February 28, 2010

Year not over but Turner decision looms

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said he would be a liar if he said he hadn't thought about the same things all Buckeye fans think about quite often in regards to star junior point guard Evan Turner.

Is he going to the NBA? Is he staying for his senior season at Ohio State? Has he made a decision?

These thoughts, too, have echoes in Matta's mind.

"If I said I haven't thought about it, I would be lying to you," Matta said after Sunday's victory over Michigan at home. "But the biggest thing I talked to Evan about in the beginning of the season was, 'Don't be one of those guys who plays with one foot out the door.'

"Evan, in my mind, has been off the charts of keeping the focus on the job at hand, and that's playing his basketball."

Despite the fact that Turner is currently a projected top three pick in the NBA Draft and is one of the names floating around the National Player of the Year Award discussions, Turner has taken Matta's advice and continued to focus on the Buckeyes.

Whenever asked about some of the individual honors - which isn't a rare occurrence -- Turner has bounced those questions off by praising his teammates and talking about how the Buckeyes are one step closer to achieving their next goal.

Turner, who has been bombarded with questions with NBA implications, finally broke the silence on Friday and spoke about where he feels he is in terms of Ohio State and possibility pursuing professional basketball.

Buckeye fans liked what they heard. In other words, Turner said he hasn't yet made up his mind when it comes to what his plans will be after Ohio State's season concludes.

"At the end of the season, I will have to come and make a decision," Turner said Friday on a conference call. "It's all based on how we're going to do this year - these next two (regular-season) games and then March. If I don't get all I want to get out of college then I'm going to be back for another year."

Following Saturday's win over Michigan, Turner drew the same reaction from the opposing coach that he always does.

Michigan coach John Beilein had just witnessed another outstanding performance by Turner, this time to the detriment of his team. Turner, who missed the first game earlier this season against Michigan in which the Wolverines topped the Buckeyes, the junior scored 18 points, had 11 rebounds, and registered seven assists and led Ohio State to the win.

"I don't know if he's the best in the country (because I haven't seen everyone), but I know he's really good," Beilein said of Turner. "He is one of the few guys who you can give him the ball at 17 feet and he can make a shot at 10 feet over someone's head."

The attention is growing for Turner, and the junior is fully aware of it. Averaging just a shade fewer than 20 pointers per game, 9.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists, there aren't many things on a basketball court that Turner can't do.

But Turner wants to make sure he is ready to do it against NBA talent before making a jump to the next level.

"I want to make sure I'm fully ready," Turner said. "I don't want to go into a situation where I'm not ready or go prematurely and not be the best I can right away. I just want to be feeling (ready) for the NBA range and feel comfortable."

With one of the top recruiting classes in the country coming in next year, Matta joked about how wonderful it would be to welcome Turner back for his senior season. Many would say the Buckeyes would become instant contenders for a national title.

But the current Buckeyes are right in the thick of a Big Ten race this season with just one regular season game to go and could be staring at a very high seed come NCAA Tournament time.

So Matta, of course, won't be looking for any answers until after the season is over.

"When the time is right we will sit down and basically look at his options," Matta said. "I have always said this, I want what's best for the kids.

"But I want what's best for me, too," he joked.

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.

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