Basketball

Preseason Hoops Post No. 8: Turner and Cleare

Myles Turner. (Courtesy of Turner family)
Myles Turner. (Courtesy of Turner family)

In continuing our preseason hoops series, Tim Preston looks at 5-star freshman Myles Turner and Maryland transfer Shaquille Cleare.

Background: Myles Turner

● 6’11” 240 lb Forward
● Euless Trinity (Bedford, TX)
● Recruited by Chris Ogden (and the entire Texas staff)
● Ranked as the #2 overall prospect in the country
● Committed on April 30, 2014
● Averaged 18.1 pts, 12.2 rbs, and 6.8 blks as a senior in high school.

Strengths

It’s easy to fall prey to the idea that Texas hadn’t picked up any great recruits since winning had become less consistent in Austin over the last six years. That lower win totals and less success in March had led to fewer blue chips picking the Longhorns which, in turn, led directly back to us having less success as a program.

It’s an obvious cycle for fans who were searching for one. The problem is that it’s not really true.

While the Longhorns were, indeed, struggling to get back to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, recruiting (at least as far as player rankings were concerned) were still very strong. Avery Bradley was the #1 overall recruit for ESPNU. Jordan Hamilton was a five-star. Tristan Thompson was a five-star. Myck Kabongo was a five-star. Cameron Ridley was a five-star. Prince Ibeh was a Top 50 guy. So was Sheldon McClellan. So was J’Covan Brown. All of Javan Felix, Jonathan Holmes, Julien Lewis, Kendall Yancy and Shawn Williams were Top 100 guys.

So, then, why did the commitment and signing of Turner make such a significant, emotional difference to Texas fans in their belief that the Longhorns could be special?

Well, mostly because he’s really good.

Turner brings some rare gifts to an already loaded Longhorn front court. At 6-foot-11, and a solid 240 pounds, Myles has the unique ability to be multi-faceted in how he can help an offense attack their opponent.

• A capable long-range shooter with range out to 25 feet
• A technically sound screener on side or flat picks
• Has a high release on his mid-range jumper
• Has above average athleticism and length to finish at the rim
• Is an instinctual mover and closer on offensive rebounds
• Has terrific fundamentals as a free throw shooter (he still may struggle, but the pieces are there for him to be just fine at some point)
• Can dribble in space in straight lines and uses the power dribble well
• Should find one or two baskets a game on second chance put backs

And on defense:

• May well be the best interior defender on the squad, which is saying a lot considering the program includes two of the top 20 players in the country (block per minute wise) returning from last year’s team
• Moves well laterally in the paint with great timing
• Understands verticality at the point of attack near the rim
• Has the body to take contact and still contest
• Was the only player to give consensus #1 overall recruit Jahlil Okafor any sort of trouble last year as a defender (scouts raved about Turner’s defense on the Duke freshman)

By himself, Turner is a special talent and a player that brings a ton to any team. But when coupled with what Texas already brings on the interior, the Longhorns may well have the top front court in the country.

Weaknesses

Turner’s physicality is impressive, but he’s going to need to get bigger and stronger in his upper body to handle what the college game will throw at him, let alone what it will be like when he’s a pro.

Some of that will be mitigated by Ridley and, should he not redshirt, Ibeh, as there will be very few power forwards that Myles will face who can cause him problems, physically. Still, how will Turner hold up against a player like Niang or Ellis or Towns over the course of an entire game? Because the expectation is that he’ll be a major cog in what we do.

Offensively, he doesn’t have many weaknesses, but he’s not the most explosive athlete and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to playing against high level athletes game in and game out.

Some things he’ll need to show us before we can be sure he’ll perform consistently at a high level…

• Finishing in traffic
• Hitting shots from three point range
• Free throw shooting
• Limiting foul trouble
• Passing against heavy pressure

How to Best Utilize Turner

On offense, Turner will likely function as a 70/30 strong side player. When he’s strong side, expect him to generally be the high post/elbow screener (Ridley will screen around the mid block and low wing). This will allow him to dictate spacing with his shooting ability as well as attack his defender on slips and rolls. When he’s weak side, we’ll see a lot of flex principle down screens with Holland as a cutter and to open up Turner for threes.

On defense, he’ll have some freedom, but it will be interesting to see how far away from the basket we let him roam when he’s chasing a more combo forward type. One of him and Ridley/Ibeh will be around the help defense area of the paint at all times.

Best Case: 11.5 pts, 6.5 rbs, 2.5 blks on 50/70% shooting in 25 mpg.
Worst Case: 6 pts, 5.5 rbs, 1.5 blks on 45/55% shooting in 20 mpg.

The Endgame

Myles is a guy that plays within himself, makes solid choices when he gets the opportunity to be in scoring positions and won’t hurt an offense or defense by getting out of control.

That’s the good news. He also, though, likely won’t be taking over many games. That’s not his strength nor his personality (which is one of the reasons he chose Texas in the first place).

Texas fans should expect him to play big minutes right away, but it may well be closer to late December or January before he’s making a true impact, production wise, for the Longhorns.

Nonetheless, he’s a special talent and a guy that has legitimate NBA skills to go along with an ideal NBA body.

Breakdown: Shaquille Cleare

● 6’8” 290 lb Center
● Houston, TX (The Village School) via the Bahamas
● Transfer from Maryland
● Ranked as the #30 rated prospect in the nation
● Will have two seasons remaining after sitting out the 2014-15 school year as a transfer/redshirt
● Averaged 3.0 pts, 2.5 rbs, 0.3 asts, 0.3 stls and 0.4 blks on 57/59% shooting in 13.8 mpg as a sophomore for the Terrapins under Mark Turgeon.

Strengths

Much was expected of Cleare when he commited to the University of Maryland over offers from Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Arizona. To say he didn’t live up to the hype might be unfair (most of us would have said that Cam Ridley didn’t his freshman year either, but look how that turned out), but the reality is that he wasn’t the force inside on either offense or defense that many thought he would be in college.

Still, Shaq brings some tangibles to the team in his size and how he’s willing to play with his back to the basket, as well as some terrific intangibles as one of the hardest working players on the team already.

Here is how we expect him to help during his redshirt season

• He’s fully healthy and will be able to provide an athletic, powerful body for our players to go up against in practice
• He has tremendous work ethic and will be a player the Longhorns can know will fit in because of how hard he will practice every day (Maryland’s coaches raved about his work ethic if not exactly his production)
• He is quick around the basket and has deceptively good feet
• Understands pick and roll timing and placement, so should do a nice job when filling in for Cameron in that role
• Has a previous relationship having with Taylor having played with him in high school for a season (maybe even helping to encourage Isaiah to stick around for another year?)
• Can generate rebounds well in an area
• Generates good passing angles with his body positioning on the low block

Weaknesses

And what he’ll need to focus his work on

• Committing to get his body into the type of shape where he can play the style that Coach Barnes will demand of him as a role player
• Collecting and finishing in traffic
• Stepping through as a hedger in a defense that asks their big men to be mobile even around the perimeter on defense
• Extending his offense beyond the immediate range around the rim
• Filling the pipe as a secondary break option
• Developing his post moves where he can generate better elevation and separation into his hook over either shoulder
• Timing and verticality as a shot blocker

The Endgame

There are (and will be) some who question whether Shaquille is the best use of a scholarship for a program like Texas. And, it’s true, Coach Barnes has been very picky about bringing in players as junior transfers as he would prefer to take a player whom he can grow/groom in his program instead of rely on them for only one good season.

But Cleare is a take.

He remains an excellent teammate. His prior relationship with Taylor is important. His ability to push Ridley and Ibeh during practice will be significant for as long as they’re all here. He even has the potential to still make a dent as an 8/5/1.5 guy should the minutes and production be where they have the chance to be.

Hopefully he can find a comfort level in Austin and feel fulfilled with his contributions to the program while being a bit closer to home than he was while in College Park.