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Front Page Columns and Features
Last updated: 04/07/2010 6:44 PM

Men's Basketball
Turning Pro: Turner Makes “Agonizing” Decision to Leave
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS — Evan Turner went back and forth on his decision, but in the end he opted for the one thing he could not see his life without.

Evan Turner
Photo by Jim Davidson

After agonizing for weeks on whether to turn pro or return to Ohio State next season, the AP National Player of the Year and Naismith Award winner opted to forgo his senior season in Columbus to follow a lifelong dream.

“Ever since I was a little kid I always had a dream of playing basketball in the NBA,” the 6-foot-7 junior said Wednesday at his farewell press conference in the same gym where he practiced for the last three years.

“Right now I have an opportunity where my dream is realized.”

That dream came with a price, as many often do. Long hours in the gym were nothing compared the prospects of leaving behind the teammates and coaches he had come to love like family over the last three seasons at Ohio State.

“The past few weeks it’s been really hard for me,” said Turner, who made his decision late last night before falling asleep.

“I’ve been agonizing over my decision due to the simple fact of how much I love the Ohio State University. I love being a Buckeye, my coaches and being a kid.”

The decision, which Turner called the toughest thing he has ever had to do, was so wearing on the Chicago native that he admits he often wanted to disappear. Roommate Jon Diebler said he could see the inner turmoil on a daily basis.

“You can tell it was really a tough decision for him. That just shows how much he cares about the program and this university,” said Diebler, who came to OSU with Turner back in 2007.

In the end, however, Turner let his heart lead him.

While his love for Ohio State was strong, his passion to play in the NBA stretched back to his days of practicing for hours in the alley behind his home without so much as a hoop to shoot on.

“I kind of chose how I chose Ohio State. When I was younger my AAU coach always told me that if there’s a scholarship that wasn’t there anymore, you had an offer on the table and if it wasn’t there anymore you’d be heartbroken, you should do that,” Turner said.

“I kind of looked at it as if I one day woke up and didn’t have the opportunity to play in the NBA, live my dream and take care of my family, I (would be) heartbroken. That pretty much tells me I need to go.”

That and the fact Turner is being projected as the No. 2 pick in the draft behind Kentucky freshman John Wall.

Ohio State’s leading scorer and rebounder in 2009-10, Turner led the Buckeyes to regular season and tournament Big Ten titles before advancing them to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. It was there his team came up short against Tennessee despite a 31-point performance from Turner, who seemed to already be agonizing about the decision at the post-game press conference podium.

“I was still kind of 50-50 a little bit, to tell you the truth,” said Turner, who passed up a chance to turn pro after his sophomore season.

“There was obviously a great chance I could have gone and it could have been my last game, but at the same time I was still upset about losing to Tennessee. That’s pretty much. I was upset about having to sit around and watch other team’s play for a national title.”

It’s that competitiveness that nearly kept Turner at Ohio State; the idea that he didn’t finish the mission. It’s also what coach Thad Matta will miss the most after three years together.

“What he’s given to this program, watching from where he started and today to have this opportunity. The thing I probably appreciate the most is how he conducted himself. Little is known of what he does in the community for kids and everything he stands for,” said Matta, who has seen seven of his players in the NBA in the last four years.

“The greatest thing I saw this year was he kept both feet in the program until the last second and that resonates for your program.”

Another thing that resonates with the program was Turner’s commitment to making a decision before Monday’s deadline for impacting the school’s APR rating.

“Evan is such an amazing kid. As we talked yesterday he was like ‘coach I don’t want to hurt the program, I don’t want to hurt the APR,” Matta said.

“So he was well aware of what was going to happen.”

While Yahoo! Sports is reporting he will sign with agent David Folk, Turner maintained that no official decision has been made at this point. That being said, there is no turning back

“I’m two feet in,” Turner said of his decision.

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