With Greg Whittington's commitment to Georgetown a while back and DeAndre's Daniels' likely impending commitment to Duke at their banquet this weekend, it looks like Texas is almost certainly done with their 2011 recruiting class. You can take a look at some of my thoughts on that fantastic five-man class here and here.
The fun thing about recruiting, of course, is that it's never ending. That's especially the case in basketball, when coaches are less focused on particular classes at one time and are constantly recruiting nearly a half-decade in advance. While Mack Brown may be working on putting a nice (and early, compared to most schools) finishing touch on his 2012 class while occasionally casting an eye to the 2013 class, Rick Barnes is already formulating his 2012 class knowing who his top targets in 2013 and even 2014 will most likely be. The limited number of scholarships and fact that all players must play on both sides of the ball makes each individual basketball commit so vital to the future success of the team.
That said, let's take a look at some perimeter players Texas is going after in the nationally big-man dominant 2012 class.
PG/CG L.J. Rose
Bio: 6'3", 180 lbs.
Hometown: Houston, TX
High School: Westbury Christian
ESPN Rank: 21
Breakdown: Along with heralded AAU teammates J-Mychal Reese and Rasheed Sulaimon (who committed to Duke over Texas), Rose has been in the spotlight for some time now. In an oddly bad year for PG's, L.J. is currently ESPN's leader at the position despite only being ranked 21st overall. There's also some doubt as to his collegiate position—ESPN tags him as a "pass first lead guard" while Gerry Hamilton at Hookem.com thinks he's a combo guard all the way. I'm inclined to believe Gerry since he's been able to watch Rose play more due to geographical factors, but he's the only person I've heard describe L.J. as definitely not a point guard. Personally, I think he looks like a PG on film, but I haven't been able to watch him play a complete game so I have a hard time not deferring to Gerry's opinion in this case.
Regardless of his position, Rose is two things you always want out of a lead guard—heady and steady. He's said to possess a very high basketball IQ and doesn't get out of control easily. Rose looks like a very good shooter from deep and possesses a quick and pretty release on his shot. He utilizes a solid and wily handle to beat defenders off the bounce and get into the lane, where he sets teammates up with good vision and accurate passes. Very much like Cory Joseph offensively, but a little faster on the first step and a bit better with the handle. Also like Cory, he's comfortable driving with both hands and can pull up from mid-range to shoot over shorter opponents.
L.J.'s biggest weaknesses are his lack of athleticism and quickness. He's no Derrick Rose in those regards (well, nobody is) and that will ultimately limit his ability to break down defenses at the college and NBA levels—assuming he were to get there. His size should compensate for his lack of explosiveness at the rim, but finishing contested layups is an area where young collegiate players frequently struggle (think JCB, Bradley, and Hamilton last year) and veterans (Kemba Walker, Doge, etc.) thrive as they get more experience in dealing with players at their level of strength and athleticism. He also needs to continue to bulk up, a problem Joseph had this year, which will allow him to dominate collegiate 1's and even some smaller 2's. This should not be much of a problem for Rose as he has a good frame on which to add muscle mass.
ESPN also cites that he needs to be a more vocal leader and continually be in attack mode. To me, the latter is much more important for younger players. Leadership will come with time spent on campus and relationships built with teammates, but an aggressive mentality is important from the get-go because it reflects your confidence as a player. We've all seen what happens to players lacking in confidence under Barnes.
PG/SG D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera
Bio: 6'3", 215 lbs.
Hometown: Indianapolis, IN
High School: North Central
ESPN Rank: 29
Breakdown: Despite hailing from Midwest recruiting hotbed Indianapolis, the former Xavier commit is showing some serious interest in the Horns. D'Vauntes is expected to make a visit to UT sometime this spring or summer, and if/when that happens Texas will have a very real chance with him. Smith-Rivera is another combo-guard type that doesn't have an exact position and could slide into either the 1 or the 2 in college. While ESPN lists him as a SG on their evaluation page, most recent write-ups have mentioned him as a point man. I don't think he's a PG yet, but we'll see if he can develop his lead guard skills over the next season.
Smith-Rivera is a power guard through and through. At 215, he possesses a bulldog-like build and playing style, frequently taking smaller guards down into the post where he has a huge matchup advantage. Unlike most power guards, though, D'Vauntes has a silky smooth jumper that he can bust from both mid-range and three-point land. In fact, it's one of the technically better shot releases I've seen in that he's straight up and down with his legs and torso, doesn't jump too high, and has a beautiful finishing stroke. These are the kinds of guys who don't have shooting slumps because their form is just too good to let them down consistently. Smith-Rivera uses his impressive build well to bull his way into the lane and create opportunities at the basket for himself and teammates.
Like Rose, Smith-Rivera is not the most athletic or quick guy. He's a physically strong player, but as ESPN opines "...as the other kids in his class get bigger and stronger the advantage will decrease." Think Austin Freeman from Georgetown. He also needs to improve his dribbling ability, which is why I think he'll start out as an off-guard in college and play backup minutes at the 1 like J'Covan and/or Cory should for Texas next year.
SF Marcus Smart
Bio: 6'4", 200 lbs.
Hometown: Flowermound, TX
High School: Marcus
ESPN Rank: 35
Breakdown: Hasn't been much stir lately about Smart regarding Texas for whatever reason, but it still looks like this is going to come down to a UT/KU battle. Marcus is the kind of kid that people lavish all the positive buzz phrases on: hard worker, team player, works his ass off on the court, hustler, scrappy, fearless competitor, winner. While he IS a big time recruit, Smart is the type of player that many of you have been openly pining for since the Royal Ivey's and James Thomas's left. And I can't disagree with you. He'd be a crowd favorite the second he stepped on the court. I read on Hookem that he harassed 6'8" 2013 #1 overall national recruit Julius Randle so thoroughly in one game on defense that Randle tweeted after the game talking about how great Smart was. Smart is probably 6'3". Warrior.
As you have probably ascertained, I am a big Marcus Smart fan. He'll do whatever it takes to win, as evidenced by his averaging less than 15 points per game for his high school team that won the state title. He's a beast physically and can score inside by outworking multiple defenders, especially on second chance attempts. Smart is also very good on the defensive boards and as a defender in general—he has the potential to become a lock-down defender due to his long arms, strong body, good instincts, and tenacity. On the perimeter, Smart can play all three positions and employs good speed, great athleticism, and adequate ball handling to get to the basket and finish. He is a very good passer who has surprising vision and playmaking abilities for a "junkyard dog," throwback type of player. Smart can also make the open three to complement the rest of his offensive package.
There aren't many weaknesses to note for Smart other than refining his somewhat odd looking shot and becoming a bit more consistent from deep. He could tighten his handle up a tad, but that's really nitpicking. Most of the reason for Smart's ranking not being even higher is that he doesn't have the highest ceiling due to being relatively short for his projected position. Oh well, doesn't hurt Texas.