Written by Corbett Smith
Euless Trinity's Myles Turner is nation's most sought-after recruit, yet late bloomer still developing
IRVING — The free throw rolled off the rim, and the jeers started up.
It was not Myles Turner’s night.
Double- and triple-teamed for the first three quarters, he’d become an offensive afterthought for his Euless Trinity teammates, who seemed content to seek open looks set up by dribble drives to the basket.
His absence was noticeable, especially considering that against Irving, he was a head taller than anyone else on the court. Midway through the fourth quarter, the 6-111/2 senior had four points from six shots.
It’s not as if Turner isn’t skilled — far from it. In fact, he might be the most skilled high school big man in the country while facing the basket. A good ball-handler for his size, with solid footwork, a fluid outside shooting stroke, and ability to use either hand while in the post — Turner’s skills are tailored for the college and professional level.
But for those expecting to see a 7-footer throwing down on a bunch of hapless high school players, it wasn’t happening — at least not on this Tuesday night in mid-January.
Instead, one of the best high school prospects in the country was getting heckled, while SMU coach Larry Brown sat 20 feet away, pining for Turner’s talents.
Top of the list
Turner is the most sought-after recruit in the country, the only consensus top-10 player who hasn’t orally committed or signed with a college.
Named to the McDonald’s All-American roster last week, Turner is listed by both ESPN and Scout.com as the No. 2 prospect in the nation, behind Chicago post Jahlil Okafor.
Ask him for teams in the running, and Turner will rattle off his seven finalists: Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Texas — in that order, which, by no coincidence, is alphabetical. Programs such as SMU and Texas A&M are sticking around, still recruiting him despite the list.
Before Turner initially cut down his group of suitors, he had little peace and quiet.
“There was one night where my dad, my mom and myself were on the phone, all with a different coach, at the same time,” Turner said. “We could never spend as much family time as we wanted because of the process itself.”
At the height of the craziness, Turner received 119 letters from colleges in a single day.
“My mom made me read every single one of them,” Turner said.
As one of 10 U.S. players selected for April’s Nike Hoop Summit, Turner will use the showcase to iron out his final decision — playing alongside recruits from Arizona, Duke and Kansas.
“Whenever he decides to go, he’ll make a name for himself,” his father, David Turner, said. “His ultimate goal isn’t to get in the NBA, but to stick around, to be on that third or fourth contract.”
A late bloomer
Turner’s goals weren’t always so lofty.
In fact, he was largely unknown coming into his junior year.
That makes him an outlier among most other McDonald’s All-Americans, who have been seen as potential superstars for the last three or four years.
For example, Prime Prep’s Emmanuel Mudiay helped Arlington Grace Prep to the TAPPS 4A title as a freshman, leading the team in scoring in the championship game. Houston St. John’s forward Justise Winslow already had two AAU titles and a SPC title in hand after his freshman year. And Okafor, the consensus No. 1 recruit, got his first offer from DePaul as an eighth-grader.
As a freshman, Turner was a gangly 6-2 post still on the freshman team.
“His potential was there, but unless you really know basketball — you couldn’t see it,” David Turner said. “I put him in front of the top programs in the Dallas area [on the AAU circuit], and they saw him but didn’t know what they were looking at.”
The key was that Myles kept grinding — Trinity coach Mark Villines called him one of his team’s tireless workers — and growing, 3 to 4 inches per year. Between his sophomore and junior seasons, Turner, then 6-7, might have made a splash on the AAU scene. But he broke his ankle on the first spring game of 2012, chasing a player down while making a hustle play.
While it slowed his recruitment, Turner said he has since looked at the injury as a blessing.
“I was able to sit back and look at it, really reflect on the game of basketball,” he said. “Of course, I worked on my upper-body strength, too, so I was more physically fit to play at the next level.”
With Turner about 30 pounds heavier from weight training at the start of his junior season, the time off had transformed his body and revolutionized his game.
Turner vaulted up recruiting lists in the spring and summer of 2013 playing in the more wide-open AAU game with Texas Select, going from unranked to the top 10 in a matter of months. Time and again, Turner showed well against the nation’s best players — at the LeBron camp, the Nike Big Man Skills Academy, the NBPA Top 100 camp, Adidas Nations and the Elite 24 invitational at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center.
“He’s taken an unusual route to get to where he’s at — completely unknown to where he is now,” David Turner said. “He’s blue-collared his way there.”
Days after the loss to Irving, folded into a couch in the Trinity coaching office, Turner grimaced as he recalled the game, which he called his “worst of the year.”
It was for Trinity as well, the only district loss of the season as Irving came back from a scoreless first quarter for a 37-36 upset.
“You want to affect the game and show everybody that this is what you can do,” Turner said. “To be shut down, in a sense, it’s very frustrating.”
This season, however, has been anything but. Behind Turner and senior guard Adrian Wong, Trinity (21-6, 10-1 in 6-5A) is off to its best start since 2000, clinching a playoff berth with three games remaining in the regular season.
Turner is a huge cog to Trinity’s success, but coach Mark Villines said he thinks his team is scratching the surface on how good it can be.
Defensively, there’s no question that Turner can dominate at the high school level. With long arms and good athleticism, he’s a natural shot blocker — deterring all but the strong-willed from a trip to the rim.
Offensively, though, Turner’s had to pick his spots. Most opponents have taken the strategy that if Trinity is going to beat them, it’s not going to happen in the paint.
Despite that, Turner is still Trinity’s leading scorer — averaging nearly 18 points per game — thanks, in large part, to his ability to collect offensive rebounds and score in transition. On the block, he rarely touches the ball without at least two defenders acknowledging him. He’s reliant on teammates getting him the ball in the post — preferably as early as possible during a possession. And that’s been a problem.
“Coach has been on us all year,” Wong said, “about getting him the ball down low. It’s something we’re still working on.”
While it’s frustrating, Turner and Trinity are making do. Turner deftly finds teammates with passes out of double teams. He’s had to. Following the loss to Irving, Turner scored eight points in a 46-point win against Carrollton R.L. Turner, hemmed in by a triangle-and-two defense.
“You are not going to see that at the next level,” Villines said. “And as a coach, I don’t want him to coming down and standing on the block all the time. Obviously, that’s where we can take advantage of him, but he does so many other things well. He pick-and-pops, he can shoot the 3. Percentage-wise, he’s our best 3-point shooter.”
Despite his struggles against Irving, he nearly won the game with nine seconds remaining, making a contested corner 3-pointer.
Like his team, Turner is still a work in progress. Becoming more of a back-to-the-basket bruiser is something Turner knows he needs to work on for success at the college level.
“I’m not completely comfortable [with my size] yet,” Turner said. “I definitely need to get bigger and stronger to be able to go down there and bang more.”
So he’s in the gym working — and trying to shut down any potential hecklers.