COLUMBUS, Ohio - Evan Turner wasn't going to make the NBA wait for the second consecutive year.
Turner returned to the Buckeyes for his junior year this season and had one of the most impressive individual seasons in Ohio State history instead of leaving for the NBA after his sophomore season.
This time around, though, Turner is taking his game - considered to be one of the best in college basketball - to the next level. Turner announced Wednesday afternoon at Value City Arena that he will forgo his senior season with Ohio State to pursue a professional career in the NBA.
"Ever since I was a little kid I had the dream of playing basketball and playing in the NBA," Turner said at his press conference this afternoon. "Right now I have the opportunity where my dream is realized. This is a dream come true."
Since the Buckeyes lost to Tennessee in the Sweet 16 it has been all but a forgone conclusion that Turner had played his final game with the Buckeyes, but as time passed it seemed as if the chance was growing greater.
Turner maintained that he was "50-50" on the decision in the weeks after the loss to the Volunteers March 26 before eventually making his decision known today. Turner said he made up his mind late last night before going to sleep.
"The past few weeks have been really hard for me. I have been agonizing over my decision due to the simple fact of how much I love The Ohio State University," Turner said. "I love being a Buckeye and I love my coaches and being a kid and the opportunity to just come and do everything I always dreamed of.
"I think ever since I have been in college I have grown day-by-day from being a kid closer to a man," Turner added. "I think I learned a lot of great things. I think I matured really well on and off the court."
Turner, who averaged 20.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game in his junior season, often spoke to the media about wanting to leave Ohio State as one of the best players who ever put on the Buckeyes jersey.
It looks as if he has accomplished that goal.
While his career at Ohio State didn't include a trip to the Final Four, Turner's trophy room will be well stocked. Last weekend Turner won perhaps the most prestigious trophy in college basketball when he was the recipient of the Naismith Award, given annually to the nation's best college basketball player. He is the first player in Ohio State history to win that award.
Turner also was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, the AP Player of the Year, the Sporting News Player of the Year, and others. Turner could also win the John R. Wooden Award Friday, as he is one of five finalists to take home the honor.
Still, Turner said he is not sure what his legacy will be.
"Honestly I don't know. I can't really say. That's what the writers are for," Turner said. "The people who watched me play and the people who guarded me, they pretty much build your legacy. You don't build your own legacy. We will see in 10-15 years."
The 6-foot-7, 210-pound point guard isn't quite sure what position he projects as at the next level, but he was certainly thankful for everything Ohio State head coach Thad Matta and the rest of his staff has done.
"I definitely would like to thank Coach Matta for helping me through all the tough times," Turner said. "I definitely wasn't the easiest guy to work with and I was kind of immature mentally and he helped me become a man. I can't give enough thanks to him, the program, and the rest of the staff.
"If I were to have children, they'd definitely be coming her to play at The Ohio State University to play for Coach Matta," he added. "I feel like Ohio State is the best school in the world."
Turner's decision was considered a no-brainer because he is projected by just about every source to be a top three pick in this year's NBA Draft come June 24, but the junior was adamant that the decision didn't come easy to him.
He stressed how much Ohio State has meant to him and that he would never forget what it is like to be a Buckeye. Turner, though, is looking forward to starting a new chapter of his life.
"This is the toughest thing I have had to do," Turner said. "I was blessed with this decision and I have a great opportunity and I am going to turn a leaf over and go into the next stage of my life. This is one of the best times of my life, I just want to thank everyone and I will be back in the future."
Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.