Coach Rick Barnes already has a great four-man haul signed and ready for delivery this summer, but talk around the Web is the Longhorns aren't done recruiting for 2011. With the strong possibility that Jordan Hamilton declares for the draft after this season, the much smaller possibility that Tristan Thompson follows him, and the graduation of Gary Johnson and Matt Hill after this year, Texas will be very thin in the frontcourt with only Sr. Lexi Wangmene, Sr. Clint Chapman, and incoming freshman Jonathan Holmes currently slated to show up on next season's roster listed as anything other than "G."
Needless to say, the prospect of relying on a guy who can't catch the ball on offense, a guy who was forced to redshirt after his Jr. year of college, and a true freshman is not appealing. If Thompson returns, as is expected here, UT's frontcourt instantly leaps from one of the worst in possibly all of the "Power 6" conferences (and beyond) to a strength. Tristan's return means that much and he would fully be expected to be one of the best players in the country next year and one of the favorites for Big 12 player of the year.
But I digress. The point is, UT will likely need to replace leading scorer and All-American candidate Jordan Hamilton at SF and, in the best-case scenario, would like to add some more talent and depth around Thompson. Tristan, Clint, and Lex will most likely all be gone after the 2011 season, so it's also pivotal to get some guys in the program now who can be seasoned enough to make an impact in 2012, when Texas only has Holmes and 2012 top 5 recruit Cameron Ridley, a center, in the fold down low.
A look at some potential future frontcourt players after the jump.
Name: Kevin Thomas
High School: Christian Faith Center Academy
Hometown: Brampton, Ontario (Canada) [I love that place]
Weight: 205 lbs.
Position: SF/Combo forward
Player Comparison: DeAndre Daniels
Thomas is a pretty impressive offensive recruit on film. He possesses a silky sweet lefty jumper that he can dial up from beyond three-point range with relative ease and is a good shot maker from all over the court. Good quickness on his shot release with a high release point. Kevin also displays very solid, high-level handle, especially for a 6'8" guy at his age, which should allow him to be an extremely effective point forward as a facilitator of the offense. A plus jumpshot and a plus handle combine to give him a great all around offensive game.
In the post, Thomas has absolutely incredible footwork and really understands how to make optimal use of his pivot to manipulate his way into layups from a seemingly well-guarded situation. Can finish with either hand with ease, reminiscent of Doge Balbay, making me question whether he is ambidextrous or just has really incredible finishing skills for his age. With added emphasis on his interior game, his touch and footwork around the rim should allow him to develop a bevy of post moves such as a turnaround jumper and a nice up and under move.
Kevin is an freak athlete that can jump out of the gym and is a highlight waiting to happen in fast break situations on alley-oops or breakaways. His athleticism makes him an elite shot blocker in off-ball situations defensively.
One of Thomas' greatest strengths is his versatility in being able to play 2-4 at the college level both offensively and defensively, as his quickness and athleticism will allow him to hold guards and his strong physique will allow him to guard most forwards. Will be rare for a collegiate team to have one player that can adequately contain him both on the perimeter and in the post, so expect Barnes to use him very similarly to the way he uses Jordan Hamilton (assuming Thomas commits to UT).
Thomas needs to progress as an on-ball defender and stay consistently focused on shutting down his man. He also needs to continue to put on weight, as he is still relatively skinny despite being chiseled. Obviously Todd Wright would be a huge boon for the kid. Also would like to see him make a bigger impact in the rebounding game, something Barnes has stressed (successfully) to Jordan Hamilton this year.
Offensively, like many talented, young forwards, Thomas has been known to drift to the perimeter instead of using his height to pick up easy buckets in the post. Getting a few quick buckets inside can do wonders for your jump shot, which is why coaches and analysts always advise working inside to outside with your offensive progression throughout a game. Start off inside with an easy layup or two, then when your confidence is sky high you can start raining threes on your opponent. Once they start to overcompensate for your shot, give them the 'ol Bob Knight pump fake and throw one down for SportsCenter.
Texas is said to be a firm leader and you have to like their chances as Kevin played on the same AAU team (Grassroots Canada) that Kabongo, Tristan, and Cory played on, though I'm not sure if they all ever played on it at the same time or how well they know each other. Thomas is coming in town Sunday to visit Austin and will attend the Big Monday game against K-State Monday. A commitment to the Horns wouldn't surprise me at all and I'll be looking forward to his assessment of the visit just as I will with the JD2 players coming in Sunday. Assuming Texas isn't able to land DeAndre Daniels, Thomas would go a long way in being able to replace some of the scoring and versatility that Texas will likely lose with Jordan Hamilton going to the draft. Thomas' lack of a lofty ranking on recruiting sites surprises me, as he clearly shows current ability, future promise, ridiculous athleticism, and ideal height for his position. Usually this combination leads to at least a national top 100 ranking, so I wonder if his being from Canada affects his status. Not that it did for Myck or Tristan, though.
Name: Greg Whittington
High School: Oakland Mills
Hometown: Columbia, MD
Weight: 195 lbs.
Player Comparison: NA
I haven't been able to find any tape on Whittington, but he's been mentioned a couple times along with Thomas as potential targets for UT. Just thought I'd throw his name up to put him on the board.
Finishing out 2011: Texas will likely finish with Thomas and fight to the end to convince DeAndre Daniels' dad that Texas is the best place for him to be, but I still see him ultimately ending up as a Jayhawk. This will leave us with a probable roster of J'Covan Brown, Cory Joseph, Jonathan Holmes, Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis, Kevin Thomas, and Myck Kabongo going into the 2012 season, giving us only seven players with six potential scholarships for 2012 (assuming Tristan Thompson has declared for the draft by then), which I'll discuss in my next installment.