Former Gonzaga star Turiaf signs with Yakama Sun Kings
Dec. 22, 2005
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Yakama Sun Kings are owned by the Yakama Tribe. The Yakama Tribe using the tribal spelling of Yakama rather than the more familiar spelling of Yakima as it refers to the city.
YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) - Former Gonzaga star Ronny Turiaf, who had open-heart surgery just over six months ago, signed a contract Wednesday to play for the Yakama Sun Kings as part of his rehabilitation.
Turiaf brings new status to the Continental Basketball Association team, whose fans tracked his stellar career at Gonzaga, just three hours east in Spokane.
"From a selfish standpoint, for me, he's a great basketball player. But for the franchise, and for everything Ronny has done in this state, it's the biggest one we've ever had," coach Paul Woolpert said of the signing. "And he hasn't even stepped on the floor yet."
Turiaf, a 6-foot-9 forward, was chosen by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 35th pick in June's NBA draft. During a subsequent physical, doctors detected a heart problem, and Turiaf underwent surgery July 26 to repair an enlarged aortic root.
The Lakers voided the contract but retained the rights to Turiaf for three years. He has no timetable for joining the NBA team.
"I'm not physically healthy enough to endure practice and training for an NBA schedule," Turiaf said at a Wednesday news conference. "I'm using Yakama as training. As long as I'm here, I will work hard and I will try to make this team better."
Turiaf, who worked out with the Sun Kings for the first time Wednesday, said he got "a little winded" but otherwise felt good. He said he will be working to get back to NBA form, but for now, "I'm a Sun King."
Details of the contract were not disclosed.
Turiaf's first court action likely will come Monday, when Yakama plays the Idaho Stampede in Boise. His first home game with the team will be the following night.
Asked how he was felt about finally getting back to the game, Turiaf said, "Nervous, no. Excited, yes.
"I've been waiting for this so long," he said. "Just give me a jersey and a pair of shoes and I'm ready to go."
The Sun Kings drafted Turiaf with the fifth pick in September's CBA draft, after his surgery. Woolpert, who saw Turiaf play at a draft camp last spring, was well aware his stint as a Sun King could be temporary, if it happened at all.
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