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Ex-Arizona guard Josiah Turner turns pro rather than transferring to SMU

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Josiah Turner (US Presswire)

Instead of trying to jump-start his stalled basketball career at SMU as he originally planned, Josiah Turner will seek a fresh start as a professional.

The talented but troubled former Arizona guard told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday that he will sign with a pro team next season either overseas or in the D-League in hopes he can parlay that into an opportunity to make the NBA the following year.

Turner, the first player Larry Brown landed after accepting the SMU job in April, had a change of heart while working out in Los Angeles the past couple months. The former five-star recruit ultimately decided last week that it made more sense for him to audition for the NBA next season as a professional rather than spending a minimum of two years at SMU while taking a full class load.

"I had to step back and reevaluate what my main goal and my dream was," Turner said. "My dream is to be a professional athlete in the NBA and I think this is what's going to bring me closer to it. In college, you get your degree and everything, but going pro is getting me closer to my dream and what I want to do in life."

Turner's decision to turn pro concludes a brief but tumultuous college career rife with disciplinary issues.

Hailed as the next great point guard in the Arizona lineage after he chose the Wildcats over Kansas, UCLA and Louisville among others, Turner instead struggled on the court and off as a freshman last season.  He lost his starting job early in the season, sat out a Dec. 6 game for disciplinary reasons and later was suspended for the rest of the season on the eve of the Pac-12 tournament.

The nadir came for Turner in late April when campus police arrested him on suspicion of extreme DUI just weeks after Arizona coach Sean Miller asked him to leave the program for good. He was stopped for allegedly driving through a red light and recorded blood-alcohol levels of 0.15 and 0.16, nearly twice the legal limit.

Turner acknowledged Tuesday that both alcohol and marijuana were "big issues" for him during his one year at Arizona, but he insisted he has reevaluated his life since his arrest. Even though it's only three months later, the 20-year-old says he's ready to set a better example for his younger and older sister.

"My maturity level now is way higher than it was when I was in Arizona," Turner said. "I was young. I made mistakes. I just learned a lot from last year thinking about where I could be at right now and thinking about the things I did last year. It was all stupid."

The loss of Turner is a damaging blow to Brown's efforts to revitalize SMU's struggling basketball program.

No transfer available this offseason was a bigger boom-or-bust gamble than Turner as a result of his off-the-court issues, but Brown should not be criticized for taking a chance on the talented 6-foot-3 guard. The only way SMU is going to get the caliber of player it needs to compete in the formidable Big East is to take an occasional risk in recruiting that college basketball's traditional powers won't.

SMU spokesman Herman Hudson declined comment regarding Turner's status Tuesday night, but Turner said Brown took it well when informed his most prized recruit wouldn't be enrolling after all.

"He actually thought it was a better move for me to go," Turner said. "He respected my decision. It's my dream."

For Turner to make his NBA dreams a reality some day, he will have to progress on the court and stay out of trouble off it. His size, wingspan and ability to get to the rim are all attributes that will appeal to NBA scouts, but they'll need to see him make more of an impact than he did at Arizona when he averaged a modest 6.8 points and 2.4 assists per game.

Turner believes he can thrive on the court and off with a fresh start as a professional player.

"I just can't wait to show everyone that I'm a new person and that my maturity level is higher," he said. "I lost a lot of fans, a lot of younger people that looked up to me. I want to earn them all back and take advantage of the new start.

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