Player Development Coach Cody Toppert breaks down Myles Turner’s game

Myles Turner has impressed since Day 1. Shortly after being selected 11th overall by the Pacers in the 2015 NBA Draft, he jumped on a conference call from Brooklyn with Indianapolis reporters and halfway in, he apologized for saying “um” too much.

Once he finished shooting free throws after his first official practice with the organization, he went right over to the corner where the local media was waiting to talk with him. All on his own, without being asked or pulled in that direction by the PR staff.

Just 19, Turner is a mature young man just trying to prove he can play in the world’s best basketball league.

Turner initially played purely for fun, and didn’t start taking basketball too seriously until his sophomore season. That’s when he first understood that maybe he had something with basketball.

The next year, still very raw, he began working out with trainer Cody Toppert, a former Cornell player (2001-05) who had recently concluded his pro career overseas and began working with young players.

Today, Toppert is the Director of Basketball Development at ELEV|8 Sports Institute in Delray Beach, Florida and he’s worked with an impressive list of players, including six first-round picks from this year’s draft: D’Angelo Russell (#2), Myles Turner (#11), Devin Booker (#13), Cameron Payne (#14), Terry Rozier (#16), and Justin Anderson (#21).

Toppert has assisted various station skills at the NBA Draft Combine the last three years.

Toppert has assisted at various skills stations at the NBA Draft Combine the last three years.

To gain a further understanding of Turner’s game, I spoke with Toppert about what he initially saw in Turner, how his game has developed, and what he envisions Turner becoming.

“He has been raised the right way,” said Toppert, who has worked the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago the last three years. “His dad is a no-nonsense guy. He’s a ‘Please,’ ‘Thank you,’ ‘No sir,’ ‘Yes sir’ [kind of guy].

“The great thing about him … he makes everyone feel welcome. He’s not one of those guys that’s standoffish and that’s something that I really respect about him.”

Though Toppert worked with Turner during his junior year and going into his senior year, he has remained in constant communication with the almost-7-footer. When they first paired, Turner wasn’t even a top-100 player.

“Just saw a great kid,” he explained. “I saw a tremendous amount of potential in him the minute he came to camp. He had a nice touch on his jump shot and he had great wrist action. He had a desire to get better that I really respected.”

While together, much of what they focused on was improving his basketball IQ, shooting hooks over both shoulders, and face-up work from the elbows.

“I think for him to compete right away, he’s going to have to get used to the physicality down low defensively,” Toppert said. “I think he’s going to have to knock down short-corner jump shots and elbow shots when he’s open and be able to do that instantaneously. I think that he’s got a good chance to do that.

“Right now he’s not a player you’re going to throw the ball to on the low-post and say, ‘Go get us a basket.’ But, he’s got a versatility that tells me once his body develops and he continues to get stronger that he could be a guy you throw the ball to on the ball and say, ‘Go get us a basket.'”

With Roy Hibbert headed to the Lakers and the Pacers repeating their desire to play at a faster pace, Turner will have a real opportunity to contribute. The Pacers are willing to be patient with him, agreeing that it could take a few years for his game and his body to mature enough for him to truly battle. But that doesn’t mean they plan to hold him back by any means.

“The best case scenario is he comes in and kills it, impresses everyone, becomes a big-minute guy for us and a major contributor,” said coach Frank Vogel. “That’s the hope. Obviously with someone that young, it might be a reach. The kid looks pretty good. He’s got a chance to definitely contribute for us next year and obviously the sky is the limit for what he can be.”

In his first Summer League game, Turner finished with 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 28 minutes.

In his first Summer League game, Turner finished with 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 28 minutes.

During Turner’s senior year at Trinity High School in Euless, Texas, he blew up. ranked him as a five-star recruit and the ninth-best prospect in the country. He was invited to all the camps, the Skills Academy, and was a McDonald’s All-American. He decided to remain in state and play for Rick Barnes at the University of Texas. (Indiana even offered him a scholarship, according to Rivals.)

“His versatility for a kid his size was outstanding,” Toppert said. “He was still a little bit awkward, you could say. His feet had clearly grown a little bit quicker than the rest of his body but to have the coordination that he had, even during that awkward stage, I knew he had a great chance to be an outstanding player.”

[Pacers eager to see Myles Turner play at Summer League]

A lot has been made of the way he runs. Seriously. But after watching him play a few games down in the Orlando Summer League, I’ve concluded that the story was overblown. (His agent, at the request of the family, even had a 27-page report written up about his body.

From “The returns of Turner’s lower extremity physical, running mechanics physical, and foot and ankle evaluation revealed the root of Turner’s mechanical issues as weakness in both his left and right gluteus medius. The resulting 27-page report, which includes analysis from three phyisicians, stills of Turner performing various stability and running on a treadmill, and numerous x-rays was distributed to all 30 NBA teams, but more significantly, paints a picture of an imbalance that can be corrected over time.”

Toppert’s believes it’ll just take some time for him to grow into his 6’11.5″, 239-pound frame.

“He runs well in the open court once he gets going,” he said. “His first few steps are a little bit slow. Sometimes it’s like he’s running in mud for a couple of steps. Once he gets his momentum going he can really haul. When you look at him and the way he’s built, I think what it screams is immaturity. And what I mean by that is he has not quite physically filled out. Once he gets past an awkward stage that he’s in I think from his late growth spurt, he will be an outstanding player.”

Early on, Toppert thought Lamar Odom would be a reasonable comparison as to what Turner could become. In time, he now leans more towards All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, who this week agreed to sign with the San Antonio Spurs for maximum money.

“He’s got a skill set and he can shoot the basketball,” Toppert shared. “The way they both move, they’re very up-right players. LaMarcus has figured out a way to create space to get his jump shot off with some simple post moves and it turned him into an All-Star. That’s what I really think could happen with Myles.”

Turner almost certainly has a strength plan laid out for him by Pacers strength and conditioning coach Shawn Windle, and his willingness to work and compete — and to continue to have fun with this game — can take him a long ways.

“I really like the pick to be honest with you,” Toppert added. “Once that body matches the skill set, that’s when you’re going to see a big return on the investment — and I think that’s what Indiana is seeing here.”


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