Ohio State guard Evan Turner announced Wednesday that he will forgo his senior season and enter the NBA Draft.
“I was blessed with this decision,” Turner said, his voice quivering. “I have a great opportunity and I’m going to turn a leaf over and go on to the next stage of my life.”
Turner’s choice stemmed from the realization of his dream to play professionally, he said.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I had a dream to play basketball and play in the NBA,” Turner said in the auxiliary gym at the Schottenstein Center. “Right now, I have the opportunity where my dream is realized. … I’m going to forgo my senior season and go to the NBA.
It’s a dream come true and I definitely want to thank Coach [Thad] Matta.”
Turner’s departure didn’t exactly come out of left field, but the soft-spoken point guard said the decision has tortured him since OSU’s season came to an end.
“The past few weeks have been really hard for me,” he said. “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. I love my coaching staff and being a kid and the opportunity to just do everything I always dreamed of.”
Turner said he made the decision late Tuesday night and told some of his teammates just before he announced his decision to the media Wednesday.
“This is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Turner said. “If I could, I’d really just disappear.”
Throughout the season, Turner maintained his intention to remain in school until he felt comfortable with the legacy he was leaving behind. He led the Buckeyes to the Sweet 16 and earned Big Ten and National Player of the Year honors.
The Chicago native has been widely projected as a top-three pick in June’s NBA Draft. He averaged 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game in his third season with the Buckeyes.
Turner’s season didn’t go unblemished, however. He fractured a pair of vertebrae in his back after a nasty fall on a breakaway dunk in a Dec. 5 win over Eastern Michigan. After doctors initially diagnosed an eight-week timetable for his return, Turner made his way back onto the court just five weeks later. He said the risk of another serious injury played a small part in his choice to jump to the next level.
His departure leaves the Buckeyes without their leader for next season, when OSU adds one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. Although Turner stressed how he has “two feet in” his decision to enter the NBA Draft, the 6-foot-7 guard said he was satisfied with the state of the OSU program, even without him.
“I was in a win-win situation regardless. … If I one day woke up and didn’t have the opportunity to play in the NBA, then my dream and taking care of my family and stuff like that, and I was heartbroken, then that pretty much says you need to go. It’s definitely a great step, and I had great times here, but I’m leaving the program in great hands.”
Still, Turner will be leaving behind a close-knit unit that spent plenty of time together on and off the court.
“[There have been] a lot of great times, and I’m just thankful I was fortunate enough to be a part of something like this,” Turner said. “My teammates were always great. They helped mold me into who I am. My coaches helped mold me. I’m just lucky to be in the position I’m in and to have the past experiences I’ve had.”
As for the legacy that the Naismith winner will leave behind in Columbus, Turner left it to everyone else to decide.
“I can’t really say. That’s what the writers are for,” Turner said. “People that watched me play, people I had encounters with, they pretty much build your legacy. You don’t build your own legacy, so we’ll see in 10 to 15 years.”