If Shaka Smart has accomplished only one thing throughout his 16 months at Texas thus far, it’s proving his recruiting prowess. Smart’s first full recruiting cycle provided the Forty Acres with a top five class, headlined by two McDonald’s All-Americans, and the current recruiting landscape suggests his 2017 class will be even more noteworthy. To this point, Texas’ only 2017 pledge is four-star power forward Royce Hamm, but there’s reason to believe Smart’s second class in Austin wraps up as his most illustrious to date.
Though Texas is still in the mix for a few handfuls of significant targets, here’s a look at whom I expect to ultimately become Longhorns.
Matt Coleman – 4-star PG
At the point, the consensus expectation is for Oak Hill Academy point guard Matt Coleman to take his talents to Texas. The well-known connection between the Longhorns and the Virginia native is found in Smart, who’s pursued Coleman since he arrived in Austin, and even dating back to his days at VCU. More recently, Coleman ran the show as the starting floor general for the Team USA U18 squad, which Smart was the head coach of. Not to mention, two of his teammates were current Longhorns, which certainly couldn’t hurt anything.
The four-star guard has raved about Smart on multiple occasion and came away from an unofficial summer visit just as impressed with the campus, facilities and how the staff envisions him fitting in. With an official visit planned for the fall, Smart and his assistant coaches should be able to solidify landing the presumed Longhorn lock.
Virginia, Indiana and UConn are also potential landing spots, but not realistic threats to Texas outside of a fairly significant surprise.
Charles O’Bannon – 4-star SG
Charles O’Bannon Jr. is a difficult recruit to get a gauge on due to few distinguishable updates throughout his recruitment. The Bishop Gorman product recently released a top eight, which included Texas, but other than that, O’Bannon’s recruitment has been fairly quite.
Based on the few reports regarding the nation’s No. 5 shooting guard, it’s clear O’Bannon is high on Texas and much higher on Smart. Additionally, he’s noted how much he likes Texas’ facilities, basketball atmosphere and the style of play he’d be in under Smart.
The two teams to watch out for are Washington and more importantly, UCLA, where O’Bannon’s father starred, though, O’Bannon has made it known that he has no problem leaving the west coast. Assuming he does head elsewhere, as I expect him to, my money is on O’Bannon joining Smart in Austin, as is the experts at 247Sports.
P.J. Washington – 5-star PF
Much like Coleman, P.J. Washington’s interest in Texas has been well documented. The Dallas native and Findlay Prep product has been a priority for Texas since Rick Barnes was still in town, and nothing’s changed with Smart, who got the five-star power forward on campus for a visit last summer. Fast-forward to this summer and Washington played for the Smart-coached Team USA squad, alongside Longhorns James Banks and Jarrett Allen, as well as the aforementioned Coleman, another likely Longhorn.
The Team USA experience only bolstered Washington’s interest in Texas, evident in his comments to 247Sports. “He’s a great coach," Washington said of Shaka Smart. "He bonds well with you on and off the floor with everybody. He’s just a wonderful human being. I love playing for him.”
Another noteworthy plus for Texas is Washington being good friends with Coleman and Hamm; Texas’ lone 2017 commit.
Washington, who’s said he likes basically everything about Texas, included the Longhorns as one of the four schools in place to receive an official visit during the fall, along with North Carolina, Kentucky and Arizona. Washington plans to commit shortly thereafter his four officials and despite the allure of the bluebloods, the home state ‘Horns are my pick to land the nation’s No. 6 power forward. Texas holds the last three Crystal Ball projections for Washington.
Brandon Rachal – 4-star CG
The latest word on Natchitoches Central combo guard Brandon Rachal is that he’s very high on the Longhorns. Smart and Texas have been pushing for the four-star talent and hosted Rachal for an unofficial visit in June before making his top nine. Of the nine teams still in contention, Texas and Auburn look to be the most serious suitors, with the known reports indicating Texas is the team to beat.
Rachal has raved about Smart, the program and how he sees the second-year coach building Texas into a powerhouse. At this point, the presumed landing spot is in Austin, where Rachal could help build the powerhouse he envisions.
If Smart’s 2017 class came into formation as expected, Texas would not only finish with what will likely be a top three class, but statistically the highest rated class in Texas basketball history with a 68.10 rating, per 247Sports class calculator. What’s even more impressive is while each of the prospects noted appear to be Texas leans, there are several other big-name talents with high interest in the Longhorns.
Whether these predictions ultimately prove true or not remains to be seen, but clearly evident thus far is Smart’s ability to make Texas a legitimate option for premier talent from around the nation.