Our society is brokered on dreams, both fulfilled and broken. Athletics is no different. Millions of children around the world want to grow up and be the next Michael Jordan, Albert Pujols or Peyton Manning. But sports fans also like to dream and even discuss “what if” scenarios, whether it be about their favorite team or a sport in general.
Geeks like myself love playing the “what if” game. If LeBron James had been required to go to college, would he have gone to Akron or Ohio State? What if the Reds had not traded Tony Perez following their second-straight World Series? And for a more local tune, what if Greg Oden and Mike Conley returned for their sophomore seasons?
Now Buckeye fans are again dreaming of another “what if” scenario, whether National Player of the Year Evan Turner will return for his senior season.
From a purely business perspective, Turner should go pro. His draft stock will probably never be higher. Bloggers and draft experts alike project John Wall as 1A and Turner as 1B. By forgoing the draft, Turner would be passing up millions of guaranteed money.
Although he showed the ability to recover quickly from injury, the fact remains that Turner broke two vertebrae in December. He may not be so lucky next time.
However, Turner insists he has not made up his mind. He maintains that he loves college and told as much to the media recently.
“I like being able to sit around and not really have anything to do but play basketball and do school,” Turner said. “Once you go to the pros, you stop being taken care of and start taking care of a lot of people, so I’m not ready for that right now, but I don’t know yet.”
Turner also mentioned that he wants to be remembered as “a good person and a legend” and that he also has a great opportunity to further improve his game in college. Obviously, the only person who knows what Turner is thinking is Turner, and maybe some family members and a few cronies. Which brings me to the “what if” game.
This year, Ohio State won both the regular season and postseason titles in the Big Ten. They reached the Sweet 16 and Turner won Player of the Year. All of these feats are repeatable if Turner comes back. But with the infusion of the “Super Six” recruiting class, OSU should be the unquestioned preseason No. 1 and National Championship favorite.
The other 2011 preseason favorites have potentially major holes to fill. Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan has exhausted his eligibility. Gone from Duke are Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas, Jon Scheyer and after his virtuoso performance in the Final Four, probably Kyle Singler. Butler’s Willie Veasley graduates, and in all probability, Gordon Hayward will bolt for the NBA. Purdue loses Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer.
Thad Matta’s bunch will lose sixth man Kyle Madsen and senior guards P.J. Hill and Jeremie Simmons, both of whom saw minimal playing time down the stretch of last season. Sophomore guard William Buford, a fringe first-round prospect, has already said he’s coming back.
But what could make next season so special for Ohio State is the blending of six freshmen who make up the nation’s No. 2-ranked class, according to Scout.com. The anchor of the class is Jared Sullinger, ESPNU’s No. 2 ranked prospect. The 6-foot-8-inch, 260-pound Sullinger is a big man with ballerina feet on the basketball court. He uses his girth to both bully and tip-toe his way around the lane. “Big Sully” also features a textbook jumper that extends to the three-point line.
The other crown jewel of the class is DeShaun Thomas, who will remind OSU fans of Sullinger’s older brother, J.J. Thomas was third on the Indiana boys’ basketball all-time scoring list, averaged 32 points and 15 rebounds a game as a senior. At 6-foot-7, 215 pounds, Thomas can guard four positions and is a mismatch for opposing defenses. He already has a college-level post game, uses his athleticism to blow by defenders on the wing and can hit the open jumper.
The Buckeyes also had Matt Sylvester-clone Nikola Kecman and seven-footer Zisis Sarikopoulos on the end of the bench this season, and with good offseasons, the pair could crack next year’s rotation.
All this hype is downplayed significantly if Turner goes pro. Still, it’s hard to not get too excited about the possibilities.
Imagine, Turner pick-and-rolling with Sullinger. The defender has to be mindful of Turner’s near-automatic mid-range jumper and his deft passing abilities. On the other hand, Sullinger is equally capable of knocking down a 15-footer or rolling to the basket for a dunk. Let’s say Turner gets into the lane. The defense clamps down, leaving snipers Jon Diebler and Buford wide-open in the corners. And even if someone misses, chances are garbageman Dallas Lauderdale and his more than 7-foot wingspan will corral the rebound.
That’s just on offense. And let’s face it, nobody dreams about playing defense.
And boy is it nice to dream, especially about what could be a special season for next year’s team.