If you haven’t noticed, Texas basketball has seemingly endless depth. Every player on scholarship averages over 11 minutes per game, and all three freshmen are making immediate impacts. Amidst the captivating highs and occasional lows of the team, it's easy to forget that the Longhorns will only be returning six scholarship players next year--five if Isaiah Taylor goes pro or someone transfers.
The scholarship situation is actually quite murky. Part of this is because Texas has zero current sophomores due to Myles Turner being a one-and-done, and Jordan Barnett leaving the team. Would-be juniors Martez Walker and Demarcus Croaker are also no longer with the program. This means that if Taylor goes to the NBA, Kendal Yancy and Shaq Cleare could very well be the only upperclassmen next season. With 13 possible scholarships, the class distribution could be extremely lopsided towards youth. It’s looking like Shaka Smart will have plenty of room to bring in the kind of players who can fit his mold.
The scholarship shake up is unique because of the fact that Texas largely has a young backcourt and an older frontcourt. To examine this further, here’s a breakdown of the backcourt and frontcourt situation:
Synopsis: Texas is already pretty close to set. In fact, an actual concern may be that there won’t be enough minutes to go around. Kendal Yancy, for example, is starting to be surpassed by the youngins. However, he is a solid player who, if nothing else, will provide valuable depth. Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach already complement each other so well, and they will only get better.
The only area of concern is that the ‘Horns may lose both of their penetrating, scoring point guards. Who will have the ball in late shot situations when Felix and Taylor are gone? Commits Andrew Jones and Jacob Young will have big shoes to fill. Both are listed as combo guards, but the two have different skill sets. Five star Jones is regarded as a future NBA player, and is highly touted for his athleticism and height at the point guard position (6’4). Jacob Young is more under the radar, but he is a top 100 recruit in his own right. While only 6’0, he is a fantastic shooter with a high basketball IQ.
Ultimately, if everything goes according to plan, the Longhorns could have one of the scariest backcourts in America. Eric Davis will need to get better defensively, but I could see him being the go-to guy of the group on offense. If Jones and Young are college ready enough to get significant playing time as freshmen, lookout.
Team Needs: I'm not sure if Isaiah's potential departure would warrant the addition of another guard. The team isn't full of pure point guards, but that doesn't seem to be what Smart is after right now.
Synopsis: The Longhorns have managed surprisingly well without Ridley, making his impending graduation hurt a little less. However, Cam isn’t the only senior big. Connor Lambert will no longer be stretching the defense, and Prince Ibeh will no longer be blocking shots next year. Shaquille Cleare will be a glue guy, but he can’t be the only guy. Thankfully, the #10 center in the nation, James Banks, has committed to play for Shaka. Banks is a quality scorer, but he is too thin at 235 pounds for his 6-10 height. Banks should play immediately, but the Longhorns will need physicality, so hopefully he hits the weight room hard in Austin.
If Texas can also land McDonald’s All-American Jarrett Allen, then the bigs of next year should be much better offensively than the bigs of this year. Allen, an Austin native, has been regarded as a can’t miss prospect who would likely be a one-and-done star. One highlight reel calls him the "next Tim Duncan" because of his fantastic footwork and finish at the rim. Here’s to hoping he stays close to home.
Tevin Mack’s minutes may have decreased slightly as the year has gone on, but he could start at small forward next year, and even may get time at power forward if he can add some size. Mack has flashed his potential several times already (see Connecticut, @Iowa State). Kendal Yancy is undersized for a three, but in Shaka's guard heavy system, he will get playing time at the wing spot too.
Team Needs: Above all, Jarrett Allen. Getting him would be huge. However, regardless of Allen’s decision, Texas will likely add at least one other big man. Next year seems like a great chance to add a fifth year transfer who could provide experience and strength to the potentially very young group. I also wonder if Shaka will add a three point shooting big to replace Lammert’s role -- a shooting power forward or center would give more room for guards to drive to the hoop. Texas offered a 6-10 three point shooter in Nick Rakocevic, but it looks like he is heading to Miami.
Expect Texas to also add a wing. So far, the Longhorns have extended an offer to 6’5 top-100 recruit, Deshawn Corprew. The Crystal Ball thinks he is going Kansas’ way, but someone with similar high athleticism and defensive ability would be a good addition to the team.
To conclude, Texas has three commits already, and that number may double. Demarcus Holland and Prince Ibeh may be the team’s best defensive players, so expect future targets to be proficient on that side of the ball to replace the two seniors. The team most needs a frontcourt player, so landing Jarrett Allen is crucial. To avoid having an excessive amount of freshmen next year, it’s possible that the Longhorns will add one or two 5th year seniors or juco transfers. Regardless, don’t expect a rebuilding year next season. Texas basketball has had some let down games, but the bright spots have shone the most prominent. Shaka Smart isn't the type to let hype dim out (the Kansas game didn't happen).