September 16, 2010
From North Carolina to the Hall of Fame
When Turner Battle took his first jump shot in Alumni Arena in
2001 he never realized the impact he would have on the University
at Buffalo men's basketball program.
However, head coach Reggie Witherspoon had a pretty good idea
and that is why he convinced the highly coveted recruit to travel
more than 600 miles from North Carolina to Western New York to
become the cornerstone of his rebuilding project.
Battle made that first jump shot and went on to make many more
en route to having one of the finest careers of any student-athlete
in school history.
On Friday night Battle will be among the 38th class
inducted into the UB Athletics Hall of Fame. It is something that
was far from his mind when he first arrived on campus.
"Coming to UB, I just wanted to be as successful as possible,"
Battle said. "I wanted to get a degree and win some games. I never
thought that this would happen."
Successful may be an understatement when reflecting on
He graduated in 2005 as the most decorated of all UB
basketball players in the Mid-American Conference. He was its
player of the year his senior season and an Associated Press
Honorable Mention All-American. He led the Bulls to a school-record
23 wins in 2004-05 and an appearance in the MAC championship game.
Although the Bulls lost a heartbreaker to Ohio, they did advance to
the second round of the National Invitation Tournament for the
team's first postseason appearance.
Battle averaged team-highs of 15.5-points and 4.4 steals and
logged the most minutes (1,160) by a Bull during a single season.
Additionally, his leadership on and off the court was immeasurable,
leading the Bulls in scoring his last three seasons and finishing
his career with 1,414 points to stand fifth on the all-time list.
He also topped the Bulls in assists all four years and in steals
for two. In 2003-04, he was chosen a MAC second-team pick after
earning honorable mention as a sophomore and all-freshman in his
initial campaign. When his career ended, he was among the school's
top five in eight of 11 categories.
Battle was as successful in the classroom as he was on the
court. He was a three-time Academic All-MAC selection and in 2005
earned Academic All-America honors.
Along with Jason Bird, Mark Bortz and Daniel Gilbert who were
in the same recruiting class, Battle helped change the culture of
UB basketball. The scene in Alumni Arena went from being a friends
and family affair to being one of the hottest tickets in
The Bulls drew a record crowd of 8,971 when they hosted
Northern Illinois in the first round of the 2004 MAC Tournament.
When the final horn sounded and the scoreboard showed a 17-point
victory for the home team, the fans rushed the floor to help
celebrate the Bulls' first trip to Cleveland. Battle recalls that
moment as one of his fondest memories.
"Selling the place out and having the largest crowd that
Alumni Arena would ever have was incredible," Battle said. "It was
a huge accomplishment and it showed that all the work that we as a
team put in was starting to pay off."
Following graduation in 2005, Battle began a professional
basketball career overseas. He never forgot about Buffalo, as he
would return to UB in the offseason to work out. It was
during one of those offseason workouts that his life would change
forever. While playing a pickup game in the practice gym, Battle
fell awkwardly on his arm – breaking it in multiple places.
His playing career was essentially over.
That is when coach Witherspoon, who brought Battle to UB to
resurrect his program years earlier, extended an invitation to help
his team again - this time from the sidelines.
Battle's long-term goal was to be a college coach, so he
quickly accepted the invitation.
"It was an honor. For coach to bring me back speaks volumes
about him," Battle said. "It's a dream. I always wanted to coach
college basketball, but I didn't think I would have a chance to
coach as young as I was. Coach had the confidence in me, which was
A point guard is often considered a coach on the court. Now
Battle gets to be one off the court. Entering his fourth year,
Battle's hard work and experience have paid dividends to the team,
especially the point guard position. Last season, John Boyer led
the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio to become the first UB
basketball player to lead the NCAA in a statistical category in the
Bulls' Division I era.
Battle will join swimmers Jennefer Brankovsky (BS '05) and
Korry Miller (BS '98), former president William R.
Greiner (posthumously), wrestler Jeffrey Howard (EdM '93 &
BA '90) as well as award winners Peter Rao (EdM '63 & EdB '56)
(posthumously), Nanette Harvey (EdM '87 & BS '78)
(posthumously) and Kevin Brinkworth (JD '66 & BA '63) at
Friday's induction ceremony.
"It's a big achievement. A lot of hard work has paid off,"
Battle said. "It hasn't hit me yet. It's something I thought
would never happen. It's a dream come true."