March 2, 2010

Turner could go out with seniors

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State star junior point guard Evan Turner admitted Monday at Value City Arena that he had thoughts of leaving early last season and pursuing a professional basketball career in the NBA.

Then he got to thinking.

"What really just stuck in me was like I (hadn't) really done anything here," Turner recalled when thinking of making the decision. "I haven't really left my mark. If I never got a Big Ten title or anything like that, that would have nagged me for the rest of my life. I didn't really accomplish anything in college and that is why I came back.

"I wanted to win a Big Ten title, try to get a national championship and try to be one of the best to ever come out of here," he added.

On Tuesday night when the No. 6 Ohio State basketball (23-7, 13-4 Big Ten) team invites Illinois into the Schott - on senior night - Turner and the Buckeyes have a chance to accomplish the thing Turner came back for - a Big Ten Championship and possibly more.

After an improbable run that has seen the Buckeyes overcome a dreadful 1-3 start in Big Ten action by winning 13 of its last 14 conference games, the question still remains whether or not this could be Turner's final night playing as a Buckeye in Value City Arena, too.

Ohio State will say farewell to its seniors on Tuesday night against the Illini - Kyle Madsen, Jeremie Simmons, P.J. Hill, Mark Titus, and Danny Peters - but the Buckeyes could also be saying goodbye to Turner as well.

Turner, who was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for the seventh time this season Monday, is regarded as one of the best basketball players in the nation and is in the discussion for the National Player of the Year Award.

Despite being projected as a top five draft pick, Turner - who averages 19.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 6 assists - has maintained that he hasn't given much thought as to what he will do when the season concludes.

Which is exactly what Ohio State head coach Thad Matta asked him to do.

"He has done a fabulous job of keeping the focus on the right things," Matta said. "Knowing that if he would want to pursue (the NBA), he has done everything he was supposed to do leading up to it.

"I have asked him to keep both feet in the circle and he exceeded my expectations of what he has done in that regard," Matta added. "His focus right now is becoming the best basketball player he can become and knowing that if he does that we have a better basketball team."

Matta added that he is thankful that Turner has been able to put his team before the glamor of the looming NBA decision.

"I'm grateful for him doing that because it hasn't been easy," Matta said. "Every time you pick up the magazine or turn on the TV or whatever, they're talking about him. It's just a tribute to him and who he is as a person."

Turner joked later in the press conference that there would be a better chance of him returning to the Buckeyes for his senior season if Ohio State were to lose to Illinois, but urged the fans to continue to root for the win.

Instead of thinking of decisions about his future, Turner was adamant that he takes each day one at a time and his devoted his full focus to this year's team and what it is capable of doing not only in the regular season, but possibly in the NCAA Tournament.

"I don't want to have one foot out the door and think too far into the future," Turner said. "You really have to take care of what you have right now. When you do stuff out of order, that's when everything gets messed up."

Though odds and the popular opinion is that Turner will leave Ohio State after the season, he has not closed the door on the option of returning for one more year with the Buckeyes.

"I definitely like it here," Turner said. "We have a great (recruiting) class coming in, we have great players who are going to be returning. It can only go up and up."

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


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