Last year, Evan Turner watched Michigan State point guard Kalin Lucas earn Big Ten player of the year honors because he was the best player on the league’s best team.
This year, Turner can claim both honors. The junior point guard for Ohio State, which earned the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, was announced as the league’s top player and a first-team Big Ten honoree by both the coaches and media during a live broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
“I’m just really excited to be honored with such a prestigious award,” he said on the broadcast. “In the past, some great players have won this award. It’s really exciting to be recognized as the player of the year. I’m really fortunate. I’d like to thank my teammates and my coaches. It’s a great, great award. I’m just happy.”
His selection was unanimous from the media.
The fact that Turner would win the award this season appeared to be a foregone conclusion for the latter half of the season. In leading the Buckeyes to a 14-4 record in conference play and 24-7 overall, Turner led the league in scoring (19.9 points per game), and rebounding (9.4) and finished second in assists (5.8) and steals (1.8).
Speaking to reporters March 5, Turner was asked what it would mean for him to win the award.
“I’d be really excited,” he said. “That’s a very prestigious award. Just to be nominated for it is a really good opportunity. I’m just really blessed to be in that situation. It would be cool to win an award. That’s a great opportunity.”
Turner captured the league’s player of the week award seven times this season, giving him 10 for his career. Both figures are Big Ten records. Last season, he was a unanimous pick for first-team all-league honors.
As the honors piled up this season, Turner thanked his teammates for helping him achieve them.
“Sometimes I feel like I might get a little bit too much credit,” he said March 1. “I might have an off night and my teammates are doing real well and at the end of the day the credit comes back to me. I really have to thank my teammates for being mature in the situation.”
After essentially playing power forward last season, Turner moved to the point this season and recorded two triple-doubles in the early going. In the process, he became the second recorded Buckeye to notch one.
Three days after putting up 25 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in a nationally televised victory against Florida State, Turner lost his grip on the rim while attempting a first-half dunk Dec. 5 against Eastern Michigan. He suffered two fractured vertebrae in his back and was projected to miss at least eight weeks.
Instead, he returned to the lineup in half that time, later admitting that the public timetable never matched his private one.
“When I ran and did rehab and ran in the pool I’d always ask to do extra stuff, a minute extra of working out or I’d sneak in here and dribble,” he said. “I was trying to keep my focus and keep my edge so we could come back and make a run.”
Earlier today, Big Ten basketball color analyst Shon Morris said Turner received his vote and then took it a step further.
“Evan Turner is not only the Big Ten player of the year but if I would have a vote he would be my national player of the year,” he said. “If there was anything but a unanimous choice there I would be very, very surprised. That’s looking at it as objectively as I can.
“I know John Wall has had a great year at Kentucky and a Wesley Johnson has done well at Syracuse. You can go on down the line but I don’t think you had a player who has impacted his team or a conference or college basketball more than Evan Turner has this year.”
Turner is the fifth Buckeye to win the award. Past winners include Dennis Hopson (1987), Jim Jackson (1991-92), Scoonie Penn (1999) and Terence Dials (2006).
He joins Illinois guard Demetri McCamey, Purdue's E'Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel and Lucas on the Big Ten first team.
For his career, Turner sits 21st in OSU history in scoring (1,374 points), 15th in rebounding (632) and eighth in assists (375).
Turner was not the only Buckeye to be honored. Head coach Thad Matta was named the coach of the year by the media, as Morris voted.
“The person that I selected was Thad Matta, not just because they won the league,” he said. “I understand that to the victors go the spoils but I think that there may be a little bit of a misconception about Coach Matta that because he has the reputation of being a great recruiter – and deservedly so – that they just roll the balls out and that is just not the case.
“There’s so many great coaches around the league and I would put Coach Matta at the top of that. You see some of the in-game adjustments that he made over the course of the year. Robbie Hummel is shredding them in the 2-3 zone and he gets out of that and puts David Lighty out there and that move along with the performance of Evan Turner in my mind really turned the tide in a pivotal game for the season. There were a lot of people that were deserving that have done great jobs for their schools but if I had to select one it would be Thad Matta.”
He shared it with Purdue's Matt Painter, who was named the coach of the year by the league's coaches.
Sophomore guard William Buford was named second-team all-conference by the coaches and the media, while OSU junior forward David Lighty was named to the team by the media. The coaches selected MSU's Raymar Morgan instead. In addition, junior center Dallas Lauderdale was named to the all-defensive team.
Check back later for updated quotes from Turner.