The college coaches with the seven-figure salaries still check in almost daily. They send text messages, and they call, and they write long, gushing letters, utilizing all the weapons of courtship available in the high-stakes world of basketball recruiting.
On one day in the last year, Myles Turner found 119 letters stuffed in the mailbox at his family’s home in Euless, Texas. Thousands of words, all dedicated to his future.
So Turner, a 7-foot senior center, hatched a new strategy to handle the tonnage of recruiting materials. He would enjoy his senior season at Trinity High School in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. His parents would do the listening.
“The (coaches) talk to my parents,” Turner said. “Same with every school. I don’t really talk to schools.”
It is Tuesday afternoon inside the United Center, and Turner is fending off more questions about his recruitment. He is here in Chicago to play in the annual McDonald’s All-American Game on Wednesday evening, an event reserved for the best high school players in America.
He is also in serious demand: Of the 24 blue-chip talents gathered here in Chicago — including Kansas signees Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre — Turner is the only player who is undecided on his college destination. In college basketball terms, he is the most talented free agent left on the market — this year’s Andrew Wiggins.
One year ago, it was Wiggins who left the college coaches breathless, waiting until the second week of May to announce his decision to attend Kansas. This year, it’s Turner, rated as ESPN’s No. 2 overall recruit in the senior class.
He could even follow the same path to Lawrence.
“I’m going to let it come to me when it comes,” Turner said, adding that he probably won’t announce his choice until mid- to late April.
For now, Turner has a list of schools that includes Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, SMU and Duke. He likes Texas because it’s close to home — where his parents could see him play. He likes Kansas because coach Bill Self can churn out NBA big men. He said he feels particularly close to the coaching staff at Oklahoma State. Or he might stay home and play at SMU, alongside McDonald’s All-American guard Emmanuel Mudiay.
For now, Turner is pushing back against the recent buzz that his recruitment has become a two-man race between Kansas and Texas.
“It’s definitely a lot more open than that,” Turner said. “A lot of people assume that it’s just Kansas and Texas, because it’s close to home, it’s the Big 12. But I’m definitely looking at all my options. … I don’t even know where I’m going yet.”
For a player of Turner’s stature, part of the stalling is strategic. The longer he waits, the better idea of what players will be remaining on each team’s roster. Turner said he’s watching KU freshman center Joel Embiid closely, interested to see if he’ll declare for the NBA Draft.
If Embiid leaves, Turner would be a natural 7-foot rim protector to slot into the Jayhawks’ frontcourt. But if Embiid, a projected top-three pick, does come back …
“It wouldn’t rule them out initially,” Turner said. “But I’ve had talks with coach Self; he feels that if Jo comes back — he didn’t say (I would) ‘waste my time’, but he said I should really look other places.”
In the hazy world of recruiting, Turner appreciated Self’s honestly.
“He still feels like if I come in, the more the merrier,” Turner said. “The fact he was upfront with me shows a lot about his character.”
Still, part of Turner’s decision to wait is practical. Three years ago, he was a skinny 6-foot-2 freshman about to experience a massive 4-inch growth spurt. One year ago, he was barely even in the top 100 of most national recruiting rankings. His father, David, who works in customer service at the Dallas/Fort Worth International airport, envisioned that his son could be a great player. But this was not on the radar.
“I came into the recruiting process quite late,” Turner said. “So I didn’t have an opportunity to develop a relationship with all the other coaches.”
But now he’s here, standing close to 7-feet tall, exploding on the national scene last summer. Schools such as Kansas, Kentucky and Duke started to call. And Turner’s name started to buzz among NBA scouts.
While Turner has grown to close to 7 feet, he retained most of his natural touch and ball skills. On Monday night, he took part in the McDonald’s three-point shooting contest, scoring 21 points in one round.
“I want to be able to have the post game of a (center),” Turner says, “But be able to step out some as well.”
Moments later, as Turner continued to talk, Oubre, a 6-foot-7 wing, walked passed Turner.
“KU!” he yelled.
All week long, Oubre and Alexander, KU’s two McDonald’s All-Americans, have hit Turner with some subtle selling points.
“It’d be nice to see him in KU blue,” Oubre says, “but if he doesn’t I can’t be mad at him.”
“I told him: ‘Come be a Jayhawk,” said Alexander, a 6-foot-9 power forward from Chicago. “Bill Self will get you ready.”
For now, though, Turner is still waiting. The mail still floods in. The texts still come. So everyone else will wait, too.
“No matter where I go, I’m going to get a good education,” Turner says. “I want somebody that’s going to work with me. If I had the opportunity to one-and-done or two-and-done, I want to come back and work on my degree.”