For a college basketball coach, recruiting is a non-stop job duty, the lifeblood of each team. As we continue to develop our college basketball coverage here at Maize and Go Blue, we are going to look to include recruiting as often as possible. When we analyze recruiting, we hope to not only give you an idea of the future of Michigan basketball, but also provide scouting reports on up-and-coming high school talent of today as we constantly wrestle with the questions of who is worth the hype and who is worthy of a coveted offer.
Our first scouting report, then, comes on 2014 guard/forward A.J. Turner out of De La Salle High in Warren Mich. I caught him in the championship game of last week’s holiday tournament in Grand Rapids going up against Grand Rapids Catholic Central. Turner reportedly struggled a little bit the previous night with John Beilein in the house, only managing about seven points in an easy 60-51 win over Lowell, but he came back with a strong performance on Friday to claim tournament MVP honors after leading his team to a 49-36 victory in the finals. Here is a look at Turner’s strengths and weaknesses in the game I attended:
Strengths: The first thing that jumps out about Turner is his body type. While listed around 6’7″ in some places, he looks closer to 6’5″ with a couple inches of hair on top, but his long arms and lanky frame ooze potential. Turner is probably the tallest and most athletic guy on the Pilots roster, but he brings the ball up the court every time like a point guard even though he projects to be a wing at the next level. He easily won the jump ball to start the game off and helped lead his team to a quick 14-3 first quarter advantage despite a poor shooting start that saw him make only one of his seven first half attempts (1-of-3 3-pt.). Turner’s shooting stroke from deep is very smooth, and his release point and rotation are fine. He also showcased some nice court vision with a few longer passes and recorded three assists in the first half to go along with one rebound and a monster rejection.
With a comfortable 25-15 halftime lead filled with very slow play, De La Salle was well on its way to winning the game, but Turner finally flashed some of his scoring potential in the third quarter to help stretch the lead. In those eight minutes, Turner made five of six field goals for 10 points and grabbed two rebounds while turning the ball over once. His makes came in a variety of ways, including a very nice mid-range turn-around fade away that hit nothing but nylon and a couple nice give-and-go finishes at the basket. Turner also showed off his sneaky athleticism with a monster breakaway dunk. The ease with which he rose up and threw down the one-handed slam was quite impressive, and even though he didn’t particularly stand out for his hops, he certainly has some spring when needed.
In the fourth quarter Turner was a little more aggressive on offense, drawing five free throws, and he made his one and only attempt from the floor (another dunk) to finish the game with 15 points (7-of-14 FG, 1-of-3 3-pt.), four rebounds, three assists, four turnovers, and two blocks.
Weaknesses: There were a couple things that I wanted to see a little more of out of the skinny junior prospect. First off, it was clear that Turner was the best athlete on the floor, but he was rarely aggressive with the ball in his hands despite this advantage. I thought he showed a little bit of a lack of urgency when bringing the ball up court and rarely blew by his man early on to create quick, easy buckets for himself or for teammates. Overall his ball-handling was fine, but he certainly could work on it a bit. He dribbles a little high at times and seemed to struggle to get past pressure one-on-one defense while bringing it up, partially due to an apparent lack of proficiency with his left hand. I was happy to see him look for his shot in the third quarter after settling for a few threes in the first half, but I still think he’s a guy that should be shooting 20 times a game right now. The four turnovers he coughed up need to go down a bit as well and, like most high school players, he could add some good weight to his frame.
Lastly, Turner needs to work on his free throw shooting. He went 0-of-5 from the line on Friday night, and even though his stroke looked fine and a couple just rimmed out, he seemed to let his misses get to his head. I know he can be a good free throw shooter based off other video, but he needs to consistently knock down the freebies, especially if he is to become a more aggressive driver.
Outlook: Right now John Beilein has two offers on the table for the class of 2014, one to Mississippi guard Devin Booker and another to Indiana wing Trevon Blueitt. I expect Michigan to continue to evaluate Turner’s game as a potential secondary option for the class, and if things don’t work out for either Booker or Blueitt, Turner could be a prime candidate for an offer if he continues to improve. If he does get that offer, things look good for Michigan.