COLUMBIA, Mo. — With two open scholarships for next season, Missouri is shopping college basketball’s graduate transfer market. There’s mutual interest in one of the best options available. After taking calls from more than 30 schools in the first hour after entering the transfer portal, Justin Turner, an all-conference guard from Bowling Green, has narrowed his choice to six schools, including Mizzou. He’s also considering Arkansas, Iowa State, Louisville, Marquette and Xavier.
The coronavirus has put all recruiting visits on hold for at least another two weeks, but Turner doesn’t need to take visits to make his decision. He discussed that and more in a phone interview Monday.
First, a little more about Turner:
• He’s a 6-foot-4, 205-pound guard who mostly plays off the ball offensively. He’s from Renaissance High in Detroit, same high school alma mater as former Mizzou guard Rickey Paulding. Mizzou assistant coach Cornell Mann is from Michigan and has been recruiting the Detroit area for years. Turner is 22 and will be a fifth-year senior in 2020-21 after redshirting his first year at Bowling Green.
• He was named to the Mid-American Conference All-Freshman team the next season and has increased his scoring average each of the last three years from 15.9 to 18.2 to 19.4 point per game. He’s earned first-team All-MAC honors each of the last two seasons. He scored 1,513 points at Bowling Green. Only 13 players in Mizzou history have scored that many points in their college careers.
• Turner is a career 37.4 percent 3-point shooter. Good, not elite, but that would have led Mizzou this past season. He’s a high volume shooter, attempting nearly 15 shots a game each of the last two years. He scored in double figures in all but four games this season and went for 20 or more 14 times.
• He’s very good at drawing fouls and rarely gets called for fouls. The last three years he’s ranked No. 3, 8 and 2 in the MAC in falls called per 40 minutes. This year he led the MAC in fouls drawn per 40 minutes at 5.6 — and then shot a career-best 84.6 percent from the foul line.
• Let’s dig in a little deeper. The great site HoopMath.com tells us 31.1 percent of Turner’s shots this season came at the rim, while 39.7 percent of his shots were two-point jumpers. Less than 2 percent of those 2-point shots came with an assist, which means he’s predominantly creating those shots on his own and not in catch-and-shoot situations. How do those numbers compare to Missouri players? Turner’s shot distribution was most similar to Dru Smith’s with more unassisted midrange 2-pointers than attempts at the rim.
Here’s Turner in his own words …
Q: Where do you stand with your decision as of today?
A: It’s still the same six schools and I’m not trying to rush anything. I’m just doing my homework on every school and their track records and just collecting as much information as possible before I’m ready to make a decision.
Q: How has the coronavirus impacted this process for you without being able to visit any schools or have coaches visit you?
A: Man, it honestly makes it tough. When you go on visits and meet people face to face it sets off a vibe and just an energy. That plays a bigger role. I’ve met players who committed on visits just because they loved the environment and things like that. So this makes it tougher. That’s why I’m doing a lot of Zoom calls and FaceTime calls, just trying to make the best of an unfortunate situation.
Q: Would you prefer to visit a school before you commit there and be willing to wait out this dead period?
A: I feel like I’m in the middle there and right in between. I wouldn’t mind taking a visit, but if things are going to keep getting extended (the NCAA dead period for recruiting) then I’m not going to keep waiting if I’m ready to make a decision. If things clear up and I can take a visit while I’m in the middle of deciding, then I definitely will. But from the looks of it, it seems like things are going to keep being extended until June. The Pac-12 came out today and extended. (On Monday, the Pac-12 pushed its suspension of team activities through May 31.)
Q: What are you looking for in the team you’ll eventually choose?
A: I’m looking to go somewhere where I can be comfortable and fit in with the team and the style of play. I feel like the big thing being a grad transfer is you have to go somewhere you can see yourself playing and be realistic about it as possible. I want to go somewhere I have trust in the coach and he has trust in me.
Q: What are you early impressions of Missouri?
A: Just that they’re great people, great coaches. Coach (Cuonzo) Martin and Coach Corn, I actually talked to them today. They’re pretty straight forward in what they need and what they expect. I feel like they’d really have trust in me to do what I do to the best of my ability. That’s what stands out the most. They’re great people.
Q: What is their sales pitch to you?
A: They want me to come in and play hard and have a similar role to what I had at Bowling Green. Not only do they want me to bring my offensive talents but they want me to lead the team, too. Because I will be one of the oldest guys on the team so I’d bring some leadership as well.
Q: This staff had great success with a grad transfer a few years ago in Kassius Robertson. Have they mentioned him at all?
A: Yes, they did. He came from Canisius, right? That shows me (Martin) has a track record of having a grad transfer and how he operates within their program. That definitely was a positive as well.
Q: Where do you fit in on the floor?
A: I feel like I’m a true combo guard. I’m naturally a two (shooting guard), but at the same time I can run a team. I’ve been playing the one (point guard) multiple times in my life. It’s not really anything new to me. Obviously it’s something I can get better at, but I feel like I can control the game just as much as I can score.
Q: How many teams contacted you when you entered the transfer portal and what was that experience like?
A: In that first hour it was at least 30 plus. Then over the next few days it got to around 40 or 50. All the people around me said they expected it to happen. I didn’t really expect it to happen. It was overwhelming, but we did a good job of weathering the storm. Sometimes it can be so much. It’s hard to play out every scenario at every different place. You try to be as realistic as possible and then weigh them out from there.