Oh, and the kid has got tremendous potential. After all, he’s just 19.
Despite playing only one season in college, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year impressed Pacers President Larry Bird enough to be chosen with the 11th overall pick.
The 6-11, 240-pound post player is expected to play center, head coach Frank Vogel said, but Turner has decent mid-range shooting ability and can make 3-pointers so he’s versatile.
“First and foremost, he’s a high-character guy,” Vogel said. “He’s a great worker, very intelligent, has got a good basketball IQ. That’s what we’ve sort of built this thing around over the last few years, guys who are going to be contributors to a positive culture.”
A day after a report that 11-year forward David West intends to opt out of the final year of his contract, the Pacers added a promising player to bolster the team inside. And while Vogel said playing time will be determined during preseason, the expectation is for Turner to contribute right away.
Then Vogel added that Turner’s upside “two or three years from now” is even more exciting.
“He’s got a fantastic body, an athletic body, great size, great length,” the coach said. “And he’s a two-way player, which is another thing we’ve sort of built this thing around, is guys that play both ends of the floor, the ability to be an elite shot-blocker and rim-protector right away but also having some defensive versatility to get out and guard on the perimeter some.”
Vogel said of Turner’s ability to hit shots: “For a 7-footer, he’s got a remarkable shooting touch.”
Turner’s selection makes sense in light of losing West, which the Pacers have yet to confirm. The team also needs to hear from 7-2 center Roy Hibbert, who is expected to opt-in on his $15.5-million, final-year contract option.
But Hibbert isn’t expected to be part of the Pacers’ long-term situation. His production declined last season and he’s expected to play a more diminished role next season as the team shifts toward more of a perimeter-based style.
Turner is a player the Pacers believe will blossom. He averaged 10.1 points in 34 games as a Longhorns freshman. Despite averaging just 22.2 minutes per game, he had 89 blocked shots, one shy of a conference record, and averaged at team-best 6.5 rebounds.
If there’s a knock on him aside from his age and lack of experience, he was questioned at times during college for laboring to get down court — which draws an immediate comparison to Hibbert. And he sometimes disappeared in games.
The Pacers evidently were sold those were growing pains.
The Pacers will have another selection at No. 43, 13th in the second round.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.