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Rancho Verde's Jaxen Turner successfully balances his multisport stardom

Rancho Verde senior Jaxen Turner is a football and basketball star.

The California Interscholastic Federation hasn’t made it easy for high school students to be multisport athletes. Summer has always been a tough balancing act in terms of practices and competitions, and with football games starting on Aug. 24 and basketball games on Nov. 12, there’s almost no time between seasons, especially for those competing in playoff games.

That makes the success of football/basketball standout Jaxen Turner of Moreno Valley Rancho Verde even more extraordinary.

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He was a star receiver/defensive back on a football team that went 13-1 and made it to the Southern Section Division 2 final. He was so versatile that coach Pete Duffy was able to play him at quarterback in the championship game after injuries to other players. He had attempted three passes all season but threw a touchdown pass during Rancho Verde’s first offensive possession in a 24-13 loss to Upland.

He took just two days off from football before joining the basketball team and the three-point shots have been falling ever since. He entered this week having made 52 threes while averaging 23.1 points per game. He had 27 points against Chino Hills, 32 against Bellflower St. John Bosco, 30 against Moreno Valley Valley View and 28, including seven threes, against Temescal Canyon.

“He’s just a great athlete,” basketball coach Brandon Baker said.

Turner, who is 6 feet 2 and 175 pounds, signed with Arizona for football but is also invited to join the Wildcats’ basketball team as a preferred walk-on.

“It’s all about time management,” he said of being a two-sport athlete. “I’ve managed football and basketball equally. I just have to put the work in. I love it, though. It keeps me busy. It keeps me out of trouble.”

Turner isn’t the only one showing how to be successful as a football/basketball athlete. Drake London of Moorpark is averaging 30.5 points a game after starring at receiver in football. He’s headed to USC. Junior John Humphreys of Corona del Mar caught 103 passes in football and is averaging 16 points in basketball. Sean Harlston of Compton Dominguez was a top receiver-defensive back in football and is starring as a point guard, averaging 18 points. He has committed to UC Davis for football.

As for Turner, Baker is repeatedly asked which one is his better sport.

“I work the clock in football and it’s a tough decision,” Baker said. “He makes great plays in football and basketball. He can play either one. Football is his thing, but he likes playing both.”

Said Turner: “It opens up so many opportunities. Say you can’t get an offer in basketball. Football has lots of players and lots of positions.”

Rancho Verde is 18-4 overall and 8-0 in the Ivy League. The Mustangs might qualify for the Open Division playoffs, giving fans the chance to see just how good an athlete Turner is against the many top players in the Southland.

It’s very fortunate, though, that he chose the path of being a multisport athlete in the era of specialization.

“He’s been playing two sports from the beginning and didn’t listen to travel ball coaches that said, ‘Stick to basketball’ or youth football coaches that said, ‘Stick to football,’” Duffy said. “He’s really elite in both sports. Obviously everybody can’t do it, but so many other kids would if they just tried.”

Turner advises, “Exploit all your athletic abilities in as many sports as you can.”

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