Perhaps the most important recruiting efforts for Texas Longhorns head coach Shaka Smart to impact the 2015-16 season paid off when point guard Isaiah Taylor announced that he will return for his junior season on Saturday, hours ahead of the Sunday deadline to declare for the 2015 NBA Draft:
Glad to be a Longhorn ! Feels good. Looking to get this new era started. Love the guys on the team.… https://t.co/2FRs9ALpdJ— Isaiah Taylor (@Zay_Ctmd11) April 26, 2015
"I will be coming back to work on my game and be a part of the new era of Texas Basketball," Taylor said in a statement. "When it all came down to it, I didn't want to leave my teammates and not be a part of something I feel can be special. Coach Smart says he needs me here to be the floor leader. I love our team, and I love The University of Texas."
Sources close to the 6'1, 170-pounder told Burnt Orange Nation's own Peter Bean that Taylor planned on forgoing his final two seasons of eligibility by declaring for the draft, but Horns Digest reported nearly 10 days ago that the junior to be was leaning towards returning to school.
At the time, Taylor was still in school and working out with the team as he got to know new head coach Smart, who shared an update on his potential point guard with the Austin American-Statesman:
"My stance with him, really from the first chance I had to talk with him, was we want to support you and help you make the best decision for you and your future. So that's the way we've looked at it."
Former head coach Rick Barnes adopted a similar stance, consistently telling high-level prospects that it was time to move on to the next level. For Taylor, however, it was a much different situation, as he was projected by Draft Express as the No. 50 pick, a draft position that would leave him battling to make a roster without a guaranteed contract.
Regardless of what Smart told Taylor, the team's leader in scoring (13.1 point per game) and assists (4.6 points per game) will be back in Austin for at least one more season.
In recent years, the Horns have rarely benefitted from borderline draft prospects returning to school, with recent early entrants like J'Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo declaring and then going undrafted.
How much Taylor can help himself with another year in school remains to be seen, but there's no question that he helped the upside of Smart's first team.