Yvonne Turner

Yvonne Turner is averaging 10.3 points during the Phoenix Mercury's playoff run.

BARRY GOSSAGE, PHOENIX MERCURY

Yvonne Turner has seen the world.

The former Husker has logged minutes playing professional basketball in Australia, Poland, Turkey, Hungary and Russia.

For Turner, it was a chance to experience different lifestyles while continuing to play the game she loves.

But when the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury asked if Turner was interested in a training camp tryout in February, the Bellevue East graduate saw a great opportunity to play in the world's top women's basketball league.

"'Hell, yeah, I would be interested,'" Turner recalls thinking. "Who would say no?"

Fast forward to nearly half a year later. On Tuesday night, Turner was announced as a starter for the Mercury in Game 1 of a five-game playoff series against the Los Angeles Sparks on national television.

Yeah, Turner has seen the world. Now the world is seeing her.

"It's been a blessing," Turner said Tuesday. "If you would have asked me last year, or any years with my career that I would be playing in the playoffs with Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi, I would definitely not even have that in my plans."

Turner has tried out for WNBA teams before. After playing in Australia, she got a tryout with the San Antonio Stars, but a knee injury sidelined her for two months.

Turner got camp invites to Chicago in 2014 and 2016. She missed the cut both times.

But Turner always had opportunities overseas. Another came with Uniqa Sopran of the ultra-competitive EuroLeague. And that's where Turner really took off. A defensive-minded player, Turner led the league in scoring at 18.8 points per game. She also averaged 4.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello was coaching in the EuroLeague at the time. She took notice of the league's leading scorer, and once again, Turner got a crack at the WNBA. A fourth try.

"I started off clean and did what I could do," Turner said of training camp. "I was not trying to do anything that I wasn't capable of doing."

There was a text message. "Congratulations for making the team," Turner remembers reading. Hours later, she was getting situated in an apartment. Turner had played basketball all her life. Now she was a WNBA player.

"It feels like another home to me," Turner said of Phoenix. "Like I said, I don't take any of this for granted."

At 29 years of age, Turner is the oldest rookie in the WNBA.

"As a title, yes, I'm a rookie, but I don't feel like a rookie because I've been overseas for eight years," she said. "You make mistakes regardless of whether you're a vet or a rookie."

Turner, playing alongside Griner and Taurasi, averaged 5.1 points during the regular season, and is playing some of her best basketball now. She started the final four games of the regular season, and is averaging 10.3 points and 2.3 assists in 24.1 minutes during the playoffs.

She scored 11 points in the Mercury's win against the Connecticut Sun on Sunday. The Mercury dropped Tuesday's series opener to the Sparks. Game 2 is set for 9 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2.

And defense? Turner still loves playing defense.

"It's been locked in my mental state since my sophomore year in high school," said the former Big 12 defensive player of the year.

Turner played at Nebraska from 2006-10, and became the sixth player to go north of 1,000 points, 200 assists and 200 steals for career numbers. She was part of the 2009-10 Husker team that started 30-0, won a Big 12 championship and reached the Sweet 16.

Though Turner's journey to the WNBA is longer than most, there are no regrets, no questioning of how things played out. She embraces the road.

"I made it a point to, not really show the fans or the people that I was surrounded by, just myself that you could do anything you put your mind to," Turner said. "I wanted to give myself the opportunity and a chance to go overseas and experience that lifestyle.

"My goal was to remain healthy and travel the world, and if a WNBA shot became available, I obviously was going to take it."

After the WNBA season is complete, Turner said she plans to play in Hungary again. She also makes time to get back to Omaha during the offseason.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.

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