*photo courtesy of Journal-Star
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I direct your attention to the basketball court, to the very top of the free throw circle. Right before your very eyes, you will witness a figure in a dark blue uniform that is very visible to the human eye. As you concentrate on this figure, I caution you not to blink the eye...not even for an instant. Now you see him, now you don't. May I present to you, that dark haired figure in the dark blue uniform that bears the number 24 you just witnessed disappearing to the hoop. Behold, my good friends, Grand Island Central Catholic's Turner Fahey.
Not so long ago, a couple of young men sat on the couch in my living room. I was conducting an interview with Spencer Fahey, the GICC senior who was a returning C-1 all-state player. Spence brought his little brother along that day in February a few years back. This younger sibling was full of energy, was not shy about answering the questions I presented to both of the Fahey boys. I chuckled because some of them were intended for Spencer, but this spunky, spirited freshman was just so full of life he couldn't resist chiming in. As our conversation drew to a close, Spencer Fahey, who had just recorded his 1000th career point a few days earlier, left me with a parting thought. "Mr. Mills, this kid right here will be quite a basketball player when it's all said and done...probably better than I". Smiling, two thoughts crossed my mind. Typical of an older bro to say about a younger brother that sees considerable playing time on the same team he plays for. The other thought was.....could he be right? Spencer was quite the player, you see.
I'll never forget the impression that Spencer's little brother left on me that day. He was such a hustler for a freshman on the court for the Crusaders. All over the place when it came to going for the ball of defense, and his ball handling skills were incredible for a kid in the 9th grade. Very seldom had the ball picked, and not raw in many phases of the game. He was so small though. Never played football, didn't spend much time in the weight room, but possessed great footwork that he had obtained from the tennis season working with Bill Gavers and playing doubles with Spencer.
Defenses pounded Spencer to the point of no return sometimes. The Fahey boys' father, Randy was a splendid athlete for the rock hard Irish of the now defunct Sidney St. Pats. Those boys from St. Pats knew how to inflict punishment on the football field and on the basketball court, yet were skilled enough to play the hardwood game. Randy Fahey could take the punishment back in the day, but the slender, but talented Spencer absorbed so much punishment I wondered if Turner would ever make it through his career at GICC if his build followed that of his older brother.
Turner Fahey may very well be the best player in the state of Nebraska, regardless of class. Back in my high school days, my buddies and I would have hopped into my station wagon and driven a 100 miles just to see a guy like this play. A lot of shooters were around back then and I'll bet we saw them all, but they were all "bigs". And the big guys were protected in those days. Players like Kurt "The Tower" Lauer of Gibbon, Glen Mays of Wood River, Alan Gissler of Osceola, Jack Kramer of Fullerton, Terry Egger-Sprague-Martell, Bob Grattop-Geneva......all scored at will it seemed. If you breathed on them a foul was whistled. Get the feed, turn around and drop in the 5 footer. There was no three pointer back then, so not many set sail with the long outside shot and fewer drove in toward the basket. There existed, however, that rare breed that idolized the Celtic's Bob Cousey, who among other things, was a great pull-up jump artist.
Sometimes I when I watch Turner Fahey, I seriously wonder if he is not reincarnated from the past. From my childhood days in the 50's when players watched the Harlem Globetrotters play, those players attempted to duplicate their dribbling wizardry or mimic their "pull-up, stop, and nail the 10 foot jumper" antics. Some of the things I have witnessed Tuner Fahey perform are mind boggling and among them, the pull up 8-12 foot jumper As I watched from point blank range at the Events Center Saturday night, I imagined how it must feel to be back peddling down court on a fast break. Only you and Turner between his bucket. I thought it must feel like a defensive back in the NFL looking eye to eye with Jerry Rice, wondering which way or which juke he is going to inflict on you. You know what your chances are and the odds are not in your favor by any stretch of the imagination. On this night Norfolk Catholic chose to place 6-7 all-state football/basketball star, Ethan Brozek on Fahey. This may have created one of the most intriguing match-ups any basketball aficionado could ever dream of seeing. But it was Turner Fahey's night to shine. In Brozek's defense, he was not used to being out front all night on defense. On the other hand, he may have been guarding one of the most deceptive, Houdini-like players to come along in years. Fahey won the battle.
Last year Turner Fahey began to absorb the brutal beatings his older brother Spencer had endured...night after night after night. I'm not certain who was behind the urging, it could of been my son, who probably has not missed a day of lifting in years, but Turner decided to spend the summer in the weight room. It could have been Spencer, who did not want to see the same thing happen to his little bro. Maybe it was Givers, or Turner's rugged father Randy, who knows.
But when Turner started lifting toward the end of his Junior year he weighed 138 pounds. When basketball season began in late November of his senior year, he was up to a solid 160. This round ball wizard knew it was the only way to take the pounding. It worked. Fahey still takes the beatings, but picks himself up off the floor like a prize fighter and inflicts a pain of his own on defenders. It's not so much the physical form of pain, but a much more lethal punch.....mental.
I have seen defenders shake their heads after they see Turner fly by and take it to the hoop. No, he's not invincible. Maybe not even a pure shooter, maybe not even 50% fromm the field, but if you were a judge considering the difficulty of his acrobatic, but not showboating, shots, you would have to say Turner Fahey probably IS the best shooter in the state....all things considered.
Turner Fahey has scored 577 points this season as Grand Island Central Catholic has sped to a 22-0 record. He quietly surpassed the 1000 point mar a while back, not even knowing it until I had inquired. Then he wasn't sure how many, just that he had eclipsed that 1000 mark. Fahey has amassed 1,322 points in his 4 seasons as a Crusader, but is also one of the better defenders around, maybe in C-1. And he isn't even the best on team. The sure-footed Seth Wardyn is one of the top defenders in the entire state, regardless of class. Scoring isn't the only thing Fahey does. He ranks among the top assist men in Class C-1. His vision is uncanny. I always compare it the sight Barry Sanders had on the football field. You would swear he has a million eyes. Rarely do you see a player have the court vision Tuner Fahey possesses...on both sides of the ball. But the one thing this young basketball star has in his repertoire is something you can't coach......the desire to never lose. Before the season started, Turner told me that there was no tomorrow for this group of seniors. 2010/2011 was it, now or never and "never" was not an option. You could see "that" gleam in Jeremy Wissing's eyes when GICC won the C-1 state championship in 2000. Wissing WILLED the Crusaders to win. His teammates knew it. No matter what obstacles confronted that 2000 team , they overcame them. Turner Fahey has that same twinkle in his eye. Those kind of twinkles sometimes reap state championships.
It is not often a player comes along like Turner Fahey. No, he is likely too small to be a division one player and I can vouch that is the last thing on his mind. He and his Crusader teammates have only one thing on their mind. If you have seen Fahey play, you are one of the lucky ones indeed. Thinking back to 1965, my football buddies would probably have gone TWO hundred miles to watch this "Fahey kid" play and talked about him for a month afterwards. The twisting, turning spins, the underhanded scoop shots that slither though the laces. Sweet strokes.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, now you see him now you don't, the number 24 figure that disappears from points beyond to the hoop in a heartbeat. Don't blink, or you'll miss it. Makes your head spin, doesn't it?