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Murphy Players Get Lesson on the Ranch


Justin Turman wrapped his strong hands around the handlebars that propelled the mechanical bull and proceeded to turn his teammates' lives upside down.

After a few seconds aboard the suddenly animated beast, each Los Angeles Daniel Murphy High boys' basketball player went flying toward the ground, landing with a thud, laughing all the way.

It might not have seemed like it at the time, but Turman brought his teammates and coaches to his grandfather's sprawling 40-acre ranch in Lake Hughes over the weekend to share with them a sliver of the tranquillity he has enjoyed since coming here as a child.

The inner-city players, some making their first trip into the countryside, spent Saturday riding horses, fetching hay and trying their best to stay aboard the menacing bull, aptly named Mighty Bucky.

"I think they'll learn the same thing I learned, just to enjoy nature, have a good time and just chill out," said Turman, Murphy's star shooting guard. "I think we will really [connect] as a team by coming out here."

The ranch, replete with 2,500 peach trees, eight quarter horses and a handful of live bulls, has long served as a soothing alternative to the bustle of city life that forever changed Turman's life at the age of 2.

That's when Turman's father, Glynn Jr., was stabbed in the heart and killed during an altercation at Santa Monica Pier--in full view of the young boy.

"I'll always remember my father," said Turman, still scarred by images he retains of the ordeal. "[But] I've moved on and don't let it bring me down."

Turman's coaches hoped that the weekend outing with his teammates could further cement his recovery and serve as a team-building experience.

After the Nobles defeated Los Angeles Cathedral, 62-50, Friday night to improve their record to 11-6, the coaches and 10 of their 11 players piled into two vans and made the 75-mile trek into the Antelope Valley.

Players stayed up into the early morning hours Saturday chatting and playing dominoes, then rose to feed the horses and receive an impromptu ride aboard a bulldozer. Turman even showed his teammates how to lasso a steer, though a few nearly roped him instead.

Turman's grandfather, Glynn Sr., served as the players' host during most of the activities. An actor and director, best known for his role as Col. Taylor on NBC's "A Different World," he coaxed the teenagers--even the reluctant ones--onto horses while kidding them that they didn't live up to their team's nickname.

"Kick him and make him go faster," the elder Turman told Murphy guard Thomas Carcamo, aboard a particularly slow-moving steed.

"Naw--this is OK," Carcamo said, eliciting laughter from his teammates.

"It's wonderful to see them try so to overcome the unknown," Glynn Sr. said. "You learn more about people when they're out of the environment you usually see them in. Seeing a different side of one another is going to be very helpful."

Murphy Coach Andrew Hunter said he believes the experience could translate to victories on the hardwood.

"Getting on a horse is a major deal for a lot of them, and maybe something they don't think they can overcome on the court, they'll now have a positive attitude toward," Hunter said. "One of our main goals coming out here is making sure they understand that their limitations are what they put on themselves."

Before the players broke for lunch, Hunter and assistant coach Mike Rios had them form groups to discuss what they had learned during the morning's activities. Turman, his group's spokesman, said players learned to work together by lifting hay and could apply the lesson by trusting each other on the court.

Turman, a 6-foot-4 senior who averages 28 points but is not being heavily recruited, has already earned his teammates' trust.

"There's times where the team is really on the verge of submitting to a loss, and he'll take that opportunity to gather them around and talk to them, yell when necessary, and refocus us," Hunter said. "That's always the sign of a special person, not just a special player."

Glynn Turman said the responsibilities of life on the ranch have instilled maturity in his grandson.

"You're immediately affected if you don't collect wood in time because you don't have wood for the fire," he said. "If you don't deal with the orchard, you've missed a season. If you don't put your seed in the ground before the rain comes, you have no crop.

"He knows he's up here to work, and he does a man-sized job."

Turman moved in with Glynn and Jo-An Turman, his step-grandmother, when he was in the seventh grade, though his mother, a deputy in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Dept., still plays an active role in his life. The family splits time between the ranch and a residence in South Central Los Angeles. Turman said he prefers the rustic lifestyle, though his grandparents wouldn't let him install a basketball hoop in order "to keep it a little more country."

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