Yes, while Kerwin Roach II won’t be starting the season the way he envisioned, that does not mean his leadership ability takes a back seat. The senior guard will use this setback to grow and learn from his mistakes as he prepares for his next, and final, season with the Texas Longhorns basketball team.
As you have likely read by now, Roach will miss two preseason scrimmages as well as the season opener Eastern Illinois for a violation of team rules.
When Roach returns to action against the Arkansas Razorbacks on November 9, you can expect the senior guard to play with high intensity because he knows he let his team down.
Coming off a year in which he declared for the draft but didn’t sign with an agent before returning, Roach will look to piece together a stronger senior season after averaging 12.3 points per game as a junior in 2017.
The draft process was “cold-blooded,” Roach said, though he admitted that it made him better. Surprisingly enough, Roach said that his process of impressing NBA scouts was about wins instead of a display of skills.
Beyond that assessment, head coach Shaka Smart called his senior his most accomplished player. Where the Texas head coach has challenged Roach is in becoming the best two-way player that he can be — last season, Roach publicly declared his intentions to become the National Defensive Player of the Year, but especially late in the season, his offensive burden impacted his defensive game.
Simply put, Roach didn’t have the energy to be the best perimeter defender on his team or in the conference, much less in the country.
With more depth around him, Roach should be able to improve upon his 2.6 percent steal rate (No. 244 nationally) and finally fulfill his promise as a consistently elite on-ball defender.
“He’s at times been spectacular on defense for us,” Smart said in mid-October. “He’s had games where he’s done a phenomenal job on players who went on to become NBA first-round picks, lottery picks, but he needs to continue to gain a level of consistency there.”
As on defense, the offensive growth from Roach is also about consistency.
As a freshman, Roach was able to provide a spark off the bench, but had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio. As a sophomore, he handled the ball more and turned the ball over more as his efficiency from long range decreased.
Last season, Roach took a massive step forward late in the season when he improved his shooting from deep and his decision-making running the pick and roll — in essence, he started to emerge as a late-game closer for Texas, making the game-winning basket against Oklahoma State and generally showcasing his playmaking ability off the bounce.
Roach led the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game over the last 17 contests while hitting 40 percent from three-point range.
One of the questions for Roach as a senior, then, is whether he can maintain that level of play across an entire season.
So although Roach has faltered with his off-court leadership, as evidenced by his suspension, Smart is most concerned about Roach leading by example on the court.
With Andrew Jones facing an uncertain timetable for his return and contributions on the court, along with several new faces throughout this Texas roster, Roach will undoubtably receive ample opportunities to prove that he made strides with his offensive game and is someone that Smart can rely on throughout the course of a game and season to consistently knock down shots and play high-level defense.
To a significant extent, this is Snoop’s team and everyone else is living in the paradigm created by that reality. He doesn’t want to deal with the uncertainty of living on the bubble as the regular season winds down. And, more than anyone else on the court for the Horns this season, Roach’s play will determine whether that happens.