March 26, 2010

Turner mum on NBA decision

ST. LOUIS - Evan Turner had a look on his face and refused to make eye-contact with reporters in the postgame interview room following Ohio State's 76-73 loss to Tennessee on Friday night, ending the Buckeyes' season and possible run to the Final Four.

It was the typical behavior for Turner after a loss - though magnified given Ohio State was knocked from the NCAA Tournament bracket - except this could be the final time he sports that emotion with an Ohio State jersey across his chest.

While it took toward the end of the press conference for a reporter to finally ask Turner the question everyone in the room wanted to know, Turner answered it as many would have expected.

"I can't give a percentage right now," Turner answered when asked what the odds were that he'd return. "This (loss) is just sticking in my head. I really don't want to go out like this. I just don't know."

Ohio State head coach Thad Matta has been faced with this decision more than once during his tenure as the lead man of the Buckeye basketball program, but he said he hasn't yet spoke to Turner about his eventual decision.

Matta, though, has plenty of experience dealing with the situation. And the head coach said he couldn't be happier with what Turner has provided his basketball teams for the past three seasons.

"I've told him a million times," Matta said. "I couldn't be prouder of what I've watch him accomplish. I mean, every award he has won, he's deserving. As I tell my young men when I recruit them, I want what's best for them."

The popular assertion is that Turner is leaving, given the fact that he has been projected as a top draft choice in the looming NBA Draft. Matta understands the next step, regardless of what Turner decides to do.

"As we were talking back there, I told him, 'You better hang on,'" Matta continued. "There's going to be people coming at (him). They're like vultures out there right now. I would venture to say by the time we get back to the hotel it will be a who's who trying to get to him and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

"But my whole thing is what's best for Evan Turner," he added, "and what he wants to do."

Despite the fact that many feel as if it is a forgone conclusion that turner has played his final game for the buckeyes, his roommate and teammate Jon Diebler wouldn't commit to anything being a certainty.

"He hates losing. His goal was to get to the Final Four and he didn't reach his goal," Diebler said. "I have lived with him for a year, I know how he is just like everybody else on this team. He loves college. Absolutely loves it. He loves The Ohio State University, he loves the guys on the team.

"Obviously he's got something ahead of him that was his dream, playing in the NBA," he added. "That's everyone's dream, but there is a slight chance because he has that bad taste in his mouth just like everybody else does."

Diebler spoke about Ohio State's run to the Sweet 16 and overcoming the 1-3 start in Big Ten Conference action, but added that Turner had higher expectations for this squad that extended past the point in which the Buckeyes were eliminated.

"He's a competitor and he hates losing," Diebler said. "He knows how far we could have gotten this year and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. We got to the Sweet 16 but as a group we had higher expectations."

While Turner is certainly the headman when it comes to interest in who is returning next season, William Buford's name has also been associated with the NBA talks.

Though Buford's words are certainly not set in stone at this point, he did indicate that he is planning on returning to the Buckeyes for his junior season next year.

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


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