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Texas Basketball Elite Camp

The two football camps aren't the only major events happening at the University of Texas in June. The Texas Elite Camp started on Thursday and will continue on Friday as Rick Barnes and staff host some of the top prospects in the country in the 2010, 2011, and 2012 classes, and possibly even a prospect from the 2013 class. The bad news is that several commitments and targets are attending the NBPA camp that started and Wednesday and continues until Sunday. More on that later. Unfortunately, that means that the current commits won't have a chance to bond with potential future teammates, but it is a critical time for the coaching staff to further develop relationships with the players they are targeting, just like at the football camps.

Many of the players attending the camp are guard or wing prospects, positions at which the Longhorns already have commitments in the 2010 class (Daniel Bejarano) and 2011 class (Sheldon McClellan and Myck Kabongo). The bigger priority is to find big men in those classes to replace departing bigs like Damion James, Dexter Pittman, Matt Hill, Clint Chapman, and Gary Johnson.

The following players have been confirmed as attendees:

  • Jackson Jeffcoat, 2010 forward, Plano East: It's hard to say whether Jeffcoat will spend any time with Mack Brown or Will Muschamp during his visit to Austin, but it is a major victory for the Longhorns to get him back to campus and for him to spend another year at the Elite Camp (he attended last year), as he is still talking about playing both sports in college. It's also important because Jeffcoat's sister has been offered by the Oklahoma women's basketball program and even though the siblings aren't expected to go out of their way to attend the same college, it would be disingenuous to say that it won't make an impact at all.
  • DeAndre Daniels, 2011 forward, La Canada Renaissance Academy (CA): Daniels apparently was just re-classified from the 2010 class to 2011, giving him more time to develop his outside shot, which is variously described as a strength and as inconsistent. From the relatively little information available on him, it sounds like Daniels is a kind of Tristan Thompson-lite ($): active on the boards and effective in transition, with a long, lanky body that needs to add some muscle, but lacking the athleticism of Thompson.
  • Julien Lewis, 2011 combo guard, La Marque: Little news trickled out of the event on Thursday, but it did come out that Lewis had an extremely strong performance and may have played himself into an offer. At 6-4, he has good height and length, with a good outside shot ($) and a willingness to use his strong athleticism to drive into the paint to make plays for himself and his teammates ($), hence the combo guard classification. Lewis formerly played at Galveston Ball as a freshman, but had a break-out season in 2008 ($), averaging more than 18 points and bursting onto the recruiting scene. Lewis, who wants to get better on the defensive end, says that he thinks Texas may offer him and that he really wants to go to Texas, so he could be a quick commitment if he gets his offer.
  • Thomas Gipson, 2011 power forward, Cedar Hill: If playing for a successful high school basketball program is part of the criteria to be recruited by Texas, then Gipson's experience playing for 5A runner-up Cedar Hill fits the bill. He also plays a need position. As of February, Gipson hadn't received a scholarship offer ($), though he has been receiving interest from programs across the country (he now has an offer from SMU). In a game against Duncanville and their talented big Perry Jones, Gipson held his own with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Known as a physical banger, the lefty has a solid hook shot and fade away, but at 6-7 and with relatively limited leaping ability, there are concerns about how well Gipson's size will translate to the next level. The Elite Camp will be an important opportunity for Gipson to prove to the Texas coaching staff that he is "Texas good." 
  • Sheldon McClellan, 2011 wing, Bellaire: The only committed player at the Camp, McClellen will be the only guy selling the Texas program hard to his fellow attendees. While McClellan still hasn't raised the release on his jump shot, his ability to create separation will keep that from being a problem in the near future and McClellan has been working hard with John Lucas to prepare his game for the next level. The experience going against all the talented players working out with the elder Lucas (including some current and former NBA players) will be a major help to McClellan, especially important since he doesn't play the caliber of competition that players like Avery Bradley and Tristan Thompson see at their prep schools.
  • Zach Peters, 2012 forward, Plano Prestonwood: A physical player older than most of his classmates, Peters may not have the upside of other players in the class, but already has a developed game and mature body. He currently favors the Longhorns and North Carolina and would fit well with the need for bigs in the coming classes. There is a possibility that he could end up being the first commitment of the 2012 class, but that is still mostly speculation.
  • J-Mychal Reese, 2012 guard, Bryan: A member of the national basketball scene since age 13 after being named a "basketball prodigy by various publications, Reese, the son of the Bryan High School coach, may be extremely difficult to tear away from the shadow of College Station and Texas A&M. As a freshman, he lived up to the prodigious hype surrounding his game, averaging nearly 19 points on 48% shooting, extremely high for a guard and such a young player. At 6-0 tall, Reese is a pure point guard, though he doesn't possess exceptional quickness ($), but does manage to make plays for his teammates and has a solid shooting stroke, though he also releases the ball too low, as does McClellan. Besides his close connection to the Aggie program living so close to College Station, the commitment of Myck Kabongo in the 2011 class may make it extremely difficult to get Reese to Austin. However, Jai Lucas thought the same thing about DJ Augustin and look where he ended up.
  • Winston Sheppard, 2012 wing, Hightower: Along with Lewis, reports out of Thursday's session had Sheppard as the most impressive player. He also has connections to the Longhorn program, as his parents played at Texas ($). Though Sheppard only averaged a little over three points as a freshman, he uses his 6-7 frame and length to rebound the ball and block shots, as well as slash to the basket or pull up for mid-range jump shots. Sheppard needs to improve his ability to rebound in traffic and develop better body control to finish around the basket. An explosive leaper, Sheppard is set for a monster season as a sophomore, though is free-throw shooting needs work, as he made only 44% as a freshman. He may also be a candidate to become the first commitment of 2012 if his parent's schooling at Texas has had a major influence on him.

As mentioned earlier, several Longhorn commits and potential targets won't be in town because of the NBPA camp being held this week. Among those players not attending are:

  • Tristan Thompson, 2010 forward, Findlay Prep (committed): I'll have the Recruiting Spotlight on Thompson up in the near future, but the early word from the NBA camp is that he's using his newly-strengthened physique ($) around the basket with aggression.
  • Daniel Bejarano, 2010 wing, Phoenix North (AZ) (committed): No word out yet on Bejarano's performance at the camp, but his Recruiting Spotlight is here.
  • Myck Kabongo, 2011 point guard, St. Benedict's Prep (NJ) (committed): Ditto on Kabongo. Recruiting Spotlight here.
  • Corey Joseph, 2010 point guard, Findlay Prep: A countryman of Tristan Thompson and Myck Kabongo, Joseph's friendship with Thompson was responsible for the forward ending up in Nevada. Known more for his three-point shooting than his pure point-guard skills, Joseph is being recruited by the Longhorns, but Texas doesn't seem to have serious interest in him, as the guard position is not a top priority in the 2010 class and Rick Barnes has not yet extended an offer. However, Joseph is a five-star talent and performed well ($) in the first game of the NBPA camp, facing up against Phil Pressey, a Texas product.
  • Roscoe Smith, 2010 wing, Walbrook (MD): Smith already has an offer from Texas and may be drawn to the school because of the success of another native of Maryland -- Kevin Durant. As a small forward/wing, Smith has an outstanding shooting touch and a developed shot fake. Even at 6-8, he isn't an interior player and needs to work on his ability to rebound the basketball, as well as his mid-range game and ball-handling abilities. Right now, Smith sounds like a relatively one-dimensional shooter. Securing a commitment from a post player in the 2010 class is probably more important and Smith may opt for another school before finding out whether or not Jordan Hamilton will return, with the presence of Shawn Williams probably another deterrent.
  • James Johnson, 2010 forward, Samuel Morse (CA): Johnson is a raw prospect at this point who recently moved back to the United State from Canada ($), but he is 6-9 with some developing ability in the post and on the wing (he has three-point range), which may make him extremely intriguing. Johnson has great bounce to complement his physicality. Besides facing relatively weak competition in Canada, a recent growth spurt ($) and time spent in the weight room have helped take his game to another level. He's currently outside the ESPN 100 for his class, but is a player who will probably quickly rise up the rankings as the summer circuit continues and he gains more experience. Given his skill set, he may be a major target for Rick Barnes during the July evaluation period.
  • Wayne Blackshear, 2011 wing, Morgan Park (IL): Blackshear is a definite possibility to land in Austin, as he made it down for the Missouri football game last fall, but he may not want to leave the state of Illinois. Known as an extremely smooth player, the 6-5 Blackshear was involved in some drama about his transfer from Curie High School to the Morgan Park program, a move that may impact the circle of influential people around the talented young player.
  • La'Bryan Nash, 2011 forward, Dallas Lincoln: An early top-five rated talent ($) in the 2011 class, the 6-7 Nash will be a national recruit and probably top target for the Longhorns in 2011, though there isn't currently a lot of information out there about his game. One to keep an eye on.

The players are at the NBA camp aren't the only important commits or targets, as several high-profile players Texas is seriously pursuing will not be in town:

  • Josh Smith, 2010 center, Kentwood (WA): One of the top players in the 2010 class, Smith is a major wide-body and an important target for the Longhorns because of his ability to play in the post. However, the bad news is that Smith has not yet visited Austin and does not currently have any plans to do so, though he hasn't made any decisions about official visits yet ($). Furthering the bad news is the fact that he says he wants to end the recruiting process soon, possibly making a decision before July. UCLA and Washington have long been considered the favorites for Smith, with the Longhorns still in the mix and desperately needing to get him on campus for an official visit. If not, he probably ends up at one of the other two schools, though he says he does not currently have a leader.
  • Isaiah Austin, 2012 center, Mansfield Legacy: A player in early consideration with the title of top prospect in the state for 2012, Austin has been in Utah since school ended, making him unable to attend the camp. At 6-11 and 190 pounds, it's safe to say that Austin has a ton of work to do in the weight room before stepping foot onto the college campus of his choice, but he did just complete his freshman year and has the frame to add good weight. Known as a player without a developed post-up game at this point, Austin does have exceptional athleticism for a player of his size, running the court and handling the ball well and playing with a high level of activity around the basket. He passes well for his size and even has a nice shooting touch, knocking down free throws with regularity. There is no doubt that Austin will be a top priority in the 2012 class, if not the top priority.

More updates as information trickles out about the camp.