For Aaron Turner, it all began at age 4. Turner’s grandfather, Arthur Brud, brought Turner along to the Cleveland Cavaliers team luncheons. These were regularly held events at which fans could pick the brains of their favorite Cavaliers. At one of these, Turner took full advantage of the opportunity, stood up in front of hundreds of people, grabbed the microphone and asked Cavaliers point guard Mark Price what key fundamentals he focused on when working to improve the mechanics of his outside shot.
On that day, Turner’s question turned the heads of nearly everybody in the room.
Turner is still asking questions of NBA players and executives. But they’re different.
“I always wanted to play basketball,” said Turner, a member of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood and Cleveland. “As I grew older, I shifted more into coaching. I’m really into the developmental side of basketball, not just the business side. It’s really hard to get an NBA coaching job if you aren’t a former player or member of an organization. So I saw an opportunity on the business agency side of things, and thought this might be an opportunity to make my breakthrough.”
Turner, of Orange, said he spent nearly every night of his teenage years playing basketball at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood. He has created a career as a sports agent, developing long-lasting relationships with NBA players to help them make crucial decisions.
He said he wouldn’t be where he is today without the support of his wife, Debra; his parents, Lauren Rock and Peter Turner; and his business partners.
“I started years ago as a trainer, which led me to being introduced to a lot of people,” Turner said in a telephone interview. “You want to show the players your philosophy and hope they gravitate toward that. I don’t have 50 clients, and I can spend more time with my clients and do things that most agents wouldn’t do.”
Turner’s professional career as a sports agent is just beginning. After signing JaKarr Sampson of the Philadelphia 76ers to his management team just more than a year ago, the 29-year-old has already inked additional young talent to the agency he represents, the Verus Management Team.
“Aaron is going to give you 100 percent all of the time,” Sampson said by telephone last month. “He’s not just about business. He actually cares about his clients, and that’s what makes him a great agent. Most agents are all about business and money, but that’s not Aaron. He treats his clients like family.”
“I’ve actually known JaKarr for a long time,” said Turner, who graduated from Orange High School in 2004. “I watched him play growing up, and I even coached against him when I was coaching at Garfield Heights (High School) the year after I graduated college. He killed us that game, and since then I’ve always had my eye on him. Once I told him I was a certified agent, he was, like: ‘I trust you, I’ve known you for a while and I know you’re going to help me get better.’ That’s something I sell to my guys, you don’t just get an agent if you sign with me, you’re getting someone who will help you develop as a basketball player as well.”
Turner’s high basketball IQ gives him the ability to spot up-and-coming talent. That’s something not every agent in the business has, and part of the reason he’s off to such a successful start as an agent.
Case in point: Terry Rozier.
In June, the highly regarded prospect, whom Turner represents, was selected in the first round of the NBA draft. The Boston Celtics took Terry Rozier with the 16th overall pick of the draft. Rozier grew up in Youngstown and played his high school ball at Shaker Heights and at the University of Louisville.
Turner met Rozier a few years back at Lifetime Fitness during Rozier’s junior year in high school. At the time, Rozier needed to improve some things in his game if he wanted to make it to the next level. Turner offered the young guard some valuable insight while shooting around in the gym. Not too long after that discussion, Rozier scored 41 points in a game and the two have been close since.
“I just opened up and told him that I wasn’t shooting the ball that well,” said Rozier in a telephone interview last month. “We just started talking about shooting techniques and how I can shoot the ball better.”
Rozier credits Turner for putting in the extra work and helping him improve certain aspects of his game.
“I would say I’m one of the luckiest basketball players in the NBA because of the agent I have,” said Rozier. “Aaron cares so much, and he’s so active you wouldn’t even think he’s an agent. He’s just very smart and he loves the game. He’ll sit and watch film with you, while breaking things down to help make you a better player.”
“Terry needed to show teams he’s evolved as a point guard, and has improved his jumper,” said Turner. “So I then hit the phones hard and set him up with a workout schedule with teams who I thought were the best fit for him. I frequently talked to his college coach, Rick Pitino frequently. I asked him to call around the league and lobby for Terry on his behalf.”
The additional work put in by both during the process leading up to the draft may have led to Rozier being selected in the first round. Rozier was a projected second-round pick coming into the draft, but the improvements he displayed during the process, and the pitch Turner made to the interested teams, resulted in Boston selecting Rozier in the first round.
“The right fit is more important than money,” said Turner. “You want your client to go to an organization with a vision in place. I’m really about my players and them having success.”
It’s rare for an agent to invest that much time and effort into one client, but that’s what separates Turner from the majority of other agents, and that’s how he’ll continue to make a name for himself.
“I respect Aaron because he’s never bit his tongue,” Rozier said. “He will always tell me things I need to work on to become a better player. He does more than what he’s supposed to do, and it just fits the type of person that he is. He never wants to stop working because he’s great at what he does.”
After surviving the hectic draft process, Turner remains focused on what he can do to assist his clients in reaching their maximum potential. Turner says his work ethic came from growing up in a household in which both parents worked relentlessly.
Turner said his clients “need to be doing things that will help them have long-term success. For me, I’m just building off of what I’ve already done, and trying to sign some new guys while keeping the clients I already have content.
“I’m really about my players and them having success,” Turner said. “I just think for me, if I continue to work my butt off and have successes each year, my brand will grow naturally. I don’t want to be the guy in the flashy suit looking to attract all of the attention. I’ll grow naturally from having more success.”
Taylor Rosen was the Violet Spevack Editorial Intern this summer.