Kentucky basketball’s 2014 recruiting class is almost complete, but John Calipari hasn’t given up on landing superstar center Myles Turner. The late-blooming 7-footer shot up recruiting boards over the last year, going from relative anonymity to a current ranking of No. 2 in the nation according to ESPN.
Turner is picking from among eight of the nation’s top programs, and he’s said he won’t be making his decision until early 2014.
Between now and then, it’s not hard to imagine what Calipari will be telling the high-scoring high schooler about the benefits of spending his one-and-done season in Lexington.
In the first place, of course, Kentucky is a national title contender (at least on paper) every season. That hardly differentiates the ‘Cats from many other programs on Turner’s list, but it shouldn’t be overlooked as a major factor in favor of playing in Lexington.
One edge that not every team in the Turner sweepstakes can boast is that Kentucky is an unbeatable stepping-stone to the NBA. Since Coach Cal arrived in 2009, he’s sent an average of four players to the draft every year, including five who went in the top 10 picks.
Even more important, a significant percentage of those future pros have been post players.
One of the biggest rivals UK has for Turner’s services is Louisville, and for all the success Rick Pitino has enjoyed in his career, turning out NBA big men is not his strength.
One of the lanky Turner’s best assets right now is his shot blocking, a trait very familiar to Kentucky fans. Following in the footsteps of Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel has to appeal to any defensive-minded center.
A related advantage is that Calipari has more experience than any coach in the country at building lineups with multiple big men who can score. His 2012 national champs had Davis at center, but that didn’t mean that Terrence Jones was cut out of the offense—or vice versa.
That experience could be a big draw for Turner, as the Wildcats, like several other big-name programs, already have a star post player for their 2014 class.
Whether it’s Trey Lyles at Kentucky, Jahlil Okafor at Duke or Cliff Alexander at Kansas, there’s an excellent chance that Turner will be sharing the spotlight with somebody. If he does so in Lexington, he has ample evidence that it won’t do any harm to his own chances of impressing NBA scouts.
In many ways, it’s the Jayhawks who pose the biggest threat to Kentucky in this race, because they can offer similar advantages. Bill Self has a slew of NBA draft picks on his own resume, and he has also put together some impressive twin-towers lineups.
However, Kentucky has one huge advantage that Kansas can’t offer: the chance to play with an elite point guard.
Lightning-quick Tyler Ulis is a cut above either of the Jayhawks’ current floor leaders, and KU's 2014 recruiting class doesn’t have anybody in the backcourt yet.
A lot can happen between now and Turner’s decision, especially if he opts to wait until this year’s underclassmen have declared for the draft before he joins a team. As things stand, though, Kentucky can offer as good a case as any program in the country that the multitalented big man will have the best chance to succeed in a Wildcats uniform in 2014.