by Russell Cooks
“It takes a village to raise two champions,” but it was also “iron sharpening iron.” Yet, that doesn’t tell the whole story. You could have Michael Buffer say, “Let’s get ready to rumble,” or you could call it the “Clash Of Titans” or “Rocky 10+” or “Creed II.” It’s kind of complicated. The high school chapter of a basketball brotherhood will close on December 19 when Jordan Lyons and the McIntosh Chiefs face Christian Turner and the Sandy Creek Patriots. However, that won’t be the final chapter. Let me just tell you the story.
Iron Sharpening Iron
Christian Turner and Jordan Lyons first met at a Peachtree City Youth Basketball Association (PTCYBA) try out. When Christian saw Jordan, he immediately thought, “This is my competition.”
Jordan said, “Wow, this kid is good! Seeing how good he was made me want to get to know him.” Kelly Lyons, Jordan’s mom, said, “We want them to play on the same team.”
However, the director of the PTCYBA, said they are clearly the best two players out here, so it would not be fair to pair them up. That was the beginning of a competition/brotherhood/teammate relationship.
Both of their teams finished that season 9-1, and Christian’s team went on to win the championship in the first year of a nine-year journey.
The story was far from over. The next year, Mrs. Lyons got her wish. They created a Youth Basketball Organization of America (YBOA) team that was made of all the best players in the PTCYBA. Of course, Jordan and Christian were part of that team. Individually, they both led their teams to 9-1 records, but, as a team, they finished third in the entire nation.
Elliott Lyons, Jordan’s dad, said, “They both realized early on that they would make each other better.”
Keep in mind that we are talking about 9 and 10-year-old boys, but they had wisdom to know the gifts that they each brought to the table. Most importantly, they were able to put their egos aside and bring out the best in each other.
When asked about their relationship, Christian said, “It has meant a lot. We have both impacted each other’s game in a positive way. I would not have as many assists if it were not for Jordan.”
Jordan agrees, “Christian has meant the world to me. He is like a brother to me. We have watched each other grow up and he means the world to me.”
They both rapidly ascended to the ranks of the state’s top players, earning accolades from all over.
During his first year at Sandy Creek, MaxPreps called Turner, “a freshman point guard with the ability to control a game with or without scoring,” adding, “He is by far the top freshman point guard in Fayette County and also the state of Georgia.”
MaxPreps praised Lyons, saying, “He has ice water in his veins.” When Jordan hit a 3-pointer to win a game by one, MaxPreps called him “CLUTCH!,” adding, “Lyons demonstrated to the sold out crowd why he was selected All Region Player of the Year for 2014. Scoring a career high of 43 points, hitting 9 out of 12 three pointers and scoring 22 of the teams 33 points in the third quarter.”
The Village Effect
Tim and Andriette Turner, Christian’s parents, say their son and Jordan have a brother relationship in which they are sometimes teammates and sometimes competitors. For six months of the year, they are AAU teammates and the other six months they support each other’s high school teams with the exception of one night a year they have to battle.
Christian and Jordan both play AAU basketball for Coach Jerome Weaver and Heat Check. They practice two days a week in Gwinnett County, which is about an hour away from Peachtree City and Tyrone. No problem for the combined family. Mr. Lyons takes them to practice one day and Mr. Turner takes them the other day. The families are so close that Jordan and Christian both feel that they have two sets of parents. Christian says, “It is great to have two support systems, which is what Jordan and I have. I trust his parents, and he trusts my family.”
Jordan agrees, “The Turners are my family. I love every single person in that family. Mr. and Mrs. Turner are another set of parents to me.”
The closeness of their families isn’t just talk, it is real. Both families have logged thousands of road miles and tens of thousands air miles to support the visions and dreams of these two awesome young men.
Elliott Lyons remembers, “We took the boys out to San Diego after their sixth grade year to compete in the Phenom Camp. Throughout their nine-year journey together, we have traveled together.”
It has always been the Lyons and the Turners traveling back and forth to practice and tournaments all over the United States.
Beyond the parents and friends, there were even more members of the basketball family. Dorian Lee, founder of BBall101 Player Development (www.bball101.com) and a trainer, was a significant part their basketball development and in understanding the mental capacity of the game. Jerome Weaver, founder and head coach of Heat Check, was critical in basketball development, bringing out the best in them, accepting nothing less than their best, and encouraging them to play at their highest potential every game. Various other coaches have also contributed to the success of these young men. Coaches from Upward, Peachtree City Recreation League, AAU, middle school, and high school have poured into Christian and Jordan.
Coach Weaver described their relationship by saying, “They are great teammates and great friends, but there is a little competitiveness between both of them. They play well together . It was beneficial to me because they know each other. Christian would always be able to find Jordan for the open shot.”
Jordan played for Coach Weaver and Heat Check before Christian, but, because they were so tight, Christian already used to spend the weekend with Jordan and attend games even before he joined up. Yes, Jordan was very instrumental in recruiting Christian to Heat Check.
Weaver says, “I was like a father figure to both of them. I got on them when they did something wrong, and I praised them when they did something right. I taught them accountability and responsibility. I saw a lot in those kids, so I kept pushing them. They played for me for six years.”
Weaver sees a lot in his players. “Chris is one of the best point guards in the country. He doesn’t how know good he can be. He is so humble. He doesn’t want to fail, so early in his career he wouldn’t shoot. Now, he will absolutely take over a game.”
Weaver says of Lyons, “When Jordan first came to me, he was playing the post. He has always been able to adapt to his surroundings. Even as an undersized post player, he was getting rebounds and making buckets. The first couple of tournaments, he played from the bench, and he never complained. He just continued to work hard and he was able to crack the lineup.”
Weaver believes, if a kid has confidence in himself, he can accomplish anything. “One day I told Jordan that if he felt like he could make the shot to start shooting from half-court. Once he knew that I wouldn’t get mad at him for taking a shot, he started firing it up. Now, Jordan believes that he can do anything. Remember basketball is 90 percent mental. I think that I contributed to Jordan becoming a cold-blooded shooter.”
BBall 101 is another key cog in the Lyons/Turner Village. Christian started training with Dorian Lee and BBall 101 when he was 8 or 9-years-old. Jordan saw how Christian’s skills were improving and he decided to start utilizing Lee’s training programs. One aspect of their training is the Kaizen approach. Kaizen is the practice of continuous improvement. Kaizen was originally introduced to the West by Masaaki Imai in his book Kaizen. Today, Kaizen is recognized worldwide as an important pillar of an organization’s long-term competitive strategy, including a focus on utilizing Leadership Through Quality, a principle of Kaizen.
Lee says, “They have both always had high basketball IQ. They could do things as sixth and seventh graders that most players their age couldn’t do. They have continued to work hard and train hard to take those skills to a higher level.”
“Christian is truly a table setter. He sets the table for others to eat,” says Lee. “On the other hand, Jordan is a very focused and determined scorer. He is cut from the cloth of a Kobe Bryant or a Russell Westbrook. He absolutely does not fear taking a shot. Some people don’t understand a scorer’s mentality. They are sometimes described as selfish. They must remember that whatever points a scorer makes counts for the team, and Jordan is offensively aggressive.”
“Jordan and Christian are both leaders. They both have different roles, but their energy and passion for the game is equal,” says Lee.
All the hype and all the trash talking is over. Now, it is time to get down to business. December 19 is the final time that Christian Turner will lead his Sandy Creek Patriots against Jordan Lyons and the McIntosh Chiefs. There will be plenty of bragging rights on the line as both teams are ranked in the top ten in their respective classifications. Both play a very up-tempo brand of basketball. McIntosh is averaging 75.9 points per game and Sandy Creek is averaging 76.4 points per game, setting up for an exciting game, maybe the best the county will see all season.
Turner says, “I feel that it is going to be our best game each other. It is going to be a very competitive game and a lot of trash talking.”
Lyons agrees, “I am excited. It is going to be a great game.”
It’s a big one for the family and friends too.
Kelly Lyons says, “It is going to be bittersweet. I wish they could both win. We hold a 2-1 edge, but I wish they could both win. No matter what happens, they will continue to be like brothers. Last year when Sandy Creek lost by three points, Christian was at our house eating pizza after the game.”
Tim and Andriette Turner say, “We’re ready for the Big Game. This one will be the most special.”
Elliott Lyons says, “It is bittersweet. We have enjoyed watching them play together or against each other since the fifth grade.”
Coach Weaver says, “It is going to be emotional. It will also be very competitive. It is their senior year, and they each want the bragging rights.”
The coaches are ready for tip-off.
McIntosh’s head coach, Jason Eisele, says, “I really enjoy watching Christian play, but I don’t enjoy having to coach against him. He is a handful.”
Sandy Creek’s head coach, Anthony McKissic, is pumped, “I think the game will be a celebration for both of the guys. They are both a living examples of how hard work and dedication can pay off for you.”
The game will be the latest highlight reel for a pair of dynamite young men.
“Both guys have already won and the game hasn’t even started yet,” says McKissic. “I have a six-year-old son who plays basketball. If we flash forward 11 years from now and he’s playing in his senior season against one of his lifelong friends and he’s already signed his scholarship, I would be more than happy as a coach and a father. Jordan Lyons and Christian Turner playing each other on December 19th is more than a final matchup, it’s more like a representation for all the Fayette County youth who want to follow in their footsteps.”
On November 11, Christian Turner signed a letter of intent with the Gardner Webb University Bulldogs. Christian was supported by his parents, Tim and Andriette Turner, his sister Candice, his uncle Paul, Jr., his trainer Dorian Lee, Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Richard Smith, head coach Anthony McKissic, Coach Tim Bickerstaff, Tyrone Mayor Eric Dial, a host of family members, friends, teammates, and classmates.
At approximately the same time, only 6.9 miles away, Jordan Lyons was signing with the Furman University Paladins. Jordan was supported by his parents, Elliott and Kelly Lyons, his brother Cameron, McIntosh Principal Lisa Fine, Coach Robert Page, AAU Coach Jerome Weaver, head coach Jason Eisele, Athletic Director Stacie Smith, a host of family members, friends, teammates, and classmates.
The December 19 game will now only be their last high school game against each other. They will face each other once a year in a non-conference game.
True to form, after they both signed, a group of more than 20 people, the Village, met for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel to celebrate both champions.
Note from the author
My son Russell, Jr. has been close friends with Christian Turner since the second grade at Burch Elementary, and our family has been close to the Turners since that time. Moreover, we have also been friends with the Lyons family for the last six years, and Elliott Lyons and I are both alums of Southern University in Baton Rouge. So, we have followed this competition/brotherhood/teammate relationship from the beginning, but, when I started this article, I had no idea how significant their relationship would be to making Fayette County relevant in the college basketball. They are not the first Fayette County residents to sign D1 scholarships, but they have re-opened the floodgates. Lyons’ McIntosh teammates Dishon Lowery (Wofford) and Will Washington will both be playing big-time ball. Moreover, Turner’s teammates Keith Heard and AJ Freeman will sign scholarships this year. Keith will actually be the second person in his own household to sign D1 basketball scholarship from Sandy Creek. His sister, Safiya Martin, is a junior starter for the Temple University Owls.