At 13 years of age, Conor Turley's journey seemed to have come to an end.
Instead of enjoying his last year of middle school, Turley spent most of eighth grade in the hospital battling polyarteritis nodosa, a life-threatening disease that occurs when immune cells attack the arteries for unknown reasons.
Turley, now a freshman forward for the Quakers, spent nine days in intensive care while the illness took its toll physically and mentally, keeping him out of school and away from basketball.
"He thought he wasn't ever going to play basketball again because he was so sick and no one thought he would," his father, Douglas Turley, said.
Forty-two days in the hospital and 12 months of chemotherapy treatment later, Turley was ready to start his life again.
And after rebuilding his stamina and strength, he was finally cleared to lace up his basketball sneakers.
Back on the hardwood, Turley improved each year of high school, earning first-team All-State honors his senior year.
Turley's performance caught the eye of then-Penn coach Fran Dunphy, and current Quakers coach Glen Miller, who was at the helm of Brown's basketball program at the time.
"He's fundamentally sound and he played hard," Miller said. "He had a good basketball IQ and we just thought he'd be a good player for us at Brown."
Penn was Turley's favorite school out of the ones he visited, but he was more heavily recruited by Miller and ultimately committed to Brown.
But once again, basketball would have to take a backseat.
Turley, a Mormon, was sent to the predominantly Spanish-speaking south side of Chicago for a two-year mission.
"It's a pretty rigorous schedule so it was tough to stay up on my basketball skills but I did everything I could," Turley said. "We had one day off per week to do our laundry and all of that and on that day I would try to play."
Turley's average day entailed waking up every morning at six or earlier and working straight until nine at night, preaching to anyone who would listen and helping out in the local community.
With little time to stay in shape and a modest budget for food, Turley lost 20 pounds while on his mission.
Despite having limited time for himself, Turley still took every chance he got to shoot some baskets.
"If there were people playing on the street I would hop into the game with my shirt and tie and play a little bit even while we were out preaching," Turley said.
And after two years spent away from basketball, Turley is just glad to be back on the court.
"It feels awesome to play again," Turley said. "I've been dreaming about being able to play for two years."
Miller's decision to assume head coaching duties at Penn couldn't have come at a better time for Turley, who was away on his mission when he received word of Miller's move to Penn.
"When Coach Miller took this job . it seemed like it definitely worked out for me," Turley said. "I think it's a huge blessing to be here, so I'm excited."
Miller, impressed by Turley's high-school performance, didn't mind waiting two years to have Turley on the team.
It will take time to knock off the rust after two years spent away from basketball training, but Miller has no doubt that it won't take long for Turley to catch up.
"I think he's done really well to this point, which leads me to believe that as each day and week passes he's going to get better and better," Miller said. "We expect him to be able to contribute to our success this season."
And after weathering all of the challenges he has already faced, Turley now has a chance for a new phase of his journey to begin.Comments powered by Disqus
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