As New Albany's four seniors lined up with their parents for Senior Night before last night's home game against Watkins Memorial, Evan Turner sneaked up behind an unsuspecting Devon Pitts and flicked the senior center's right ear. Pitts, seeing the surprise visitor, covered his face with his hand to hide his emotions.
As New Albany’s four seniors lined up with their parents for Senior Night before last night’s home game against Watkins Memorial, Evan Turner sneaked up behind an unsuspecting Devon Pitts and flicked the senior center’s right ear.
Pitts, seeing the surprise visitor, covered his face with his hand to hide his emotions. Turner, the Philadelphia 76ers guard and former national player of the year at Ohio State, flew to Columbus from Philadelphia yesterday afternoon to surprise Pitts, whom he began mentoring in 2005 while still in high school.
“This is one of the greatest nights of my life,” Pitts said after the pregame ceremony, his eyes still puffy and wet.
One hour earlier, in the kitchen of Pitts’ home, Turner predicted Pitts would maintain his composure.
“I’ve never seen him cry before,” Turner said. “And I don’t think I’m worthy enough for tears.”& amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; lt; /p>
He thought wrong.
“Evan is like a brother to me,” said Pitts, who had 11 points and 11 rebounds in the Eagles’ 54-33 victory.
Turner, who is from Chicago, met Pitts through a mutual acquaintance — an assistant coach on Turner’s high-school team — and the friendship grew as both began to realize they shared similar interests and personalities.
“We would text and talk and I came to Ohio and we’d hang out and I saw a little bit of myself in him,” Turner said. “He’s kind of quiet and trying to find his way. The difference is, with the shyness and insecurities, I had a brother, Darius, who made me feel comfortable. Devon didn’t have any siblings. I just tried to lend an ear and lead by example. I told him, ‘It’s OK to do the right thing.’ ”
Carol Pitts, Devon’s mother, gushes about Turner’s influence.
“As a parent, there is nothing greater than someone being kind to your kid,” said Carol Pitts, who raised Devon as a single mom. “I can’t say enough nice things about Evan. He will do anything to make a kid’s life better.”
Two years ago, when New Albany had a fundraiser for cancer patient Kyhir James, now a junior on the basketball team, Turner waited until the raffle had ended and everyone had left, then wrote a personal check for $5,000.
Carol Pitts said her son has learned what compassion, sacrifice and leadership look like by watching Turner.
“Devon is able to see how Evan treats younger kids, including himself,” Carol Pitts said.
New Albany coach Sam Davis said Pitts, like Turner, lives out the Eagles’ team philosophy.
“We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves, and Devon is doing that,” Davis said. “ He is always working with the younger kids. He is just rock-solid.” Turner left last night’s game at halftime to drive to Cleveland before flying out at 6 a.m. today to make the team’s practice in Philadelphia.
“Devon was always there for some of my biggest moments. I want to be there for him, too.” Turner said.