DAYTON - "Gym rat" is a term of endearment used by basketball coaches to describe that player they have to chase out of the gym after practice and during school breaks. It is a player that lives, breathes and sleeps basketball.
Dayton's four-year starting guard, senior Garett Turner, typifies one of those players.
"I was probably 4, and had a little tykes basketball hoop," Turner said. "I had a kids'-size Chicago Bulls basketball and I played on that all day. When my dad (Jeff) came home, he would play me 1-on-1 from his knees."
That hoops passion has remained a big part of who this senior is.
"When we were little, (current Bulldog teammates and fellow seniors) Colton (Bickelhaupt) and Hayden (Fullerton) and I would play outside all day," Garett added. "We would go until 10 at night.
"My mom (Shannon) didn't like me playing football (although Garett wound up as a starting wide receiver and defensive back for the Bulldogs)," Turner continued. "She (mom) was nervous about that (Pee Wee football), and I just liked to shoot hoops and kind of felt I was pretty good at it. Dad or mom would bring me to the gym. In the summertime, I would spend a lot of time at the (outdoor) hoops on the (Dayton High) tennis courts."
This senior is not all gym rat.
"I've been around him (Garett) since he was in the fifth grade," Bulldog varsity coach Roy Ramirez said. "He's always been a very polite, hard-working, honest young man. All the characteristics I would want in my son, is what he is."
On the gym rat side, Ramirez has coached Garett and his five fellow senior teammates (Bickelhaupt, Fullerton, Joey Schlachter, Kroft Sunderland and Jacob McCleary) since fifth-grade AAU ball, and appreciates Turner's contribution to the Bulldog program.
"Even when he was a freshman, he was somebody the whole team looked to," Ramirez added. "With the talent he has to play basketball, they (the players, then and now) all look to him one way or the other. The way he plays is pretty special. He's very important to what we do."
But there is a moment that may indeed define who Garett Turner is.
"What I always think about him doesn't have anything to do with basketball," Ramirez continued. "My son was going to 4-H camp for the very first time, and he didn't want to go because he didn't know about staying away from home. Everything was good because Garett was up there."
Turner was born in Waterville, Wash., and into an athletically centered family. Jeff's constant involvement and support in each endeavor, starting from his knees as a 1-on-1 opponent; Shannon, a Bulldog volleyball graduate, who coached volleyball at Waterville and is the head volleyball coach at Dayton; older brother Ryan played Bulldog basketball; and older sister Stephanie earned a full-ride Division 1 volleyball scholarship to the University of Montana.
The Turners, with family ties to Dayton, returned to Dayton as Garett entered kindergarten. He treasures growing up in a supportive small-town atmosphere.
"For me, being from a small town is real nice," Garett said. "You know everybody, you see them and talk to them. There are real strong bonds."
Garett, away from basketball, knows school and community are important to his future.
"I've been the team captain for Relay for Life (community cancer awareness project) for the past three years," Turner said. "I'm planning on college. I like to write and like English. I want to go into journalism and, hopefully, be a sports columnist and see where that can take me."
On the basketball court, Garett has played with his five fellow seniors since fifth grade. They are on a mission, as Dayton has not made a state tourney appearance since the Will Hutchens-led 1995 Bulldog team defeated Toutle Lake 68-46 to earn the 1995 title.
"When they were in fifth grade and doing AAU stuff, we always talked about where they wanted to get," Ramirez said. "They wanted to win a state championship when they got to high school.
"We have six seniors on our team and they are each special in their own way," Ramirez said. "Garett is the leader. If they all play together as they have since the fifth grade, I don't think there is anything they can't accomplish."
The Bulldogs are off to a 13-0 start and ranked No. 5 in the state, but have a long way to go to reach the goal.
"Ever since fifth grade, I remember talking about that (winning the title)," Turner said. "We've always looked at that '95 team as an inspiration. They did it and it's always been something we've been building on a little bit at a time. When I was a freshman, we had a good year, but didn't make it to where we wanted to go. My sophomore year, we were rebuilding. Then last year, we lost the district title game to Waitsburg, and then lost to Asotin (for the last state berth). This year, we've built on that even more. We're rolling now.
"We start five seniors and we all know what we're going to do (on the court)," Turner said of the playoff expectations. "We have a reason (to get to state) to play hard. We're ready to go."
On the court, Turner has been the leader by example, whether it is his defense, scoring, or just hard work.
But the senior knows, for the Bulldogs, it starts with defense.
"I've tried to be a leader by playing hard and talking on defense and leading by example in practice," Bulldog co-captain Turner said. "Roy (Ramirez) usually sets a (defensive) goal for us as to what we want to hold a team to. "(Then) we play as hard a defense as we can. The offense just comes from the defense."
Turner's career highlight, to date, is that he is one of only three 1,000-point scorers the Bulldogs have had over the past 30 years. Having reached that milestone earlier this season, Turner joins Brian Martin, who went on to play at George Fox University, and Hutchens, who earned a D-1 ride to Washington State, in the exclusive club.
"When you talk individual stats, Brian and Will were exceptional basketball players," Ramirez said. "To be in the company of those two, you don't see that very often. It hasn't been easy. All the hard work and sacrifices that he (Turner) has done, are paying off."
"I didn't really know about that (scoring 1,000) before high school," Turner said. "Once in high school, I heard of Shelby Barnes (from Asotin) doing it, and Ben Servatius (also from Asotin) last year. I thought, ‘Wow, that's pretty cool.' When Servatius did it, I figured I would be close to doing that. It just kind of happened. It wasn't anything I was trying for. It's pretty cool to have that, but I would rather have a championship."
Every career has a memorable event and for Turner that, so far, came in his sophomore year.
"My sophomore year, Asotin was up on us 20-2," Turner said. "We got it back within range in the fourth quarter, and I ended up with the ball with us down two. I went to the hole and made a bucket as the clock ran out to put it in overtime. I wound up making the game-winner at the buzzer. That's something I've always remembered."
But there is always the other moment and that came in Garett's freshman year in his first district tournament playoff action.
"We were up 30-18 (against Waitsburg-Prescott)," Turner recalled of the eventual 58-54 Bulldog loss. "I've never stopped thinking about that one. I couldn't believe it (the loss). I've never had an explanation for that. I've had the U-B article hanging above my bed since the day after that happened. It (the loss) is an incentive."
Turner's pregame routine has worked so far this season. He hopes it will spark the Fab 6 and the Bulldogs on a long postseason run and make the 3-year-old loss to W-P a distant memory.
"To win a state championship (is the goal)," Turner said. "I get ready mentally. I think about what I can do to play well on defense. Since I was a freshman, I always wash my hands with hot, soapy water, so you can grip the ball better. I always do that. It's one of those superstition things. (And) when you're doing good, you always wear the same undershirt."
Regardless of where the end comes, Garett hopes to continue his hoops career at the next level, but knows the Fab 6 will take fond memories with them.
"Just hanging out with the guys in the locker room and spending time with them," Turner said of his career memories. "Us six (seniors) have been playing together a long time. We're pretty close. I'm going to miss summer ball and those road trips. They (trips and players) were a lot of fun.
"He (Ramirez) has been a best friend to all of us," Turner said of coach Ramirez. "You can talk to him about anything. We've always respected him 100 percent. He's respected us. We respond well to him as a coach. You play hard for him. He's been awesome to play for."
Now, if only that undershirt doesn't wear out.