The first time Mark Villines laid eyes on Myles Turner, he didn’t envision him developing into a big-time basketball player with NBA potential.
“When I first met Myles he was in the third grade and he came to our basketball camp,” said Villines, the basketball coach at Euless Trinity High School. “He obviously didn’t stand out and we didn’t think, ‘Oh, this kid is going to be an NBA lottery pick.’
“And then I reacquainted with him as an eighth-grader. He was about 6-foot-3, 150 [pounds] — just a skinny, tall, lanky, goofy-looking eighth-grader, to be honest.”
From there, Turner grew to 6-5 as a freshman, 6-8 as a 10th-grader, 6-9 in the 11 grade, and grew another inch as a senior. Turner’s game also kept soaring to the point that he’s projected to be a lottery pick Thursday at the NBA Draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
For Turner, the excitement of being in the NBA and playing against the likes of Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis and LaMarcus Aldridge has been building for quite some time.
“That’s what I’ve been working my entire life for,” the 19-year old Turner said. “Since I started playing basketball I wanted to go to the NBA, and the dream has started to become a reality.”
A 6-11, 238-pound center, Turner is projected to be drafted in the lottery lane — one of the top 14 picks. Because the draft is an inexact science, no one knows for sure where Turner will ultimately land.
“Hopefully in the top 10, but we’ll see what happens,” said Turner, who spent one season at the University of Texas before turning pro. “I’ve been working out for teams the last two weeks now, and hopefully they like what they saw.
“Everybody’s trading for picks, everybody’s doing different deals, so you never really know what to expect.”
Turner will be the first player from Trinity — a football powerhouse — to make it to the NBA. He gave Villines’ program a much-needed shot in the arm during his three-year tenure on Trinity’s varsity squad.
“I can already tell from a basketball sense that’s it’s helped our program, because we’re getting more kids,” Villines said. “Not necessarily move-ins, but we’re just getting kids that are interested in playing basketball at Trinity.
“It’s perennially known as such a great football powerhouse, so it’s kind of nice for me as a coach.”
And nice for Turner, also.
“I’ve got to give a shout-out to Bedford,” Turner said of Euless’ mid-cities neighbor. “I’m trying to put them on the map.
“Everybody looks up to me, so it makes you feel special.”
Ryan Blake, the senior director of NBA scouting operations, said Turner has the tools to be a special addition to any team.
“Turner’s got an upside, no doubt about it,” Blake said. “He’s a rim protector, he’s got athleticism, speed, footwork and soft hands.
“He’s kind of made to be that pick-and-pop stretch [forward] with a good IQ. I think he needs to be more of an aggressive rebounder and defender, but he’s still young, so time will tell.”
Jay Bilas, an NBA Draft expert and ESPN college basketball analyst, isn’t prepared to describe Turner as a franchise player.
“I’m a big fan of his skill level and his length — I think he’s a good athlete,” Bilas said. “There are questions about how he changes ends and moves laterally and runs, and I’ve got those concerns.
“One of the concerns I have with Turner is his best performances were against the worst teams that Texas played, and I’ve done all the numbers on it. His numbers drop precipitously when you put him against teams that were over .500 in BCS conferences and in non-BCS conference teams.”
Nevertheless, others have likened Turner to Aldridge, Anthony Davis, and Chris Bosh.
“Now, I haven’t heard anybody compare Myles Turner to Anthony Davis, but that doesn’t mean I’ve had my ear to the ground on every comparison,” Bilas said. “LaMarcus Aldridge may be fair.
“I don’t think he runs as well as LaMarcus Aldridge, but he can block shots. He’s not as smooth of an offensive player, but Myles is skilled. He’s got a chance to be good.”
Turner put the comparison game to rest by saying: “I don’t really compare myself to anybody in the league. I have my own game.”
In his lone season at Texas, Turner averaged 10.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 22.2 minutes per game. After the season, when he kept hearing his name pop up as a potential lottery pick, from a business standpoint he knew he had no choice but to head to the NBA.
“The decision wasn’t really that hard because I knew I would be picked pretty high,” Turner said. “So I knew this was my opportunity to go.”
Over the past two-plus weeks, Turner worked out for Utah, Indiana, Denver, Phoenix, Charlotte and Miami, and finished a workout in New York on Tuesday with the Knicks. Those seven clubs are drafting anywhere from as high as fourth for the Knicks to No. 13 for Phoenix.
For now, Turner waits for the time Thursday night when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will call his name. By that time, the rest of the world will know that the former “lanky, goofy-looking eighth-grader” will have realized his dream.
“I was fortunate enough to get to go with Myles to the McDonald’s [All-America] game and go with him to the Jordan [All-America] game and go with him to Team USA stuff,” Villines said. “And when you see him play around these other top high-profile kids and you see that he can hold his own and he’s really good compared to them, then you start thinking, ‘Dang, this kid is going to be in the NBA some day for sure.’”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760
6 p.m. Thursday, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y. TV: ESPN
Since 2000, the Big 12 Conference has had 27 lottery picks. It’s the second-most behind the ACC’s 29.