Finally, positive recruiting news. After two de-commitments on the football side, an extended timetable for Darius White to make a decision, and the continued, um, drama surrounding Lache Seastrunk, the only good recruiting news in the last month and a half has come from the basketball side of recruiting. Early in May, Bellaire's Sheldon McClellan announced that he will officially become a Longhorn in 2011.
Now there is a third member of the 2011 class. It wasn't a particularly well-kept secret over the weekend, with La Marque's Julien Lewis making it clear that he would commit to Texas if offered. After a spectacular performance at the Texas Elite Camp on Thursday and Friday, Lewis received his offer and committed shortly after, publicly announcing his decision on Monday.
So what exactly did Lewis show the Texas coaches ($) at the Elite camp?
I showed them I can come off ball screens really well, I showed them I could defend real well. I showed I can shoot, showed them I have a step back. I showed I can back my man down into the mid range. I did everything. Showed I can always find my teammates; I did a lot of incredible things. They told me I'm strong and all I need to do is hit it a little harder [in the weight room], and work a little more on finishing.
Lewis took off as a player during his sophomore year after transferring to La Marque from Galveston Ball. Despite missing 10 games during the season because of eligibility concerns, Lewis returned to take his game to another level, eventually averaging more than 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. While Lewis is known as a good shooter and penetrator with the ability to create for himself and teammates and possessor of a high basketball IQ ($), perhaps the most impressive aspect of his developing game is his willingness to defend. Excellent at sinking into his defensive stance, Lewis has the quick hands and feet to guard point guards, shooting guards, and small forwards, using his length to disrupt the offensive games of opposing players and his anticipation to beat his opponent to the spot.
His ability on the defensive end does not outshine his offensive abilities, however. A strong athlete who can get into the paint and finish at the rim, Lewis complements that ability with three-point range. Like most players his age, he could improve his ball-handling abilities, but that aspect of his game is not considered a weakness at this point. The most impressive part of his offensive game is his ability to change speeds, along with a developed spin move. Lewis also has the ability to back down opposing players to get into his mid-range game, a rarity for a young player. The area of his game Lewis needs to improve the most is being more consistently aggressive in taking over games, as he often lets the game come to him or spends his time getting his teammates involved.
Besides being a native Texan, Lewis' commitment illustrates the continually accelerating recruiting momentum the Longhorns have been building ever since receiving TJ Ford's commitment. Lewis explains how he became such an avid following of the Texas basketball program:
I started liking Texas when I was in the 5th or 6th grade watching T.J. Ford and Daniel Gibson play. They had success at Texas and now the NBA. I really, really started watching Texas closely when Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin came through. Kevin was awesome and is going to be one of the best players in the NBA. D.J. Augustin is one of the best point guards I've ever seen and I think he'll be one of the best in the NBA.
If Rick Barnes and company are lucky, they might someday receive a commitment who says that he picked Texas because he grew up watching Julien Lewis play.
Tragedy strikes Daniel Bejarano. Condolences to the Longhorn commit and his family, as Bejarano's father, Damion Gosa, was shot and killed late Thursday night during an apparent burglary attempt at his Phoenix apartment. Though Bejarano and his father weren't close throughout much of Bejarano's life, the two had become close in recent months, making up for lost time in their relationship.
The 6-5 shooting guard learned of his father's death on Saturday while participating in the NBPA Top 100 Camp. After being informed of the horrible news, Bejarano decided to stay at the camp for one last game. While the Phoenix North star didn't have any monster scoring games at the camp, he said that basketball isn't always about scoring:
To me, the challenge was you have a lot of great players on your team. So how do you get to the championship? After we lost our first game, I tried to step up and be a leader, do the small things. I tried to step up to try to motivate them, bring us together like a family. Everyone there is good, so I did what I had to do - pass the ball, rebound, block shots.
The first game, I took some bad shots. After that, I stopped to think and that's not me. I needed to stop that. I just played my game, tried to knock down 3s, take it to the hole, rebound, whatever I could.
People think scoring 30 points makes you the best, but it's not all about scoring. In scouting, that's not what it's all about.
His comments are certainly indicative of the maturity of his game, but right now basketball pales in comparison to the life events that will force Bejarano to become even more mature off the basketball court. Best wishes and condolences to Daniel and his entire family.
Rivals 5-star Academy a showcase for local talent. Many of the talented prospects in the Austin area made their way to the Palace ($) on Friday. However, a few players from outside the area had big days. Foremost among them was Texas commit Darius Terrell, the best among a deep group of receivers and recipient of the overall camp MVP award after showing off the ball skills that made him so desirable to the Longhorns and the crisp route-running that helps him make up for a lack of elite speed. Terrell's Desoto teammate Adrian White also had an impressive day, though Vista Ridge's Jaylon Finner won the Defensive MVP.
Bowie's DeAndre Perry had an impressive day, winning the Offensive MVP award after showing his ability to catch the ball in traffic and proving himself a difficult match-up on the inside or the outside. Several Stony Point players turned in good performances, highlighted by defensive tackle Jordan Wade, an extremely talented player still learning the game, safety Desmond Martin, younger brother of Baylor's Glasco, and linebacker PL Lindley, who showed the length and footwork that makes him an appealing prospect. Cibolo Steele's Blake Gardner showed that Malcolm Brown and Marquise Anderson are not the only talented 2011 prospects on the team, as the young receiver continued his impressive spring on the camp circuit.
Todd Wright talks Texas hoops. Gerry Hamilton spoke with Longhorn S&C coach Todd Wright ($) about off-season workouts and the upcoming season. The insights include improvement from Clint Chapman and Matt Hill, as well as thoughts on the conditioning of Varez Ward, Shawn Williams, and Dexter Pittman. Wright says that Chapman is improving his strength, a major concern throughout his first two season, as well as making major strides in his game this summer. Matt Hill, who dealt with a variety of foot injuries early in his career, has regained his mobility according to Wright, and may be in position to contend for minutes in a crowded frontcourt.
As for Varez Ward, Wright says that the player he termed as one of the most advanced players physically to ever enter the program now has now improved his outside shot, the most critical aspect of his game to improve. Dexter Pittman is working hard as always, but the concern with him is not working him too hard throughout the year. Last season, Rick Barnes rested him during the start of the conference season to keep him fresh for later in the year and that will probably be the plan again this season.
From the Land of Miscellany. What is the deal with DeMarco Cobbs? He was a no show in Knoxville as well last week...Darius White took an unofficial visit to Norman ($) last week, but has no other visits planned for the summer...It looks like Harrison Smith will help alleviate the scholarship crunch at Texas by transferring, mostly likely to SFA...There are rumors swirling that J'Covan Brown is now officially eligible and on campus, but no official confirmations yet.