Myles Turner realized just 11 days ago that he wanted to play for the Indiana Pacers.
That’s when the Texas center worked out for the team at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. That’s when he saw how involved and intense Pacers head coach Frank Vogel can be about teaching the game of basketball.
“Coach Vogel was out there with us, working us out,” Turner said Thursday on a conference call after being selected by the Pacers with the 11th overall pick in the NBA Draft. “He was out there instructing us on the floor. That really showed me a lot because it wasn’t like that with all my other workouts, the fact that he was out there with us, explaining things thoroughly.
“I could tell he was really into it. I could tell he was really excited about the future with whoever he took.”
Vogel came away equally impressed by the 19-year-old youngster who, at 6-11 and 240 pounds, already has an NBA-type body.
“He expressed, when he was here, a strong desire to be with this team,” Vogel said, just after Turner’s selection. “He loves what we’ve done the last few years. He loves the city here and just believes in our culture and how we do things here. He was hoping to end up here.”
Vogel said Turner likely starts out as a backup center, presuming Roy Hibbert opts-in on his $15.6-million player option for the final year of his contract.
The immediate concerns are that Turner could be too much like Hibbert, a 7-2 center who has made the All-Star squad twice primarily because of his shot-blocking and rebounding but is sluggish when running down the floor and moody from a motivational standpoint.
Turner is well aware of the criticism about his awkward running style. He laughed when the subject was broached, how Turner, his family and agent Andy Miller had tests done which revealed weakness in muscles near the pelvis, but it’s a problem that can be addressed. Then the 27-page report was sent to all 30 NBA teams.
“The method behind the madness is showing people I’m capable of going out and playing,” he said. “Everybody was knocking how I was running, saying I had bad hips, bad this and bad that, ‘you’re not going to be able to do this.’ The only reason I did that is to show everybody I’m a healthy player, that I’m ready to go in there and play right away.”
Vogel said the team’s trainers weren’t concerned with Turner’s perceived physical hindrances. He called Turner’s body “fantastic” and spoke at length about how much he can develop in the next few years.
Turner was also named one of the nine “most disappointing players” in college basketball last season by David Gardner of Sports Illustrated. He’s also been questioned about his footwork and being foul prone.
But the Bedford, Texas, native doesn’t seem too concerned about the knocks on him.
“Quite frankly, I’m happy where I’m at,” Turner said. “I’m an NBA player now. Nobody can take that away from me. All this hard work got me to where I am today.”
One of Vogel’s first observations about Turner was character. The coach and President Larry Bird were obviously sold on that.
“He’s a really good young man,” Vogel said, “so I really don’t anticipate a lot of off-the-court issues with him. I think he’s going to make the adjustment really well to the NBA. On the court, it’s just going to be about adjusting to the speed and athleticism of the NBA, like all rookies have to go through. But he’s got the size and physicality and athleticism to make that adjustment fairly quickly.”
Turner will be introduced in a Friday press conference. So he’s coming back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, his new home.
“I felt very comfortable going to Indiana and being within that system that is looking to change and hopefully we will be able to make the playoffs next year,” Turner said. “I’m very happy where I ended up.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.