A big reason the Indiana Pacers felt comfortable dealing Roy Hibbert this past summer was because they had rookie big man Myles Turner waiting in the wings. There’s a lot to love about the young man’s talent (and size), but only a year-and-a-half removed from graduating high school, even he knows he has a ways to go before he completely lives up to his potential.
“I’m not worrying about starting yet,” Turner said. “This season I just want to go out there and build a solid foundation, find a role with this team.”
It’s a reasonable goal for a player who only 18 months ago was gearing up for the McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago.
“That was my first real taste of being in an NBA arena, seeing people taking pictures on the sideline, fans yelling at you, talking trash from the crowd,” Turner recalled. “That was my first real feel of that. It was crazy.”
At that time he hadn’t even selected a college yet, and while Turner did struggle at times during his short stint at the University of Texas, he proved enough in his freshman season to become the 11th overall pick in the draft. He knew though, even prior to joining the Longhorns, that he probably wouldn’t be long for college life.
“At the time that was my goal, to go one-and-done, but once I got to Texas I just wanted to play my best there and see where it took me,” Turner said. “Honestly, I had no idea at the time how it would work out.”
Now, Turner finds himself playing his home basketball games outside of Texas for the first time in his life. For such a long time that was a huge part of his identity, to the point that he pictured himself in a Dallas Mavericks uniform when he was a kid.
“I used to always act like I was Dirk [Nowitzki],” Turner admitted. “Growing up in Dallas, I was a Dallas fan. With them winning the championship and everything, I’d be in the driveway with my dad, wearing a Dirk jersey and shooting threes, pretending like I was him.”
His father wanted him to be Shaquille O’Neal, but Turner actually tried to model his game after Kevin Durant. As a seven-footer who can knock down the occasional three-pointer, he’s definitely more Durant than Shaq, but despite his offensive range he’s still a true NBA center and should be versatile enough on both ends to make a difference for a Pacers team that has made a living finding gems at the back end of the lottery.
At this point, Turner just wants to find his way in the toughest basketball league in the world.
“This is the life I’ve been wanting to live for a long time, and it’s finally here,” Turner said. “I’ve been waiting on this moment forever. Now I just can’t wait to get out there and show them that I belong.”
It may take time, but the Pacers seem to believe he’ll get there relatively quickly, blocking shots and causing offensive mismatches for a team that has more than enough minutes in the frontcourt for the rookie.
“They tell me to just play my game,” he said. “It’s still a 10-foot rim, still 15 feet from the basket, so I’ve just got to go out there and play.”
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