King's Court: Top Unsigned Recruit Myles Turner Opens Up on College Options

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King's Court: Top Unsigned Recruit Myles Turner Opens Up on College Options
Credit: 247 Sports

EULESS, Tex.—Trinity High School’s game against Irving ended nearly 30 minutes ago, but Myles Turner has yet to retreat to the locker room.

He can’t.

There are still people who want pictures.

A group shot in the bleachers with relatives, a commemorative pose on the court with his teammates and countless photos with the Trinity students and teachers who pass him in the hall each day. Everyone, it seems, wants a moment with the 7'0" Turner, the nation’s top unsigned college basketball prospect.

“He attracts a crowd everywhere he goes,” Turner’s father David says. “We call it ‘The Myles Effect.’”

A middle-aged woman approaches with a baby, but as Turner extends his arms, she lowers the infant onto the court, drapes her arm around Turner’s waist and gets in the frame herself. A few feet away, a group of teenage girls with braces wait patiently. Their letter jackets are green and white—enemy colors in these parts.

“Irving fans,” his father says. “That’s not uncommon. He takes pictures with people from the opposing school after every game. He says it doesn’t overwhelm him.”

David pauses.

“At least not yet,” he laughs.

Indeed, as eloquently as Turner has handled the attention, ESPN's No. 2-ranked player in the class of 2014 realizes it will soon intensify.

Turner is this year’s Andrew Wiggins, the player who will keep the nation’s top basketball programs on edge until he announces his college intentions this spring.

The longer Turner delays his decision, the more the hype surrounding him will grow. Things may seem a bit quiet now as conference races heat up and the postseason nears. But as soon as the final horn sounds in the NCAA title game on April 9, much of college basketball’s focus will shift toward recruiting and the handful of players who have yet to sign a letter of intent.

None is better than Turner, whose list of finalists includes Texas, Kansas, Duke, Arizona, Kentucky, Ohio State and Oklahoma State.

“We have a tough choice,” David Turner says, “but we don’t have a bad choice.”

If it sounds like Turner’s father is playing a major role in his recruitment, well...he is.

Last fall, a reporter telephoned Turner at 2 a.m., rousing him from a deep slumber to ask some questions for a story. When someone e-mailed Turner a copy of the article the following morning, he didn’t even recall giving the interview.

“He was in a sleep haze,” David Turner said. “He had already done eight or nine interviews that day. He was worn out.”

Another time, as they sat in front of the television in their living room, Turner and his parents each held a telephone to their ear.

“Each of us was literally on the phone with a different coach at the same time,” Myles Turner said. “That’s the only time things seemed a little overwhelming. You only get one senior year (of high school). You’ve got to make sure you enjoy it.”

Credit: 247 Sports

Turner—who once received 119 recruiting letters in a single day—agreed to change his phone number, letting David handle most of his recruiting calls. That’s allowed Turner to channel more of his attention toward the court.

It certainly doesn’t take long to understand why schools are so enamored with Turner. During the pregame shootaround before Friday’s contest against Irving, Turner swished three-pointers with ease while also displaying a soft touch on his mid-range jumper.

During the game it wasn’t uncommon for Turner to bring the ball up the court. He either blocked or altered countless shots in the lane and finished a few of his teammates’ misses with thunderous putback dunks.

Turner is averaging nearly 18 points for Trinity. One of the most impressive things about his game is the rapid pace with which it’s developed over the past few years, as Turner stood just 6’2” as a ninth-grader. In some ways he’s still getting comfortable with his body.

“The key for me is not to be satisfied,” Turner said after the game. “You can’t let (the hype) get to you mentally. A lot of people would stop working because they’d think they’ve made it. They’d take days off. I never let that really faze me. I know I still have a lot of work to do.”

Turner’s favorite NBA player is Kevin Durant, which seems fitting considering the similarities in their skill sets. Turner’s shooting touch and his ability to handle the ball are extremely rare for a 7-footer.

Still, much like Durant at this point in his career, the 225-pound Turner needs to add a considerable amount of strength.

When he’s not with his high school team, Turner has been working out two weekends a month in Houston with former NBA coach John Lucas as well as strength coach Ken Roberson, who is known for his work with players from the Dallas area who have gone on to the NBA.

“He knows how much work he still has to do,” David Turner said. “(Coaches) say he’s not going to be in the paint very much, but when you’re 7'0", you’re going to have to play in the paint at least some of the time. He’s going to have to get a lot stronger, as long as it doesn’t affect that stroke.”

Lucas compared Turner to former Texas star LaMarcus Aldridge, who now stars for the Portland Trailblazers.

“He’s a program-changer,” Lucas said. “He can play anything from guard to center, and coaches will love him because of his work ethic. He listens. He wants to get better.

“I’m not sure we’ll see everything he has to offer while he’s in college because of all the zones and double teams he’ll face. But once he gets to play with a little freedom, he has the tools to be a star.”

On the court—and off of it, too.

College coaches aren’t allowed to comment publicly on prospects, but two assistants whose schools are involved in the Turner sweepstakes told Bleacher Report that his lack of ego has made him a joy to recruit. They also said it’s been refreshing to not have to deal with any handlers or third-party influences.

“He and his family are handling this like pros,” one coach said. “They’re great people, very respectful, very genuine. Whoever gets him is going to be getting a really good kid.”

Perhaps that’s why Turner is having such a difficult time making a decision about his future. He sees positives at each school and not too many negatives. Turner said he hopes playing in the Nike Hoops Summit and the McDonald’s All-American Game will give him more clarity since he’ll be surrounded by potential future teammates.

“My main message to him is, ‘Don’t settle,’” David Turner said. “He has good options. He needs to get what he's looking for.

“I know family atmosphere is important. If he goes somewhere like Texas or Oklahoma State, (my wife and I) can probably get to a lot of those games. If he goes to Duke or Kansas, we won’t be able to. So he has to make sure he’s comfortable with the family atmosphere he’s looking for.”

Turner’s father works in customer service at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. His mother is the housekeeping supervisor at the Dallas Sheraton.

Asked what type of questions he poses to coaches on his visits, Turner said: “I just want to know about their success as far as sending people to the NBA, because that’s definitely my goal. I know they have to spend time with each individual player, but what is their plan for me?

“I’m not saying I have to be the feature player somewhere, but I want to be at a school where I’ll have a chance to make an impact and (display) the things I’ve been working so hard on.”

   

Myles Turner, On His College Options

Arizona

"I just like the overall feel I get from their program. Watching them play, they’re very successful. They’re having some ups and downs because of the injuries they’ve experienced, but they’re a tough team and that’s because of Coach Miller."

Duke

"Duke’s history speaks for itself. That’s all I can say about that."

Kansas

"I like their history with big men. They’ve sent a lot of big men to the league. Bill Self is a really good coach. I really like him."

*Trinity coach Mark Villines told SNY.tv (h/t Zags Blog) that Self informed Turner that it may not be in his best interest to sign with Kansas if 7'0" freshman Joel Embiid—projected by some as the No. 1 pick in this summer’s draft—returns for his sophomore year. David Turner said the uncertainty surrounding Embiid hasn’t caused his son to rule out the Jayhawks.

“If Embiid leaves, fine,” David Turner said. “But I also think he and Myles could play great together. They’d be a dynamic duo. Myles could learn a lot from him, too, because Embiid has developed at such a fast pace. I’ve seen a lot of guys that have developed. Look at Cam Ridley at Texas. Man, he’s doing great. It opens Myles’ eyes and shows him what he has to do.” 

Kentucky

"What’s not to love about Coach Calipari? He gets people to the league, he’s straight up with you, he’s businesslike, he prepares you for the real world."

Ohio State

"Coach Matta is one of the most genuine coaches I’ve ever talked to. I feel like we’re similar in a few different ways, so conversation between us is easy. The Ohio State program itself doesn’t have a huge history of big men, but they’ve had bigger men that are versatile such as Jared Sullinger and Amir Williams, guys that can play on the outside, too. That’s how I see myself."

Oklahoma State

"I really like the town of Stillwater. I went there a few weeks ago and the atmosphere was great. They haven’t been winning lately but the fans are still behind them. That impressed me."

Texas

"Texas is the hometown team. I’ve been a fan of the Longhorns since I was a kid. KD is my favorite all-time player. I’ve always gone to their camps. I get a good vibe from Texas."

  

This Week's Grades

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

A: Larry Brown—Unlike most media members, I was a huge proponent of the Mustangs’ decision to hire Brown in the spring of 2012. But I never would’ve imagined he’d turn the Mustangs program around this quickly. Saturday’s victory over then-No. 7 Cincinnati propelled SMU into the Associated Press poll for the first time since 1985. The Mustangs have already drawn four sellout crowds to Moody Coliseum, where students are now camping out for seats. Brown stopped by with donuts Monday morning.

B: Notre Dame’s standards—Kudos to the Fighting Irish for holding their student-athletes accountable in the classroom. Less than two months after point guard Jerian Grant left the team because of an academic issue, the school announced Tuesday that freshman guard Demetrius Jackson is taking time off to focus on his studies. Even players in Notre Dame’s storied football program aren’t immune, as star quarterback Everett Golson missed all of last season for academic reasons. 

C: San Diego State—Wyoming snapped the Aztecs’ 20-game winning streak with a 68-62 victory on Tuesday in Laramie. We probably should’ve seen it coming, as seven of San Diego State’s previous 10 wins were by single digits—and it’s not like the Mountain West is all that strong. I’m certainly not knocking Steve Fisher’s squad; San Diego State has exceeded expectations and is more than deserving of a lofty ranking. But I think No. 5 was a bit high.

D: SEC—Florida and Kentucky are NCAA title contenders, but after that, there’s not a single team in the league to get excited about. Missouri started off strong but has tapered off. Tennessee has failed to capitalize on an experienced roster, and tons of talent is going to waste at LSU, where the Tigers have been maddeningly inconsistent. Good luck trying to figure out Ole Miss and Alabama, and the bottom of the conference is downright dreadful. 

F: Wichita State haters—It shocks me that there are still people who refuse to recognize Gregg Marshall’s squad as one of the best in the country. To be undefeated at this point in the season is a herculean feat no matter what conference you’re in. If the Shockers hadn’t proven themselves a year ago on college basketball’s biggest stage, maybe I’d be a bit more reserved in my enthusiasm. But these are the same players who beat tradition-rich programs Pittsburgh, Gonzaga and Ohio State in the NCAA tournament—they were in the game against Louisville until the final minute in the Final Four. If you’re not buying into Wichita State you probably don’t know much about it.

 

Starting Five: Mid-Major Coaches Who Could Be in Line for Bigger Jobs 

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Tod Kowalczyk, ToledoKowalczyk has taken a team that was 4-28 in his first season and turned it into one that boasts a 20-3 record overall and an 8-2 mark in the MAC. Toledo is vying for its first NCAA tournament berth since 1980.

Saul Phillips, North Dakota State—Phillips is having his best season since 2008-09, when he led the Bison to a 26-7 record and a berth in the NCAA tournament. North Dakota State is 18-6 overall and 7-2 in the Summit League.

Donnie Tyndall, Southern Miss—At 21-3 overall and 8-1 in league play, Tyndall’s squad sits atop the Conference USA standings along with UTEP. A year ago the Golden Eagles went 27-10 and reached the NIT quarterfinals in Tyndall’s first season.

Brian Wardle, Wisconsin-Green Bay—The Phoenix are 19-5 overall and 9-2 in the Horizon League under Wardle, who was an assistant under Tom Crean at Marquette. A victory or two in the NCAA tournament would help his cause. 

Michael White, Louisiana Tech—White won 45 games in his first two seasons in Ruston and captured a share of the 2012-13 WAC title. This year his squad is 20-5 overall and 8-2 in league play, a half-game behind UTEP and Southern Miss (both 8-1).

 

A Dozen Words On My Top 12 Teams

  1. Florida—Billy Donovan’s Gators are playing better than any team in the country.
  2. Syracuse—I want to see the Orange become better at dominating lesser opponents.
  3. Wichita StateTekele Cotton is the most underappreciated member of this Shockers team.
  4. Duke—The Blue Devils boast one of the most efficient offenses in basketball.
  5. Arizona—Can’t see the Wildcats winning six straight NCAA games without Brandon Ashley.
  6. Michigan—Tuesday’s road win at Ohio State was huge for the surging Wolverines.
  7. Villanova—The Wildcats’ highly anticipated rematch with Creighton is this Sunday in Omaha.
  8. Kansas—Uh-oh. Bill Self says standout center Joel Embiid is “banged up.”
  9. Michigan State—The Spartans are an NCAA title contender if they ever get healthy.
  10. San Diego State—Tuesday’s loss to Wyoming takes some of the shine off the Aztecs.
  11. Kentucky—The Wildcats’ biggest game to date is Saturday against Florida in Lexington.
  12. Virginia—Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers have a legitimate chance to win the ACC title.

  

Rapid Fire

Plastic surgery scheduled: Rupp Arena

Please, don’t touch: Cameron Indoor Stadium

Give him a raise: Bruce Weber, Kansas State

Give him the boot: Oliver Purnell, DePaul

Overrated: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

Underrated: Terran Petteway, Nebraska

Figuring it out: St. John’s, West Virginia

Floundering: Baylor, Oregon

Desperate for wins: Missouri, Georgetown

Best major conference: Big 12

Worst major conference: SEC

Surprisingly good major conference: American Athletic

National Coach of the Year (if the season ended today): Rick Barnes, Texas

National Player of the Year (if the season ended today): Doug McDermott, Creighton

National Freshman of the Year (if the season ended today): Jabari Parker, Duke

 

Pit Stops

Texas Chili Parlor, Austin—After being turned away by the long Sunday afternoon wait at Moonshine a few weeks ago, my buddy Gary Bedore and I ended up at the Texas Chili Parlor just a few miles away from the University of Texas campus.

Wise choice.

We started with a heaping bowl of chips and a few ramekins of queso. As much as I liked the cheese dip, the salsa that accompanied it was even better. Always the simpleton, Bedore opted for the bacon cheeseburger despite my urging him to order the Texican (a burger with refried beans, crushed Fritos, cheese, green chiles and mayo). He said his food was tremendous, though, and it certainly looked that way from across the table.

I’m a huge chili fan, and as a Texan, that means no beans. If you put beans in chili, you might as well call it soup. I ordered a medium-sized bowl of the XX, which is spicy but not over the top. Well, at least not until you load it up with onions and jalapenos, which I did. With huge chunks of meat and an outstanding flavor, this may have been the best bowl of chili I’ve ever consumed. I attempted to order a chili dog, too, but our waitress stopped me.

“You won’t be able to eat all of that,” she said.

I was somewhat offended until I saw how big the bowl of chili was—not to mention the gargantuan, knife-and-fork chili dog she served to the table next to us. Our waitress was correct. There’s no way I could’ve consumed all that food. Would’ve been fun trying, though.

I’ll definitely make a return trip to Texas Chili Parlor.

 

Jason King covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonKingBR.

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