HAMMOND | Even though Merrillville grad Tierra Turner admitted she isn't feeling 100 percent healthy on the court this season, the Purdue Calumet junior still has earned her fair share of accolades this season.
Turner returned to the court Dec. 29 against rival IU-Northwest after recovering from a torn ACL in her right knee 14 months earlier. She missed the entire 2011-12 season. Turner was recognized for scoring her 1,000th career point after the Feb. 20 Chicago Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal win over Olivet Nazarene before scoring a career-high 32 points two days later in a 101-96 semifinal loss to Roosevelt.
"She adds a dimension that is hard to define," Purdue Calumet coach Tom Megyesi said. "It's hard to predict what she's going to do because of her athletic ability. She can split defenses, she can attack the basket, has great body control and has been a great leader for us, as well."
Though Turner's absence was felt last season and the first 13 games of this season, it actually helped improve some other players.
"We had to have kids step up in her absence," Megyesi said. "(Sophomore) Kami Graber really developed into a dynamic player."
The loss to Roosevelt ended the Peregrines' chances for an automatic bid to the NAIA Division II Tournament, but despite that, they jumped up to No. 13 in the NAIA Coaches' Top 25 Poll, easily earning them an at-large bid to the tournament. The Peregrines earned a No. 4 seed, and they will face No. 5 seed Grand View at 8:45 p.m. Thursday in Sioux City, Iowa.
"It's very exciting because I've been here for four years and we've never made it," Turner said. "We've always wanted to go. We get to make it with the two seniors right here (Amanda Gaskin and Alex Starr)."
The excitement around the Purdue Calumet campus and at women's basketball games has been noticeable to Turner. With Purdue Calumet becoming less of just a commuter school, students have come out to support the Peregrines more this season.
"We even have more fans than the boys team," Turner said. "We're doing something right. We've got a lot of fans walking around wearing T-shirts, making signs and telling us 'good luck' all the time."
The CCAC has five teams in the tournament — a feat equaled by no other conferences — which shows how competitive and tough Purdue Calumet's schedule is. The Peregrines will have a tough test against Grand View, as well; the Vikings have three players who are at least six feet tall.
"I think the way we schedule our games, we play a lot of tough opponents," Megyesi said. "That's helped prepare us to get to this level."