April 8, 2010

Bucks talk Turner's decision

COLUMBUS, Ohio - As Evan Turner walked slowly up to the podium next to Thad Matta Wednesday at Value City Arena to announce his decision to leave Ohio State for the NBA, members of his team stood behind the media seating area and remained silent.

As Turner embarks on the next stage of his career, his old Buckeye teammates stood in the back as they came to the realization that they will have to move forward in 2011 without their best player.

Jon Diebler also realized something.

"I am going to need a new roommate," he joked.

But the fact of the matter is the Buckeyes, who invite one of the top recruiting classes in the nation next season, have to move forward without perhaps one of the best players that ever played basketball for Ohio State.

Turner, who averaged 20.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game in his junior season, led the Buckeyes to a 29-8 record and a run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament before falling to Tennessee in St. Louis March 26.

Despite the fact Turner chose to leave Columbus for the NBA, he understands quite well what he is leaving behind at Ohio State: a potential Final Four roster. But in the end, Turner knew he had to make the best decision for him.

"Once February hit I kind of started thinking a little bit about (the NBA) but I was definitely having thoughts of winning a national championship this season," he said. "Afterwards, I was thinking, 'What am I going to do?' I was in a win-win situation.

"I felt like if I would've come back we could've done big things but also moving on and going into the NBA I felt like I could do big things. I just had to look at it as what would make me happy and that's what was going to happen."

While most players on the team were Turner's closest friends during his team at Ohio State, most of his teammates weren't sure exactly how today's press conference was going to go until recently.

Though the Buckeyes lost perhaps the biggest reason the team was so successful this season, Turner's teammates were overjoyed for him as he took the first step toward realizing his dream.

"We know how tough of a decision it was for him but at the same time this is a great day," Diebler said. "So people might be like, 'Man, we lost Evan,' but this is a day to celebrate, honestly. This is a guy that's probably going to be a top three pick and he is going to workout great in the workouts and we know he is going to be very successful at the next level."

Ohio State head coach Thad Matta has become accustomed to losing players to the NBA early, and has gone through it with Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr. , Daequan Cook, Kosta Koufos, and most recently B.J. Mullens.

While Matta was the first to admit that he would have liked nothing more than to have Turner back for his senior season, the coach said what he always said. His No. 1 concern was what was best for Turner.

"I told him, 'Coach Matta wants you back, but Thad Matta is OK if you go,' " Matta said. "I'm appreciative of what he gave the program in his time here."

Immediately after Turner's press conference on Thursday, Turner's former teammates walked back into the weight room to finish their lift, already in preparation for next season.

The Buckeyes lost their point guard, but have already garnered some respect for next season with the returning talent and the highly touted youngsters coming in.

Without Turner, Ohio State senior-to-be David Lighty knows the expectations haven't changed.

"We never lower our standards here just because he is leaving," Lighty said. "As long as we get the six guys coming in on the same path as us, I think we will be alright."

Though the Tennessee game was Turner's final game as a Buckeye, Diebler predicted Turner would go down as one of the all-time greats to every play basketball at Ohio State.

Diebler acknowledged he will miss his friend, but he and the rest of the team took peace in knowing Turner is off achieving his dream.

"I think he's going to have his jersey up in the rafters someday," Diebler said. "I really do."

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

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