Meet the Fro Bros.
The offseason arrivals of Jarrett Allen and James Banks signify much more than a pair of fresh faces on the Forty Acres for the Texas Longhorns. Following four years of frontcourt familiarity in Austin, Allen and Banks are embodiments of the ambiance surrounding Texas basketball going forward — uncertainty and enthusiasm.
Allen is the reserved local product whose mysterious recruitment spoke volumes about his close-to-vest personality.
Banks is the spark of energy that can energize and excite those around him. They’re polar opposites and perfect compliments to each other, now jointly identifiable by some extra hair atop their towering frames.
Long before the Fro Bros jog onto the hardwood at the Frank Erwin Center — equal parts hair and potential — Shaka Smart was able to begin sculpting the two 6’10 molds of basketball clay. While Allen and Banks joined their head coach in Colorado Springs for an opportunity to make the final 12-man USA U18 National Team roster — both ultimately made the cut — the molding process began to take form, whether it be back on the Forty Acres or in Team USA practices.
“On campus, you’ll always see us together,” Allen told HookEm.com. “You can see it in practice. We’re already starting to throw each other lobs, already starting to get more chemistry.”
For reasons beyond simply finding a middle ground and meshing two vastly varying personalities, establishing chemistry on the court is critical for Texas next season.
Prince Ibeh, Connor Lammert and Cameron Ridley have all graduated and took with them 785 pounds on interior presence, with the only returning Longhorn being Shaquille Cleare, who played only 397 minutes as a junior.
While Lammert proved to be a compliment to the beefy Ridley and burly Ibeh, who found success through size and strength, Allen and Banks aren’t that. But with differing skillsets that reflect their personalities, the contrast is likely the perfect compliment.
Allen, a 6’10, 224-pound forward, climbed the recruiting ranks through displays of offensive versatility and two-way potential en route to McDonald’s All-American honors. To this point is his tremendously young career, there isn’t any particular aspect of the game Allen could be considered elite at, aside from his exceptional rim-protecting prowess, but he does at a bit of everything well.
Under Smart, who highly values spacing at shooting, Allen’s consistent mid-range touch and deceptive athleticism, which allows him to run the floor and at times and even push the break, will go hand-in-hand with Smart’s up-tempo offenses. Allen possesses enough craftiness around the rim to put points on the board, but it’s certainly not one of his stronger qualities just yet.
There’s really nothing flashy about Allen’s game — the former five-star forward just gets his job done and produces at a superbly high level, evident in Allen being ranked the No. 17 player in his class.
Banks is the owner of a vastly different skill set with juxtaposing positional upside, although, there’s some noteworthy similarities that will prove quite complimentary when the new era Longhorns frontcourt debuts.
“He’s down low. I’m outside,” Allen said, via the Houston Chronicle.
Banks, an athletic two-way interior presence, is your more typical, around-the-rim big guy of yesteryear with flashes of modern capabilities. Despite being only 230 pounds entering Austin, Banks’ 7’5.25 wingspan and springy leaping ability will allow the La Lumiere product to immediately replace much of the rim protection left behind.
Banks’ broad shoulders and frame is the kind that will make Texas’ strength and conditioning coach Daniel Roose love coming to work every day, which will become a mutually beneficial relationship as Banks packs on pounds of muscle.
While Banks can step out and his flash his mid-range touch and run the floor in transition, he’s more likely to be fed in the post and go to work on the block. And quite unlike Allen, Banks is an energetic, vocal presence that’s often the first one talking in the gym. That can of enthusiasm tends to affect those around him.
"That’s what I love about him," Allen said of Banks. "He brings out my more energetic side.”
For Smart, a naturally energetic coach now tasked with replacing three four-year interior mainstays, as well as a trio of guards headlined by Isaiah Taylor, Allen’s comments are music to his ears. But even more so are Banks comments about understanding who their predecessors were and lofty expectations of their own, per HookEm.com.
“Of course, Cam Ridley and Prince Ibeh were amazing players,” Banks said. “But I expect to come in, and I expect him to come in, and be phenomenal as well. We see ourselves as a nice 1-2 punch.”
That punch will consist of Banks, a solid, left-hand jab and Allen, a deal-sealing knockout punch-caliber talent who was quite literally that for Texas’ No. 6 ranked class. They’re complete opposites in both personality and style on the court and together, they’re exactly what Texas needed to bypass a rebuild and play at the level expected in Austin. Luckily for the burnt orange nation, the bond and chemistry between the two has gotten off to a head start courtesy of opportunities with Team USA under the guidance of the ‘Horns head coach.
"I'm really grateful that those guys are actually on our Texas team," Smart said of his incoming big men, via TexasSports.com.
What once seemed like considerable concern for Texas’ future in the frontcourt now appears to be a two-chapter book — two drastically different portions that make for the perfect basketball story.
"They're two special guys," Smart said. "And the great thing about them is, they're so very different and I think that they really compliment each other."