Myles of Upside

Note: This story was originally featured on HD on July 31 when your mind was undoubtedly on football. Now that basketball is underway, we wanted to revisit this story on Texas' impressive true freshman.

EULESS, Texas - - “I’m tryna learn something new. I’m tryna surround myself with people that inspire me or at least inquire similar desires to do what it T-A-K-E just to reach the T-O-P.” – Kendrick Lamar


There’s a certain blue-collar mentality that Rick Barnes’ program embodies that really gets the hair on the back of Myles Turner’s high-top fade to stand straight up.

It gives him chills, really, thinking about all that Texas’ 2013-14 team accomplished when virtually everyone outside of those with access to Denton A. Cooley Pavilion counted them out.

“Nobody expected them to do anything last year and they made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament,” said Turner, lacing up his boats, err running shoes, for the second part of what would stretch into a three-hour after school workout on May 21. “They beat Kansas. They had a lot of feats. They didn’t bask in the light. They kept working.”

That us-against-the-world mentality strikes a cord with the Texas freshman.

Believe it or not, he can relate.

Before he turned into a 6-foot-11 ¾, 240-pound five-star prospect with a size 17 foot and a 7-4 wingspan, he was an over-looked, scrawny 6-4 freshman with more holes in his game than an old school paddle.

Yes good genes - with an assist from a higher power - helped stretch him into a more-than-capable Stretch 4. But anyone who knows Turner understands the true measure of his game lays within the countless buckets of sweat this bucket hat wearing, bowtie sporting, bravado-less young man his filled with his work ethic.

It’s one reason he knows he’ll blend in well in Austin despite being the tallest guy on campus.





When their son was four, David and Mary Turner - married now for 21 years - signed Turner up for a basketball league at the local YMCA where his abilities on the hardwood were quickly understood to be above average.

“All the kids had to wear wristbands and they were all different colors, and you had to guard the kid on the other team with the same color wristband,” David said. “He was blocking so many shots that the coach told Myles to stand at half court. His man stood at half court, which made Myles stand there too.”

It’s a novel idea and one Texas opponents next season might be wise to implement.

All halfhearted joking aside, his rise to becoming the biggest recruit to sign with the Longhorns since Kevin Durant in 2006 isn’t full of similar stories boasting of his basketball prowess. It’s quite the opposite, really.

Like the one about Euless Trinity head coach Mark Villines actually putting in a call to Texas’ coaching staff urging them to give Turner a look the spring of his sophomore year before the rest of the country caught on and potentially watered down his views of UT.

“I got on the phone with Texas because I knew out of all the schools he was thinking about they were the only one he had allegiance to because of him going to camp [there] when he was little,” Villines said.

The Longhorns showed up in droves, spearheaded by assistant coach Chris Ogden.

There’s also the unfortunate tale of when Turner broke his ankle in the spring of 2012. It forced him to miss AAU ball the summer prior to his junior season, one of the most crucial periods for any recruit.

Then there was the issue with his height, or lack thereof, early on that got him over-looked.

"No one was even paying attention to him."

“He wasn’t that athletic,” said Ken ‘Slim’ Roberson, his personal trainer. “No one was even paying attention to him. He was about 6-foot-4 and 160 pounds as a freshman.”

Oh, how that’s changed.

The evolution of Turner’s current skyscraper existence is stuff of fairy tale.

He was 6-4 at the end of his freshman season but 6-6 by the time summer started. When school rolled back around he was 6-8. It was as if he ate the magic beans in “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

“It’s freakish how he grew,” said David, who is 6-4. “I woke up one morning and he came out to the kitchen and I literally had to look up at him. His feet went from a [size] 14 to 17 in two weeks. You could literally hear his bones grow. It was scary, fun, and exciting all at once.”

Added Roberson: “Genetically I knew there was going to be a good chance he’d grow. I was just patient with the process. I’ve never been around anyone who grew like him. He grew six inches in like 12 months.”

The growth spurt tore into Turner’s knees. He developed tendinitis and constantly woke up sore.

“It hurt,” he said, emphatically.





Naturally, his growth spurt garnered him more looks.

But there are plenty of abnormally tall guys walking around with broke jumpers and the agility of a beached whale. He knew his game had to grow too.

So he got together with Slim and fought like hell to make sure there wasn’t another incoming freshman in the country working harder.

After seeing what he puts his body through, there might not be.

On this particular day in May, like most days after school, you could fling open the gym doors at Trinity and find Turner inside improving his craft.

He didn’t have to be there. His playing career as a Trojan had been over for weeks. Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, featuring his idol Kevin Durant, tipped off in three hours. He could have been home, feet up.

Instead, Turner was rubbing elbows with next year’s varsity and varsity hopefuls; many of which were half his size. The smile on his face made it clear there was nowhere else he would have rather been.

That lasted for well over an hour before Slim and Keith Liggins (Shawn Marion’s trainer) took control in a private workout.

This particular set started in the weight room for 30 grueling minutes before Liggins worked him tirelessly through cone drills on the hardwood.

Left-hand dribble the length of the court.

Right-hand dribble.

Two ball dribble.

Two ball through the leg dribble.

One ball crisscrossed through both legs then quickly behind the back.

Different drills using a footwork ladder that ended with him catching a pass just inside half court, making a move around a chair then finishing with a flush or step-back J.

Turner during one of his after-school workouts.

“His freshman year he was pretty decent around the basket but didn’t have the skillset he does now,” Slim said. “He turned over his right shoulder well. But now he can go both ways, he owns his left hand. He puts it on the floor well, he’s got better body control. He’s stronger, he’s faster.”

His stamina should never come into question either. He ran a 5:27 mile at 225 pounds a couple months back. Five minutes and 27 seconds!

“People kind of underestimate the track,” Turner said. “Working on the track is huge. It’s a whole different world out there than the court. It’s open space. The fact that you can open your lungs so much better and be able to keep running like that is definitely an advantage.”

It’s all part of the process to be the best he can be.

While his newfound height helped gain him more notoriety, he’ll never forget those days when he was looking up at everyone else.

“I was at the bottom of the mountain and I liked it,” Turner said. “People didn’t know what I could do. I started working with Slim and he kept telling me that this, right here, is where we were going to be. It was tough at times. But it all worked out.

"Going forward that is always going to motivate me, the fact that people overlooked me."

“Being overlooked is a huge motivator. People look down upon you. Going forward that is always going to motivate me, the fact that people overlooked me. To be honest, that’s how I liked it.”





Box scores don’t ever tell the whole story but they do help script certain opinions. Take the one from the McDonald’s All-American Game for example.

Turner, who started for the East, finished with a respectable 7 points and 7 rebounds.

While his 21 minutes were fourth most on his team, his three field goal attempts were the second fewest of anyone in the entire game; UCLA signee Thomas Welsh didn’t shoot in his eight minutes.

On the flip side, Jahlil Okafor, Scout.com’s No. 1 player in the country (Turner is 5th) and the opposing center on the West, shot 15 times in 22 minutes.

“At the McDonald’s All-American Game, nine of the top 10 players [in the country] were on the court in the last four minutes except for [Myles],” David said.

Why?

"Jahlil doesn’t want to see Myles at all. Myles has Jahlil’s number. He can stop him and that doesn’t happen very often."

“Because he was shutting down Jahlil and they couldn’t have that happen in Chicago [Okafor, a Duke signee, went to Chicago’s Whitney Young Magnet High School],” Turner’s father said. “Jahlil doesn’t want to see Myles at all. Myles has Jahlil’s number. He can stop him and that doesn’t happen very often.”

Turner and his family.

The point that David is trying to drive home is the same one Turner’s been living with since his freshman season.

“He’s never been coddled,” his father said. “He’s always been overlooked and under-appreciated. That’s been the thing the whole time.”

What evidence that box score didn’t give, which Longhorns fan will quickly learn, is that Turner prides himself on defense just as Tim Duncan does the fundamental aspects of his game. He’s a defender first, then a gifted offensive player with a silky three-point shot to go along with a developing back-to-the-basket, low-post game.

Defense is what he loves.

In fact, he set a USA U18 competition record with 18 total blocks during the five-game FIBA Americas U18 Tournament held in Colorado Springs, Colo., in June.

His offensive game, as it often is, was efficient: for the tournament he converted 13-of-19 (.684) field goals, including 1-of-1 from three-point range, and 9-of-12 free throws.

“My defense has always carried my game, even when I was younger,” he said.

That fact is one reason Slim believes he can be a superstar in the NBA.

“His biggest asset is on the defensive end,” said Slim, a roommate of Karl Malone’s at Louisiana Tech, whose clientele includes the Mail Man, Larry Johnson, Kurt Thomas, Chris Bosh, Lamarcus Aldridge, Acie Law and Quinton Ross. “The easiest thing to do is to have someone buy in offensively. Because he came in wanting to dominate on defense, he’s the total package.”

Slim sees a lot of Bosh and Aldridge in Turner and thinks “he’ll be a better shot blocker than both of them.”

This high praise for his defensive game is not to take away from the offensive skills he possesses. Turner averaged 18.1 points as a senior to go along with 12.2 rebounds, 6.8 blocks and 3.5 assists. He was the District 6-5A MVP.

He’s more than capable of dominating a game on the offensive end. But he knows it’s also the part of his game that he needs to develop most prior to his first game in the Frank Erwin Center on Nov. 14.

“I tend to travel out to the three-point line a little bit,” Turner said. “So I’m trying to be more of a low-post dominant threat at the next level. I am definitely not going to stop working on my outside game but I’m definitely going to bang in the post a lot more.”





The white Starbury’s are still kept free of dust and fingerprints in the Turner household, which might seem odd for a shoe that cost $14.98 back in the day.

But it all makes sense once you see Durant’s signature on them.

The former Longhorn signed the current Longhorn’s shoes when Turner attended a Texas basketball camp in sixth grade. Durant was a freshman at the time.

It was the first link between Turner and UT and one that sparked a long-standing appreciation for the program.

That’s not to say that the Longhorns didn’t sweat out Turner’s recruitment. He definitely had many sleepless nights. That includes the night before his nationally televised announcement on April 30 when he told reporters it wasn’t until he was in bed that he figured out where he wanted to go to school.

“When he made his choice Myles did all the work,” his father said. “He had a binder with every school. The top schools were Texas, Kansas, Duke, Texas, A&M, Oklahoma State and SMU. Arizona and Ohio State were in there hard. He really liked Thad Motta. SMU was in-and-out. Duke, Kansas and Texas were the last three.”

In the end, though, the Texas-born kid just simply wanted to go to Texas.

“I like that it’s Texas,” Turner said. “I’m from Texas. It’s the University of Texas. It’s close to home. They had a great season [last] year and everybody is coming back next year. There are a lot of great things about Texas.”

One of his first orders of business as a Longhorn: dethrone Kansas as the Big 12 champions.

"I really want to dethrone Kansas. That’s the big thing."

Really, everyone says ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’ I never really thought that way. Why not be the one that can take them down. Nothing against Kansas whatsoever. They are a great program. That was one of the schools I was really looking at. I was really interested in them. But the fact that they are one of the best out there, we want to take out the best. That’s the motivation there.

“I feel like we can win it all, the Big 12 definitely. I really want to dethrone Kansas, that’s the big thing. That’s what is burning me right now. I want to bring that title back to Texas.”




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