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New assistant excited to bolster UK’s basketball recruiting

New assistant coach KT Turner is the son of a college basketball coach. During a news conference Wednesday, he said his late father, Ken, would let him go along on one recruiting trip each summer.

“By the time I was probably 10 years old, I knew I wanted to be a college coach,” Turner said. “That never left me. He taught me a lot about the game (and) about the profession.”

Now, Turner will put that knowledge to use for Kentucky. He recalled his father noting the difference it made when Kentucky became involved in a basketball recruitment.

“If Kentucky jumps in, I’m leaving. I’m not going to win that one” was how Turner remembered that bit of fatherly advice.

Of course, not every rival recruiter will bow out once Kentucky is involved.

“Everybody is going to be shooting at us. . . ,” he said. “I’ve heard it’s going to be bazookas shooting at us. But I’m ready.”

Turner, who has been on the job a week, spoke of recruiting for Kentucky being distinctive. . . in a good way.

“One thing I can tell you is I can use every contact on my phone now,” he said. “At other schools, (the recruiting target) might be the No. 1 or No. 2 player in the country. Uh, I’m probably not getting him.

“I feel I can use every contact on my phone now, and I have plenty of them.”

Turner spoke of being an unabashed lover of the recruiting process. As is commonly cited by others, he said he loved “the relationship piece” in coach/recruit bonding and/or coach/family member bonding.

“I’m huge into that, especially when they come (to the school),” he said. “It’s a lifetime relationship.

“I’m a huge relationship guy. And even sometimes guys I don’t get, we stay in contact when they’re not playing (any longer). And I try to help them any way I can.”

When asked what he looked for in a potential recruit, Turner cited skill level, size and toughness.

“I like tough players,” he said. “Nowadays, you’ve got to have a skill set. You’ve got to make shots.”

While the transfer portal did not exist when he played, Turner is familiar with changing teams. He played for Hutchinson Community College, then UT-Arlington and finally Oklahoma City University.

“I use it all the time,” he said of his experience leading to not being judgmental about a player seeking a change. “Sometimes when guys transfer, (others) try to make it a negative thing. Sometimes it can be a positive thing.”

Turner also spoke of not being fazed by Name, Image and Likeness becoming a factor in recruiting.

“It comes up,” he said. “It’s definitely going to come up.”

Recruiting is about building relationships, he said before adding, “but NIL is definitely . . . helping kids make decisions nowadays.”

Earlier in his 17-year coaching career, Turner worked on staffs at Texas and Oklahoma. He spoke of Texas being rich in recruitable players and cited ex-Cats like Tyrese Maxey (Garland), Julius Randle (Dallas) and De’Aaron Fox (Houston) helping make Kentucky an attractive option.

They love Kentucky. . . ,” Turner said of the popularity of the UK brand. Texas has become “a hotbed for college basketball recruiting. A ton of talent down there. to ton . . . It’s becoming not a football state anymore.”

Of course, one of Kentucky’s incoming freshmen is from Richardson, Texas: Cason Wallace.

“He’s an unbelievably hard worker,” Turner said. “He’s an unbelievable leader. . . . He’s a heck of a basketball player. He’s going to continue to get better because of the way he works.”

Turner’s role will involve on-court coaching. He cited advice from Hall of Famer Larry Brown in describing how he hopes to contribute in practices.

“Don’t ever pigeonhole yourself to being an offensive guy or a defensive guy,” Turner said Brown advised. “And I stuck to that. Whatever Coach (John Calipari) wants me to do, I can do offense. I can do defense. I’ve been around a lot of great coaches, so I have a great knowledge of the game.”

But recent history suggests that Turner places a priority on recruiting. He said that he spoke to Calipari about an opening on the UK staff two years ago.

“The timing wasn’t right,” he said.

What was wrong?

“It was a position off the road,” he said. “Not (involving) recruiting. And that was just something at the time I didn’t want to do.”

This story was originally published June 15, 2022 6:57 PM.

Jerry Tipton has covered Kentucky basketball beginning with the 1981-82 season to the present. He is a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame.
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