Sometime after 7 p.m. tonight, Evan Turner will hear his name called. Rising to his feet at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the former Ohio State standout will know his NBA home.
Fittingly, Turner told NBA.com earlier this week that he will be wearing a “gray and red” suit complete with Buckeye cufflinks. Formerly a somewhat nondescript four-star power forward prospect out of Chicago (Ill.) St. Joseph’s, Turner blossomed into the country’s top overall player as a junior before opting to head to the NBA.
With the Buckeyes set to have their sixth first-round draft pick in four years named tonight in Turner, let’s take a look back at how Turner grew from just another member of the class of 2007 to one of the program’s all-time greats.
The first story on Turner in the Scout.com database is dated Sept. 6, 2005. Written by national recruiting director Dave Telep, the article quotes Turner talking about making a game-winning shot thanks to then-AAU teammate Demetri McCamey helping set him up. Also of note is the fact that Turner’s first two scholarship offers came from Iowa State and Southern Illinois, although the Buckeyes are one of a number of schools reported to have interest.
As of June 1, 2006, Turner listed Illinois as the leader for his services while imagining possibly suiting up on the same team as Eric Gordon and Derrick Rose. Exactly four weeks later, Turner issued his verbal commitment to the Buckeyes, citing a comfort level with some of the fellow 2007 recruits. Included on that list were Kosta Koufos, Jon Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale. As it turned out, Wisconsin proved hard to pass up for Turner.
Turner selected the Buckeyes from a list of finalists that also included Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. In particular, Turner struck up a strong relationship with Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan that would continue throughout Turner’s collegiate career.
As a freshman, Turner battled his way into the starting lineup eight games into the season and would remain there until he opted to leave the program. He battled a wrist injury suffered at the hands of former teammate and close friend McCamey, who was suiting up for the Fighting Illini. However, Turner emerged as one of the top driving threats for the Buckeyes down the stretch on a team struggling to find its identity.
The NCAA Tournament did not select the Buckeyes that season despite a late-season charge by the team. Instead, the NIT beckoned and OSU responded by reeling off five straight victories to capture the tournament championship. Turner played well during the tournament, shaking off a shooting slump in the process.
However, head coach Thad Matta offered up a story during the NIT that hinted at Turner’s competitive fire that is outlined in this story filed from the Big Apple. For the season, Turner averaged 8.5 points and 4.4 rebounds but put up averages of 10.6 points, 5.4 boards and 2.4 steals per game during the NIT.
He nearly never made it that far, however. Some early struggles in adapting to college both on and off the court had a frustrated Turner considering heading back home before the freshman opted to stick it out.
As Turner’s sophomore season got underway, he began focusing on one flaw in his game as a freshman: too many turnovers.
The Buckeyes scored some big early-season victories and would re-enter the national rankings for the first time in two years.
Things would get tough, however, as David Lighty went down with a broken foot. Into the void stepped Turner, who assumed Lighty's vacated spot in the post and helped steady the ship.
Turner performed so well that talk of him jumping to the NBA after his sophomore season began to heat up. A first-team all-Big Ten honoree, Turner was edged out for player of the year honors but finished the year averaging 17.3 points and 7.1 rebounds. Ann old friend -- Coach Ryan -- even offered some words in defense of Turner.
Looking ahead to Turner's junior season, the coaches began exploring the possibility of moving Turner to point guard.
First, though, came a reunion with Ryan as Turner was selected to represent the United States at the Men's World University Games. The team fell short of the gold, but Turner gained valuable experience and made an impact at the point.
While there, he also bonded with OSU women's star Jantel Lavender.
The switch to the point paid off quickly as Turner made OSU history with a triple-double in the first game of the season. Things were going smoothly, but a big bump in the road was right around the corner.
In a Dec. 5 game against Eastern Michigan, Turner slipped off the rim following a missed dunk attempt. Although he was initially said to be fine, the prognosis was a two-month absence for the team's most valuable player.
Although he publicly remained mum on a potential return date, Turner privately knew he would not be out of action for too long. Chatter picked up that he would be back in early January, and that proved true when Turner suited up Jan. 5 for a home contest against Indiana.
Later, Turner confessed that the initial two-month prognosis was a worst-case scenario. Fully healthy, he took top billing in a game for the ages as the Buckeyes shocked Purdue on the road as Turner poured in a career-high 32 points.
With the "experiment" at point guard paying off for the Buckeyes, Turner and his teammates clawed their way to a share of the Big Ten title despite logging significant minutes each night. He even earned the Big Ten's most valuable player award after vowing to avenge the previous year's perceived snub.
Not stopping with the regular season, OSU captured a Big Ten tournament title thanks to a game-winning shot by Turner against a dogged Michigan team along the way and a double-overtime victory against Illinois.
The NCAA Tournament proved tougher going as opening-round foe UC Santa Barbara frustrated Turner, but the Buckeyes advanced to the Sweet 16 before falling to Tennessee.
Immediately, talk turned to whether or not Turner would return for his senior season. The Buckeye said little after the game but added that he would have a hard time ending his OSU career with such a loss.
After being named the top player in the nation, Turner made it official April 7 and called a press conference to announce that he would be entering the NBA draft.
That brings us up to tonight. What will the next chapter of the Evan Turner saga look like? It is impossible to predict, but stories of his time in Columbus will be retold for decades to come.