Written by: Kyle Veazey Hands behind his back, answers almost always followed with "sir," Khalea Turner has a reasoned approach to a most unreasonable title: He's rated by some as the nation's best prospect for the basketball recruiting class of 2016.
As in, the nation's top rising eighth-grader.
As in, the country's best 13-year-old basketball player.
At the mention of that, he smiled, in sort of a dismissive, embarrassed way.
"I'm the No. 1, but always working for better, stay humble," said Turner, in Memphis for the past week playing for Louisiana Select in the AAU national seventh-grade tournament. "To me, my personal opinion is (I'm) not No. 1. I'm just an average player who loves to play basketball."
Average player? Maybe.
Average 13-year-old kid? No.
Turner says he's 6 feet, 81/2 inches. A minutelong YouTube highlight video of Turner -- complete with menacing music and a shot of what looks like a giant swatting a fly in the form of a basketball sent aloft by a helpless opponent -- has been viewed more than 8,000 times.
So the people who do things like rate the top young -- really young -- prospects in the country took notice, even though he won't enroll in college for another half-decade. Turner, of New Orleans, is rated No. 1 by JrScout and Prospect-Central.
But what's life like for a gangly, quiet 13-year-old who, by no direct action of his own, has somehow found the label as the No. 1 player in the hype-filled, crazy world of basketball recruiting?
Normal, those close to him say.
"Believe it or not," his mother, April Turner, said, "he's not really aware of the situation going on with him because he's just a kid right now."
His parents say he enjoys video games, then laugh when saying he particularly enjoys eating. "He's nothing but a clown," his mother said.
Math is his favorite subject. He likes "how it keeps my brain focused."
His parents like that.
"(They) stay hard on me," he said, half rolling his eyes, half cognizant that his mom, dad and brother were watching his interview and taking pictures. (He said it was the first time he had talked with a reporter.) "They always tell me to stay humble and stay in the books. Books over everything, really."
In a position where some would get a big head, Turner, at least the 13-year-old version of him, seems to have none of that. That's good. Because nothing about the labels affixed to him now guarantee any sort of future success.
Ever heard of Demetrius Walker? In 2005, when he was but 14 years old, Sports Illustrated wrote a feature story on him under a headline and subhead that asked if he was the next LeBron James.
By the time he could sign, in 2009, he was Rivals' 115th-best prospect in the nation. He left Arizona State after a season of playing sparingly and is now at New Mexico.
Now, the Walker story, part of the book "Play Their Hearts Out" by George Dohrmann, is more of a cautionary tale than a celebratory one.
On the court, Turner's greatest asset is obvious. He doesn't exactly tower over the competition like in his YouTube video, but it's clear who the big kid is.
"That's amazing," a security guard said as he walked by at a game last week at the Nike factory gym off Raines.
"That's a big boy, isn't it?" another spectator offered.
Carl Morris, his father, said his son was 6-4 by the time he was 10. His parents say they've been told their son might top the 7-foot barrier.
If that happens, his prospect status will essentially be cemented. Turner said he hasn't done much thinking about where he'll play college basketball, but offered Ohio State as a school that had caught his eye.
Turner's skills are still developing. At one point during last week's game, he flashed a nifty shot fake, followed by a nice spin move -- and a missed point-blank bucket. Given the chance to deliver a one-handed slam, the ball caromed off the back iron.
On one trip down the floor, Turner grabbed a rebound with expected ease. But he didn't secure the ball and an opponent came in and knocked it out of bounds.
On the sideline, his coach, Gabe Corchiani, immediately caught Turner's attention. With exaggeration to prove his point, he grabbed an invisible rebound, then flailed his elbows to nail home what he wanted.
The next time Turner got a rebound, he did exactly as his coach had demonstrated.
It's another step in just the simple process of maturity, No. 1-rated eighth-grader or not. Basketballwise, Corchiani said Turner could hardly catch a ball that was thrown at him three or four years ago and has come "light years."
And he sees even more upside.
"He's got, like, another 360 to do," Corchiani said.
Turner didn't play for much of the fourth quarter of this game while Louisiana Select, which had won its first two games in blowouts, found itself in a tight game against a team from Virginia. Turner's team pulled away, but he was on the bench for much of the final minutes.
He didn't pout; Turner humbly clapped and yelled for his teammates.
If the summer of 2011 is any indication, the gem of 2016 won't be a cocky one.
"Just stay humble," he said. "Stay in the gym and put up shots."
Khalea Turner is getting some high-level help, both in staying humble and playing well. Ricardo Gathers, a 6-6 power forward who Rivals.com says is the 35th-best prospect in the class of 2012, is a senior at Riverside Academy, the school Turner attends in Marrero, La. The two play pick-up often, Turner said.
"(He's) like my mentor," Turner said. "Keeps me humble, keeps me focused, makes me want to do better."
The University of Memphis is on Gathers' list of potential suitors, along with LSU, California, Baylor and Alabama, according to Rivals.com. Original Article.