Ranking the Best Landing Spots for Top Unsigned 2014 Recruit Myles Turner
Myles Turner, rated as the No. 2 college basketball recruit in the nation by ESPN and Scout.com, is expected to announce his decision from among eight prospective colleges next week. Hi personal elite eight is an impressive collection, but the disparate programs can’t all offer him the same advantages.
Arizona, for example, boasts an experienced roster that’s already a Final Four favorite even without the 7-foot youngster. However, Wildcats coach Sean Miller is far from proven when it comes to developing future NBA centers.
Here is a look at all eight schools on Turner’s list, focusing on how appealing they’re likely to be to the presumptive one-and-done big man. These rankings reflect a combination of how much competition he’ll face for playing time, how good the team’s chances of 2014-15 success look at this stage and how well he can expect to be groomed for the NBA.
8. Oklahoma State
With Marcus Smart gone, Oklahoma State is going to be a train wreck next season. Even Turner’s talent won’t be enough to elevate this roster above the borderline NCAA tournament team that it was in 2013-14.
Without Smart or Markel Brown, the Cowboys are building around a one-dimensional shooter in Phil Forte and a career underachiever in Le'Bryan Nash.
Turner would obviously be the man in Stillwater, but he can attain that status elsewhere. Travis Ford, whose teams have relied on backcourt play, also seems ill-suited to mentoring a lottery-pick center.
There’s a built-in appeal to playing for one’s home-state school, especially when Texas a program that could really use a boost. The Longhorns are on the rise, but they’re not an established powerhouse like many of Turner’s options.
To its credit, Texas features a proven point guard—rising sophomore Isaiah Taylor—and a coach in Rick Barnes who has turned out a steady supply of NBA players, including big men such as Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, the Longhorns also have a major logjam on the front line, where Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert all saw minutes at center and are due to return for 2014-15.
It’s anybody’s guess exactly what Kentucky’s lineup will look like next season, as none of 2013-14’s starters have yet declared their intentions about the NBA draft.
However, it seems safe to posit that the national runner-up will lose enough talent to make a return Final Four visit far from a certainty.
More importantly, the one key Wildcat who is definitely back, Willie Cauley-Stein, would be a drain on Turner’s playing time.
Add in the competition from incoming frosh Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns up front, and even John Calipari’s magic touch with generating lottery picks won't be enough to make Kentucky a favorite here.
With or without Turner, Duke already has a strong case for the best 2014 recruiting class in the nation. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, that strength is also their biggest weakness in hoping to land the lanky Texan.
Because Jahlil Okafor is already signed in Durham, even coach Mike Krzyzewski will struggle to find enough playing time for both superstar freshman centers.
Duke has the NBA pedigree and the talent (including shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon) to push for a national title, but the presence of the one incoming freshman who is ranked higher than Turner will be a serious deterrent.
Even without Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, the Wildcats are a legitimate title contender for 2014-15. T.J. McConnell is one of the country’s best pure passers, and there’s plenty of other talent remaining.
Kaleb Tarczewski is expected to be among those returnees, though the lumbering 7-footer won’t eat into Turner’s minutes as badly as some of the more athletic big men on this list.
The bigger issue keeping Arizona from a higher ranking is Sean Miller’s lack of a track record with NBA-bound big men. Combo forward Derrick Williams, who is far from a success story, is the closest thing to a post presence to come out of Arizona during Miller's tenure.
3. Ohio State
If Turner wants to prove that he can carry an offense by himself, he won’t get a better chance than in Columbus. The Buckeyes, already a weak scoring unit, are losing everyone who averaged more than eight points per game last season.
Even with that concern, though, OSU’s always stout defense means that a Turner-led Final Four run isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Just as valuable, Thad Matta has already shown that he can turn out the kind of post players (Greg Oden, Jared Sullinger) that NBA teams want to draft.
The only drawback for Ohio State is the presence of rising senior Amir Williams, whose shot blocking will help him earn minutes even with Turner around.
The best player that SMU has ever produced was Jon Koncak, an injury-prone Atlanta Hawks center in the '80s.
In other words, if Turner becomes a Mustang, he will have a virtual guarantee of being one of the two best players in program history, and that’s an incentive no other team on his list can offer.
He’d be a lock for the No. 1 spot if it weren’t for Emmanuel Mudiay, the devastating point guard who’s already part of Larry Brown’s 2014 recruiting class. SMU (with point guard Nic Moore among its returnees) stands to make a serious run at the AAC title next year, too.
Rounding out the package for Turner’s hometown team is the venerable Brown, who has coached thousands of NBA games and will be eminently capable of preparing the youngster for the pros.
Joel Embiid’s decision to leave for the NBA clears out a tailor-made starting job for Turner in Lawrence.
Embiid’s success, meanwhile, makes an excellent argument for the high school star—who has a nearly identical build and similar playing style—to follow in his footsteps.
After all, Embiid improved immensely in his one year under Bill Self's tutelage, to the point that he's a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick in June.
He also helped make a freshman-driven Jayhawks team a serious Final Four contender. Turner could do the same with potential classmates Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre Jr., with some help from the likes of rising senior PG Naadir Tharpe.