Clyde Turner passed away a couple of weeks ago.
Since then, there have been numerous testimonials about the former University of Minnesota Golden Gophers basketball star’s impact through his work as a social worker and the basketball camp he created in his name, which ran from 1985-2019. Of all the stories I have read on social media or have heard in person, one of the most compelling comes from Leonard Jones.
Jones, a product of the North Side, not only participated in Turner’s camp as a youth; he also became a counselor after a storied athletic career at the high school and collegiate levels. “I was in Clyde’s camp while in high school,” Jones said. “I also had the privilege to work with his camp as a counselor. Clyde influenced my life overall.”
What makes Jones’ story so compelling? First let’s talk a little bit about him.
Jones went to Minneapolis Patrick Henry High School from 1986-1990 where, during that time, he became a basketball and track star and earned the name ‘Leapin Léonard’ due to his ability to rise above others on the court and on the field.
Jones teamed with Martez Williams to win the 1990 Class AA State track and field championship and went on to play football, basketball, and become a track and field All-American at the University of St. Thomas.
Today he is a dean at Robbinsdale Cooper High School, a member of the music group sensation Sounds of Blackness, and duly continues contributing to community. He says who he is today is partly due to the lessons he learned from Turner as a camper, teenager and adult.
What makes this story most compelling is Jones’ descriptions of one of the last times he worked at Turner’s camp. “I was a counselor, and we had guest speakers come in to talk to the kids,” Jones said.
“On a regular day for camp he got everybody together for the guest speaker. All of sudden, he called my name. He introduced me as the guest speaker. I was working his camp, and he thought enough of me to share my story. That influenced me quite a bit.”
The interesting fact that struck me about Jones’ story is that basketball wasn’t even his best sport. It also shows that Turner’s camp was about more than just youth improving their basketball skills.
It’s about setting people up to succeed in life.
“That’s exactly what he did,” Jones said. “He was a great man.”