When Reggie Witherspoon was looking for an assistant coach to fill the void left by the departure of Chris Hawkins, the first person who came to mind was Turner Battle.
Battle, Witherspoon's first prized recruit seven years ago, was officially named an assistant coach at the University at Buffalo on Thursday. Battle, the 2005 Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, was traveling to New Jersey on a recruiting trip and was unavailable for comment.
Battle, who was an Associated Press honorable mention All-American as a senior, replaces Hawkins, who took an assistant coaching position at Tulane in June after seven seasons at UB. It was Hawkins who recruited Battle to UB in 2000.
"He doesn't have to read books on how good the university is in communications or business management or look in a book to see we're the second-largest campus in the country with three man-made lakes," said Witherspoon. "He doesn't have to try and convince a kid that he has to leave a warm weather climate to come to Buffalo. He already knows that."
Battle informed Witherspoon during his playing days that he wanted to coach long term.
After his collegiate career ended, Battle spent the 2005-06 season playing professionally both locally with the Buffalo Rapids as well as overseas in Estonia, France and Sweden. After breaking his arm last summer, Battle spent the past year as an assistant at Sweet Home High School under Paul Schintzius. With Battle on the bench, Sweet Home won the sectional title in a huge upset over perennial power Niagara Falls, which featured All-American guard Jonathan Flynn.
"The pursuit of playing overseas became less attractive to him, and coaching became more attractive to him," Witherspoon said.
Battle's biggest hurdle may be with recruiting because of his inexperience. But the Bulls have only one scholarship to fill next fall and Battle will gain valuable experience this summer, Witherspoon said.
"He can go out and see 400 people or four people, we only have one scholarship," Witherspoon said. "Hawk didn't have a ton of experience when I hired him and people could have said the same thing about me when I got the job. I don't think experience gets the job done. People get the job done."
Former UB big man Yassin Idbihi is expected to play for Germany in the World University Games, which will be held next month in Bangkok, Thailand.