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ESU men’s basketball’s Jumah’Ri Turner reflects on big-screen debut

Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 9:08 PM CST
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EMPORIA, Kan. (WIBW) - Emporia State’s Jumah’Ri Turner leads the Hornets in scoring and ranks top five in the MIAA. Lesser known is his talent off the court — and on the big screen.

Even those who think they know him best did a double take when they watched the 2008 movie Turnipseed.

“It was sent to me by Coach (Evan) Lavery,” Emporia State head men’s basketball coach Craig Doty said. “Didn’t tell me who it was. And instantly when you see the child actor who’s portraying Turnipseed, it’s like, that’s Jumah’Ri Turner.”

Acting was never the goal for the Emporia State senior.

“They were asking me like, ‘what’s your goal in the acting industry?’ I was like, ‘I play basketball, I want to be an NBA basketball player.’ They were like, ‘what are you doing here?’ And I’m like, ‘well I just made the cut,’” Turner laughed.

His audition for the movie was on a whim with a friend in middle school. To his surprise, he landed the gig, and soon played the teenage version of the lead character, Johnny Turnipseed.

It didn’t take long for his ESU teammates to catch wind of his acting days.

“Everyone was like, hey movie star, whats up?” Turner said. “They were calling me my movie name, Johnny Turnipseed, and I’m like, how do you know that?”

“I was just riveted by his performance,” Doty said. “I had no idea. I called his junior college coaches, they had no idea.”

Turner says that was the beginning and likely the end of his shot at acting, but it goes to show you can do anything you set your mind to — even if you pivot outside of your comfort zone.

“No limitations to what you can do as an individual, no matter who you are,” Turner said. “Just go out and be the best you can be. Whether it’s acting, whether it’s playing whatever sport that you like. If you have an idea, just go all in, you know?”

“Jumah’Ri’s not only one of the best players in the MIAA, I would say he gets all votes for the most interesting man in the MIAA based on his background,” Doty said. “Jumah’Ri’s a first-generation college student who’s working to change his life and the life of his family and his future family. We’re so proud of him.”

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