Former Texas Longhorns center Myles Turner, now a standout in the NBA for the Indiana Pacers, admitted on Tuesday that he wanted to stay in Austin for a second season of college basketball instead of declaring for the 2015 NBA Draft.
Turner’s decision drew condemnation from many fans disappointed in his performance as a freshman — the 6’11, 243-pounder averaged 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds in only 22.2 minutes per game with the Longhorns despite arriving as the nation’s consensus No. 6 player following his outstanding career at Euless Trinity.
One day after Rick Barnes was fired as the Texas head coach, Turner gave up his remaining eligibility despite his desire to remain with the ‘Horns for his sophomore season.
“I wanted to stay. Austin, TX is like my favorite city in the US,” Turner said. ”I’ve obviously traveled everywhere just playing basketball and I love Austin. I didn’t want to leave the city, I didn’t want to leave my teammates — we were building something great. I didn’t even want to leave the classes, they were so interesting and intriguing, the incredible professors.”
Ultimately, his parents convinced him to leave his favorite city.
The following season, head coach Shaka Smart’s first in Austin, the ‘Horns went 20-13 and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Northern Iowa on a half court buzzer-beater.
But as much as Texas fans wonder what difference Turner might have made as a sophomore playing under Smart, it’s clear that his parents pushed him in the right direction.
Turner was drafted by the Pacers with the 11th pick in 2015 and went on essentially match his college production at the NBA level, averaging 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in 22.8 minutes as a rookie.
In the 2016-17 season, Turner made a significant leap, increasing his scoring average to 14.5 points per game and becoming a more efficient player — he shot 51.1 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from three-point range after hitting on only 21.4 percent from distance as a rookie.
Even before the departure of star Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Turner was starting to take on a leadership role with the Pacers.
"He's already trying to assume that role, and we like that in him," assistant coach Popeye Jones told NBA.com in late June.
"He's looking forward to it. He's been around every day with these guys."
Since one-time Longhorns commit CJ Miles was recently traded to the Toronto Raptors for former Texas guard Cory Joseph, Turner is now the longest-tenured member of the Pacers despite spending only two seasons in the NBA.
At merely 21 years old, Turner is ready to elevate his game once more in the NBA.