Column: Turnaround of men’s basketball program leads to Myles Turner commitment

Jori Epstein

When Texas hit a bump in the road in the 2012-13 season, it needed to rebuild its chemistry, its school confidence and its recruiting program. The Longhorns went from losing in the first round in the lowly regarded College Basketball Invitational in 2013 to advancing to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament in 2014, despite an offseason in which they seemed to lose more talent than they gained.

And it was that kind of turnaround and ability to do more with less that paid off in more ways than wins, as center Myles Turner, ranked the No. 2 recruit in the class of 2014 by ESPN, committed to Texas on Wednesday in a nationally televised event.

“Just watching Texas work last year, they’re a real blue-collared program,” Turner told ESPN at his televised decision. “The only reason I’m here is through hard work, and that’s what Texas has done and can do in the future. I really like their work ethic down there.”

As the highest-rated Texas recruit since No. 1 Avery Bradley in 2009, Turner immediately propels an already promising Longhorn team to among the top programs in the country.

But the setting for his announcement — his high school gym in Euless — paired with the laundry lists of “thank you’s” he went through speak volumes about
his character.

“It’s a great family atmosphere down there. To join these guys and hopefully do something special next year would mean a lot,” Turner said. “Barnes and his coaching staff have shown a lot of support and expressed to me how special things could be down there, and I believe it.”

With his accountability, hard work and appreciation for team chemistry, Turner will slide right into a recently gelling Texas defense. He’ll take pressure off sophomore center Cameron Ridley in the zone and allow junior forward Jonathan Holmes to dominate at small forward. Not even the Longhorns’ tallest player, sophomore center Prince Ibeh, surpasses Turner’s height. 

Turner, who averaged 18.1 points, 12.2 rebounds and 6.8 blocks per game his senior season, will also benefit from freshman guard Isaiah Taylor’s speed and penetration and sophomore guard Javan Felix’s ability to spread the floor with his outside shot.

But it is pride and dedication to the Barnes program that will make the difference between a skilled individual — like many of those whom left after 2013 — and a skilled team player. Turner has the Texas pride, as he told ESPN, “I’ve always been a Texan, am happy to be a Texan and there’s a lot of pride for people in the state of Texas so to stay in Texas means a lot to me.” 

Turner cited former Longhorn and current NBA All-Star Kevin Durant as a factor in his decision and a person whose footsteps Turner wants to follow.

“I just wanted to emulate him — his work ethic — on and off the court,” said Turner, who met Durant in middle school. “Just seeing what he was able to accomplish really inspired me.”

Brimming with pride as he comes to Austin next year, Turner won’t have to travel too far from home. But his journey to Texas — he says it’s always a journey — will bring the Longhorns closer to a tournament appearance in Indianapolis.