Texas Talks Turner, Program Momentum

Texas coaches talk about landing five-star recruit Myles Turner and the program's increasing momentum.

Less than three minutes into Texas assistant coach Chris Ogden's press conference about Myles Turner, the audio kicked out on his microphone.

But it's going to take a lot more than a temporary mic malfunction to keep down a Texas program that is flying high right now. A big part of that momentum was created when the Longhorns, expected to finish eighth in the Big 12 a year ago, went 24-11, finished third in the league and went to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. But it was the signing of five-star center Myles Turner, a 7-foot, 242-pounder with shooting and shot-blocking ability that had a group of reporters clustered around a small table on the second floor at Cooley Pavilion.

"I think it's really great to see you guys here in the spring, and it's not a press conference for spring football," Ogden said.

Ogden was the lead recruiter for Turner, and a big part of the reason the Longhorns got in early on the Euless Trinity product. Ogden said Turner played much of his junior year at 6-6 to 6-7, but that when coaches went to see him in the spring, he had grown to 6-10. He eventually measured out at 6-11.5 in shoes at the Nike Hoop Summit in recent weeks.

"Internally, we're really energized," Ogden said.

That was certainly apparent when the Longhorns landed Turner, one of the truly elite talents in the 2014 class and the first five-star prospect brought in by Texas since Cameron Ridley.

"I think the thing about Myles, people are going to see the ranking and five-star and make a big deal about that, but the kid's a blue-collar kid. We wouldn't have taken just any five-star because he's a five-star with a ranking. I think when you do that, you get in trouble.

"We took a fit, and we took a kid that would make us better in a lot of ways," Ogden said.

But it was a long process for the 'Horns, who discovered Turner early, but wound out having to sweat it out as he emerged as one of the top players in the class and a McDonald's All-American, drawing interest from pretty much every school in the country.

"As it turned out, it turned out to be sweet," Ogden said of Turner's rapid ascension from under-the-radar talent to superstar. "It would have been bitter if he would have went somewhere else."

Most felt that his decision came down to Texas and Big 12 rival Kansas, and Ogden admitted that it wasn't a comfortable wait for Turner's decision.

He called the wait "nerve-wracking."

"We didn't know," Ogden said. "They didn't tell us yes or no. We were sitting there like anybody else."

In fact, Ogden said that he went into the announcement with some amount of trepidation.

"Talking to the mom on Sunday night, I could have sworn we weren't getting the kid," Ogden said. "It wasn't as warm and fuzzy as I wanted it, right? I figured we were three days away from an announcement. I was wanting to hear 'all right, he's yours in three days.' And I wasn't hearing that."

That might have made Turner's announcement, where he pulled on a burnt-orange bucket hat, that much sweeter. Ogden called it "a good reaction," noting that the room heard a combination of big yells and audible relief after a long process. Texas head coach Rick Barnes wasn't with the assistant coaches; he held up the "Comin' On Strong Tour flight to catch the announcement.

"From the first time we met, he told us he wanted to be a part of a team," Barnes said. "That's the most important thing: he never made it about himself, saying I'm going to be a savior, or I'm going to go in and demand this or that."

He wanted to be a part of a team, and Ogden was quick to point out that the current 'Horns did much of the heavy lifting in Turner's recruitment. Turner attached to Texas centers Ridley and Prince Ibeh, while Isaiah Taylor was actually Turner's recruiting host. And while Texas had a bit of a toxic atmosphere two years ago, the Longhorns were able to sell the fact that Taylor actually convinced former teammate Shaquille Cleare to sign with Texas as a transfer as well. Ogden lauded the players for their work, stating "They were the MVPs" of Turner's recruitment.

"Really, what it comes down to: are the players that used to play for you and the players here now, are they selling your program?" Ogden asked. "Are they having a good experience? And our guys are. They felt that he knew that. You can't fake that when you come on campus."

So how will Turner fit in? Barnes was quick to note that Texas could go big at times, pointing out that forward Jonathan Holmes played the three in about half of the Longhorns' games a year ago. But one of the questions is whether Turner can defend at the four, after playing as a center in high school. Ogden downplayed that concern, pointing out that Texas could play a big zone, and even adding that he thinks, with Turner's length and athleticism, he could play some man at the position.

"He'll help us in a few different positions and ways we'll use him," Ogden said, before declining to make comparisons to current players. "I know this: he's a big kid with a great motor that can really shoot the ball and score the ball and's got a high skill set."

It does create a bit of a logjam in the post, with Texas having five players who could bounce between the four and five, and that's not counting incoming recruit Jordan Barnett, who Barnes said could play some four against small-ball teams. But Barnes said he didn't have any plans to redshirt any players, noting that those situations typically worked themselves out. And he smiled when he noted that the Longhorns would have the pieces to form a deep and tight competition.

Obviously, the plans are for Turner to factor in. Whether he'll have enough time, and produce the results necessary to be a one-and-done is less clear, and Ogden noted that Turner will come to Austin "not thinking that way."

"You know what, I hope he is [one-and-done]," Ogden said. "We're pretty damn good if he is."

"If we have the kind of year I'd like to have, everybody will be talking about everybody leaving," Barnes added.

Of course, this adds to the pressure on Barnes and Co. to produce a major winner. Last year, the team certainly exceeded outside expectations, but third in the Big 12 and a Round of 32 exit would be seen as a failure this go-round. But Barnes pointed out that the team didn't focus on outside expectations a year ago, when the team wasn't supposed to be any good, and that they wouldn't this year, even as more people point to the Longhorns as Big 12 and national contenders.

"We've never shied away from expectations," Barnes said. "Ours will be higher than everyone else's."

That's not to say that Barnes would rather have an underdog.

"You want people to know you're good," Barnes said. "You want people to get excited. You want people to say 'I want to pay to see this team.'"

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