET -- When she was growing up, Claudia Turner can vividly remember dribbling a basketball down in her family's basement.

Her father, Keith, only allowed her to use her left hand.

Last summer, faced with her decision on where to play women's collegiate basketball, Claudia chose Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, where Keith can once again give her a helping hand.

Both father and daughter are intricate parts to the Thunder, as freshman Claudia is the team's starting point guard, while Keith -- also the school's fourth-year athletic director and football coach -- serves as the team's co-coach with Laura Sylvester.

Claudia, 19, an Esko graduate, initially planned to play at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, but decided late last summer that FDLTCC was better financially and closer to home.

A few months later, in late fall, 49-year-old Keith confirmed that he and Sylvester would coach the historically struggling program, in hopes of a resurgence.

"I really like having him here -- he knows how to motivate me and get me going," said Claudia, a 5-foot-7, strong-to-the-basket, right-handed-driving player. "I've enjoyed it a lot."

Turner has enjoyed playing basketball since she was a youth growing up in Ely, learning how her favorite sport works on Saturday afternoons as a kindergartner with her father and siblings.

After moving to Stevens Point, Wis., then Barnum and finally to Esko, she came to FDLTCC to help a program that didn't finish last season due to injuries and lack of numbers. In fact, the severely-hurting Thunder had a 0-91 record -- and no team in 2010 -- since starting in 2008, until last Saturday.

That afternoon day, Turner torched the nets for a game-high 30 points in FDLTCC's 76-24 victory over Red Lake Nation on campus in Cloquet. It was the first official win in school history, while Keith Turner added that the men's 124-72 win that followed was the first time both teams had won together on the same day.

Keith hugged Claudia afterward, but it was short-lived, as the younger Turner was more worried about her missed free throws.

"You can tell this is Claudia's love," Sylvester said of her floor general. "She's a phenomenal player who leads by example."

"She's a ball-player," added Moose Lake graduate and teammate Shaelyn Halverson.

"We can count on her," said teammate Kami Diver. "She's one of the best point guards that I've played with in a long time."

Time for the Thunder (1-4) will go quick for Claudia, already set to graduate this spring and pursue a pharmacy or engineering degree. But not until she gets to watch her younger brother, Jaxson, and younger sister, Eve, continue their playing careers in Esko.

"As a family, we've always done everything together," Keith said. "We know it'll break off, but it's nice to still have her home."

Even if that includes some more dribbling in the basement.