Evan Turner and Demetri McCamey were high school teammates at St. Joseph's.
On Saturday, he felt Illinois crossed it during Ohio State’s 88-81 double overtime in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“They were saying stuff to me, saying stuff out loud,” said Turner, a Chicago West Side native. “It was almost like, ‘We beat you guys twice already. Don’t lose your mind.’ It wasn’t cool.”
Most of the talking Saturday came from Turner’s former St. Joseph High School teammate, Illini point guard Demetri McCamey.
McCamey, who finished with 22 points, four rebounds, five assists and four steals, admitted to giving Turner a little extra earful, but he didn’t think it was a big deal.
“Everybody was just getting into it, the emotions of the game, the physicalness of the game,” McCamey said. “Everybody was going out trying to compete. Everyone was trash talking. It wasn’t ... strategy. It was just part of the game. If he was talking to me, I’m going to talk back to him and try to play.
“There was more pushing and shoving and trash-talking than normal, but at the same time, you have no friends on the basketball court. We’re still best friends off the court. It wasn’t nothing to be blown up about.”
Turner disagreed. Afterward in the locker room, Turner was visibly upset about what had been said -- though he wouldn’t disclose specifics.
“I was just playing ball,” Turner said. “They weren’t trying to play. They were just trying to talk more and embarrass you and stuff.”
Before heading into their locker rooms at halftime, McCamey and Turner did exchange a longer set of words
“I just told him, ‘Don’t get crazy, just play the game,’” Turner said. “I started doing some talking after a while. I knew our run was coming.”
Ohio State senior Jeremie Simmons, a former Chicago high school player, understood why Illinois’ players were talking, but he also believed that was a huge mistake.
“There was a lot of trash talking today,” said Simmons, who had three points. “They wanted it. We wanted it, too. They motivated our top players. You can’t trash-talk to us. It’s going to fuel our fire.”
Turner did admit to being motivated by the war of words. After a slow first half where he had 10 points, Turner turned it on, especially late in the second half and during the overtimes, and finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Illinois coach Bruce Weber put in his two cents afterward as well.
“He was the one who was talking,” Weber said of Turner. “If that’s what motivates him ... He’s too good of a player, to be honest. He should just play basketball. That’s my opinion.”
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.