On Tuesday afternoon, Myles Turner ended months of speculation by announcing his collegiate choice. Turner will play basketball for Rick Barnes and the Texas Longhorns.

From Trinity High (Euless, TX), Turner is a dynamic prospect that is rated as highly as No. 2 in the country (ESPN). In his senior season, Turner led Trinity to a district championship by averaging 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 blocks per game. Standing at 6’11” and 240 pounds, Trinity’s five-star Center was the focus of speculation across the country because of his anticipated impact on next year’s national championship picture.

Turner whittled his list of college choices to seven or eight schools, all of which surely talked about his ability to help them cut down the nets. Basketball royalty like Duke and Kentucky were eventually not considered as competition for his final three schools – Kansas, SMU and Texas.

SMU’s hoops program is surging under Head Coach Larry Brown. The Mustangs finished last season as runner’s up in the NIT tournament and have parlayed their recent successes into a commitment from elite point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. Quite frankly, Brown and SMU needed Turner to make a hometown choice. At SMU, Turner could have been the transformative player that vaults the Mustangs to relevance on the national basketball scene.

At the other end of the spectrum were the Kansas Jayhawks. KU’s roster is loaded with premier talent, including enough talented front court players for some experts to question whether there would be enough minutes available if Turner went to Lawrence. But the Jayhawks have won at least a share of 10 consecutive Big 12 titles, and routinely transform talented prep players into first round NBA draft picks. In terms of prestige, tradition and reputation, Turner would have been foolish not to strongly consider KU.

But sometimes no matter how good the extremes look on the spectrum, the sweet spot is right in the middle – precisely where the Texas Longhorns positioned themselves. Texas offered some of the attraction of Kansas and part of the charm of SMU. Combine that with being a 3-hour drive from home (plenty close enough for Mom and Dad to see games) and the Horns were the logical choice.

Digging deeper reveals a 2014-15 Texas roster that returns every single player from last season. Considering that the team played well enough to exceed expectations and Coach Barnes won coach of the year honors, all those returnees already have folks whispering about next season…and this is Texas where next season always means football season.

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Returning every starter from last season played a role in Turner's decision. (photo credit: usatoday.com)

Deeper still, there was the exemplary case of Cameron Ridley at Barnes’ disposal. Ridley was a Top 100 recruit coming out of Houston’s Fort Bend Bush High School but the college game overwhelmed him. Texas’ new big man was not ready for the physical demands of the college game and averaged less than five points and rebounds per game. Ridley even struggled to catch the ball cleanly throughout his freshman season and converted free throws at an abysmal 33%.

(cue Todd Wright – enter stage, left)

Ridley dropped more than 30 pounds before his sophomore season. In his second year, he posted 10 double-doubles, shot 62% from the free throw line and demonstrated a physical, low-post offensive game that he lacked during his freshman campaign. It wasn't just green vegetables that transformed Ridley’s game - it was his own hard work and dedication combined with the supervision of Head Strength Coach Todd Wright.
Snap back to present day and that example has to weigh heavily on the mind of a player like Myles Turner. Like Ridley, Turner dominates high school competition based on his physical attributes. Unlike Ridley, Turner’s challenge will be to add weight when he arrives on the 40 Acres.

Also unlike Ridley, Turner recognized flaws in his style of play. Wanting to be more than a shot blocker, Turner set about developing his offensive game early in his high school career. A solid low-block game aided by a good jump shot were the initial steps. Next came work on offensive moves while facing the basket and learning to attack the rim. Then came a well-timed growth spurt of more than four inches and 20 pounds. In four years at Trinity High, Turner gained more than 50 pounds.

Voila! Basketball phenom!

Realistically, Turner is light years ahead on the development curve and Wright hasn’t had a chance to sprinkle fairy dust on him yet. But, when weighing the allure of KU against Texas it is impossible to overstate the value of Wright or Barnes’ track record with draft-able talent.

Is Texas on par with Kansas? Absolutely not.

Did Texas approximate Kansas’ advantages while also being close enough for Mom and Dad to drive to every home game? Absolutely.

Even though it appears like he emerged from the same physical-superfreak mold as Kevin Durant (Turner's favorite player), Turner is not the pure jump shooter that Durant is. Longhorns fans should think of another ex-player when trying to envision Turner’s abilities - his style of play is much more similar to LaMarcus Aldridge. With good range on a jumper that extends out to the perimeter, and low post moves that are similar to Aldridge, Turner’s offensive style should only be described as ‘versatile’.

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Rick Barnes now has a matchup nightmare to lineup alongside Ridley. (photo credit: brownsvilleherald.com)

Turner is also a good fit for Barnes’ proclivity for defensive play. Beyond being a willing defender, Turner is a shot blocking machine. Not only will his offensive versatility give Barnes plenty of options, Turner’s game-changing defensive skills will alter how opposing players attack the Texas basket.

Twice a week Turner participates in strength workouts conducted by personal trainers. He’s also improved his basketball skills in workouts supervised by John Lucas. Neither of those facts stop Turner from listing ‘increasing strength’ and ‘refining offensive moves with back facing the basket’ as his two top goals for improvement during his freshman season.

Between Texas’ recent history of placing players in the NBA; Austin’s proximity to his home; having Todd Wright on staff; Jai Lucas’ support of the program; and a budding relationship with a Texas roster that returns 100% of it’s players, there were too many logical advantages for Myles Turner to do anything except choose the Longhorns.

But the one reason not listed yet, may be the one that elicits the most smiles from Texas alumni. Turner was quoted as saying, “No matter where I go, I’m going to get a good education,” adding that, “I want somebody that’s going to work with me. If I had the opportunity to one-and-done or two-and-done, I want to come back and work on my degree.”

The University of Texas and Myles Turner sound like a perfect match.
  • Chris Flanagan, J.B. TexasEx, monarch and 2 others like this