While you and college basketball analysts everywhere devote the lion’s share of their recruiting attention to the will-they-or-won’t-they-play-together saga surrounding Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, center Myles Turner of Texas has rapidly turned into one of the best prospects in the country.
While many of the same schools interested in Turner are those in on Okafor, Turner is nobody’s big-man backup plan. Ignore his potential and game-changing talent at your own risk.
The 5-star Turner is listed at 7’0" and 240 pounds on scout.com and is the No. 5 prospect overall and No. 2 center behind Okafor. Although his height would seem to suggest that he is pigeon-holed to playing around the basket, one of Turner’s most valuable assets is his versatility.
Turner is very athletic and has no issues running the floor in transition. He operates smoothly in pick-and-roll scenarios, can hit from mid range and deeper and has a solid post game. Throw in his impressive passing skills when double-teams come and rebounding prowess, and Turner is one of the best all-around offensive big men in the country.
He is also a terrific rim protecter (it is almost impossible not to be at 7’0" in high school) and will help any team that puts a premium on defense. He has skyrocketed up recruiting rankings rather late in the process and will be a game-changing get for whichever program lands him.
Turner recently cut his list of schools from 25 to eight. The remaining suitors are Louisville, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma State and Arizona.
The big man seems to have a solid perspective on the process, based on his quote in a scout.com story written by Jody Demling:
Overall, my parents told me to do my research, the academics, the system and the school. They want me to make sure I am doing my homework, and I have been.
While basing his decision solely on academics would certainly favor some of these schools over others, it would be naive to think basketball won’t be the primary decision factor. Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas, Ohio State and Arizona are regular contenders for Final Fours, while Texas and Oklahoma State have the always-important close-to-home draw.
So what are the chances that each of these eight finalists land the coveted services that Turner will provide? And what factors will ultimately weigh into that decision?
One thing to keep in mind is what is already in place commitment wise for these schools for the class of 2014. Kentucky already has a verbal pledge from Karl Towns, who is the No. 4-rated center according to scout.com, and Ohio State has a commitment from center Dave Bell (who is a 3-star player and probably wouldn’t take serious playing time away from Turner).
Of course, having one player at a given position has never stopped many of these coaches from recruiting another star. But it is Kansas’ Bill Self that has an early advantage over the other pursuers.
The Jayhawks will host Turner for an official visit when he is in attendance for the traditional Late Night at the Phog (Kansas’ version of Midnight Madness). Turner foreshadowed some potential good news for Self recently in an interview with Rivals:
I’ve always kind of been a fan of Kansas. The way they put bigs into the league and all of that, I really want to go out there and see what they have to work with.
Self will have to hold off Kentucky and John Calipari, who by now has become the king of the recruiting trail, landing basically anyone he sets his eyes on. Calipari would prefer Turner and point guard Emmanuel Mudiay to become something of a Texas tandem for Kentucky's recruiting class.
According to Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News, the two prospects are close, and the big-man/guard package deal seems to be in this season, with Okafor and Jones doing the same.
While Self and Calipari are hot on Turner’s trail, Turner says he will not sign until spring after his high-school season is over. With that long of a gap between the early recruiting process and the finish line, there are plenty of things to keep in mind with these eight competing schools that could factor into the final decision.
Assuming winning is important (really, he can’t go wrong with the majority of the powerhouse programs in this category), Ohio State is one elite post player away from potentially bringing in the top-rated class of 2014 and one that could very well bring a national title to Columbus.
As for Duke, the Blue Devils always win and have Coach K and brand recognition but are also considered in many circles to be the favorites for Okafor and Jones, which could deter Turner. Along those same lines, Kentucky may have the best recruiter in the game today, but the presence of Towns and possibly a few remaining prospects from the uber-loaded 2013 class could cut into Turner’s playing time.
Furthermore, the future of Rick Barnes at Texas is almost always a topic of debate, Oklahoma State isn’t the established and traditional power that many of these schools are, and Louisville is the defending national champion and has a coach with a track record of pumping players to the NBA.
Throw in the curveball that Turner is reportedly serious about the education part of it and wants to major in psychology, and there are many factors going into this recruitment.
It may be worth noting that in a recent US World News and Report psychology graduate department ranking, Ohio State and Duke were tied at No. 21 as the highest rated among the eight schools of interest.
Yes, these are graduate-school rankings, but this typically reflects the quality of teaching and professional interaction that trickles down to the undergraduate level.
Psychology departments aside, Kansas appears to be the early leader, largely due to the official visit scheduled and the timing of it.
First impressions go a long way (Turner probably knows that given his interest in psychology), and the Jayhawks have an excellent chance to make an enduring one here.
Here is an early guess at the odds for each school to land Turner:
Ohio State: 8-1
Oklahoma State: 15-1
Duke: 20-1 (If the Blue Devils don’t land Okafor, they will immediately shoot up this list and become one of the favorites.)
Follow and interact with college basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.