From Kentucky's Julius Randle, to Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, to Baylor's Perry Jones, Texas coach Rick Barnes has failed in his bid to land numerous elite in-state players in recent years.
On Wednesday afternoon, Barnes finally got a big fish to bite.
Myles Turner, the best available prospect in the Class of 2014, announced his college decision at a nationally televised press conference at his school, reaching into a case, pulling out a burnt orange bucket hat and declaring that he was Texas-bound. The 6-foot-11 center chose Texas over Kansas, Duke, Ohio State, SMU and Texas A&M.
Although Turner was the class of 2014's last elite recruit to reveal his college destination, this wasn't a case of him letting the process drag out for months. Most of the top programs in the nation didn't begin recruiting the Euless, Texas, native until last spring when some dominating performances at a string of AAU events helped him go from under the radar to near the top of many coaches' wish lists.
Had Turner chosen Kansas over Texas, it would have further strengthened an already formidable Jayhawks frontcourt and made Bill Self's team an even bigger favorite to win the Big 12. Instead Turner's decision to attend Texas quieted those who have criticized Barnes' recruiting in recent years and further solidified the Longhorns as the top challenger to Kansas in the Big 12, a half step ahead of fellow contenders Iowa State and Kansas State.
While Turner's upside is what's most intriguing about him, he'll also be able to make an immediate impact at Texas next season too. He is long, athletic big man with the ability to run the floor, block shots and even knock down an occasional jumper too. His ability to score with his back to the basket remains a major work in progress though.
Whether Turner chose Texas or Kansas, landing a starting job right away was no guarantee.
At Kansas, Perry Ellis is a returning starter at power forward and elite recruit Cliff Alexander appears to be the heir apparent to Joel Embiid at center. At Texas, former five-star recruit Cameron Ridley is a returning starter at center and Jonathan Holmes is back at power forward too.
One option for Barnes is Turner usurping Connor Lammert as a third big man. Another is Turner bumping either Holmes or Ridley to the bench. A third is moving Holmes to small forward and playing Turner at power forward alongside Ridley, but the lack of lateral quickness of that trio could cause defensive issues, as could putting a non-shooter on the wing.
Whatever Barnes decides, Texas is better off with Turner.
The Longhorns briefly fell from the upper echelon of the Big 12 in part because Barnes stopped landing the top in-state players that used to annually come to Austin. Following up last year's surprisingly successful season with a huge recruiting coup is a big step in the right direction.
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