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Turners make basketball a family tradition

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sports Cloquet, 55720
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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.

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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.

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