After weeks of speculation, Houston television station FOX 26 is reporting that Texas Longhorns sophomore guard Julien Lewis has informed the school that he will transfer. Orangebloods confirmed the news some time later.
The school has not yet released an official statement on the matter, though the source of the report says that Lewis informed Texas of his decision at least two weeks ago:
Guard Julien Lewis on decision to leave Texas: "It feels real good. I don't have to worry about it anymore." Said he informed UT in April.— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) May 14, 2013
Guard Julien Lewis on decision to transfer from Texas: "Texas is a good school overall, but I can do better things somewhere else."— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) May 14, 2013
The news comes on the heels of fellow sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo declaring for the 2013 NBA Draft, despite no assurances that he will be taken in the first round. And Lewis is also joining fellow Houston product Sheldon McClellan, the sophomore guard who led the 'Horns in scoring prior to Kabongo's return from suspension, in leaving the program.
Sophomore forward Jaylen Bond also elected to transfer following the season, though his decision was more about playing time and perhaps a desire to be closer to home than anything else.
A 6'3, 190-pounder from La Marque, Lewis started 21 of 33 games this season, but appeared to fall somewhat out of favor when Kabongo returned, as he conceded his starting job to freshman Demarcus Holland, a player known for his defense and virtual inability to knock down outside shots, an area in which Lewis was a strong threat, having knocked down 35% of his attempts from distance as a sophomore.
Lewis averaged 11.2 points per game and added 35 steals, an area in which he ranked tops on the team.
The decision, though not official yet, raises further concerns about the viability of Rick Barnes as the head basketball coach at Texas moving forward -- the 2011 recruiting class is now nearly completely decimated. Of the six prospects who signed, only Jonathan Holmes remains at Texas. When the transfer of Lewis becomes official, it will mean that four players from the class opted to leave the program within their first two years in Austin.
And how many times has a team lost two of their three leading scorers to transfers without suffering significant NCAA sanctions or a coach being fired or retiring? It's hard to imagine that it has happened often, which makes the current situation in Austin one that appears mostly unprecedented. Or at least exceedingly rare.
The other element to this equation? The Longhorns are now sending two former Houston-area prospects back out into the basketball scene and the guess here is that neither one is going to have positive things to say about Barnes and his program.
Considering that the 'Horns are already struggling to develop or maintain good relationships with the powers that be in the Dallas AAU circles, if they start getting shut out of Houston because of McClellan and Lewis having been unhappy at Texas, it's going to make in-state recruiting even more difficult for Barnes and his staff.
It's not necessarily that Barnes should be fired, but does seem to be becoming increasingly clear that he's not reaching the players he is recruiting and that a change may be best for all parties involved.