The late addition of star wing Tevin Mack to the 2015 Texas Longhorns basketball class was only the beginning for new head coach Shaka Smart, who will host two 2016 consensus five-star prospects this weekend.
No. 6 overall recruit Terrance Ferguson planned on making his way down from Dallas on Friday, but reportedly had to cancel his visit because his mother became ill. Instead, the visit weekend will kick off on Saturday when No. 3 center Marques Bolden of DeSoto visits along with No. 3 point guard De'Aaron Fox of Cypress Lakes.
The three represent key targets for Smart and his staff -- not only do the Longhorns not have a single commit yet in the 2016 class, but prospects like Ferguson, Bolden, and Fox could represent the first steps taken in the efforts to secure high-profile in-state recruits. Former head coach Rick Barnes and his staff struggled mightily in that area in recent years, a reality that contributed significantly to Barnes' downfall.
The 6'7, 180-pound Ferguson is exactly the type of wing that Smart covets. Also the No. 1 prospect in the state, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Ferguson's 247Sports Crystal Ball is quite split, but the general consensus is that Kansas leads after the Prime Prep product took a visit to Lawrence in January. After naming SMU his leader last summer, the trip to Jayhawk Country was a significant one in his recruitment.
Perhaps this weekend's visit to Austin will eventually loom just as large -- giving Smart the chance to sell his vision for the program and get Ferguson around a tightly-knit group that helped convince Mack to spend his college years at Texas are both huge opportunities for the Longhorns.
What makes Ferguson such a highly-coveted prospect? How about the fact that he can throw down legit 360-degree dunks like this one?
Of course, for prospects the caliber of Ferguson and Bolden, Texas has to compete with the absolute biggest hitters in college basketball. Bolden, for instance, just picked up an offer from Duke on Thursday, a school he wants to visit in the near future if he can manage it. The Horns will also have some competition from conference rivals, as Bolden listed Baylor, Oklahoma, and Kansas as the schools recruiting him the hardest, along with Texas.
The No. 20 prospect overall and the No. 4 player in Texas, Bolden is a lean 6'10, 235-pounder with eight offers who is also thought to be high on Kansas, as well as Baylor. Capable of running the court hard and filling the lane, he's also a strong rebounder who can finish through contact.
Fox has already been on campus once since Smart's hire, taking an unofficial visit in the middle of April, so getting him to campus once again with two other elite prospects is major coupe for the new Longhorns head coach and his staff. Texas now leads in his Crystal Ball by a significant margin, with Kansas and Louisville also holding predictions.
A top-10 player nationally, Fox is a silky smooth lefty with good size at 6'3 and 170 pounds. When reading the scouting report on Fox, he seems to tick off many traits prized by Smart -- he's quick, draws fouls through penetration, and is an excellent defender.
If there's a player in this group who could truly become the face of Smart's Texas program, it's definitely Fox, who would be an extension of his head coach on the floor as a pure point guard in the post-Isaiah Taylor future.
All three recruits look like key priorities for the 2016 class, especially Bolden since the Horns are losing so many bigs after the 2015-16 season, including Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh, and Connor Lammert. Can Smart close on in-state prospects like Ferguson, Bolden, and Fox while facing competition from national powers like Kansas? The recruitments of the three Texas stars will go a long way towards writing the early part of that narrative.