With a single emoji and an edit, the recruitment of Federal Way forward Jaden McDaniels ended without warning late Tuesday evening on the West Coast in favor of the hometown Washington Huskies:
The tweet ended a mysterious recruitment that came down to Washington and Kentucky in the final days, though Texas was in the mix when McDaniels released his top five last fall.
In early May, guard Elijah Mitrou-Long opened up a scholarship spot when he announced his intentions to become a graduate transfer after spending two seasons in Austin, so officially missing on McDaniels raises questions about whether head coach Shaka Smart will elect to use that spot at all.
Mitrou-Long’s two years at Texas illustrated the downsides of taking a multi-year transfer making a jump to a bigger program — he sat out a year during which his scholarship was unable to contribute on a court, then wasn’t able to translate his high-usage game from Mount St. Mary’s to a much smaller role in the nation’s best conference.
Regardless of any lessons learned by Smart due to the Mitrou-Long experience, there are several options for the Longhorns regarding this scholarship spot.
Texas could pursue a 2019 prospect, perhaps someone surfacing on the radar late like former UTEP guard signee Brendan Wenzel, who ended up at Utah. Smart could take another transfer without immediate eligibility or a transfer with immediate eligibility. Finally, if there aren’t any ideal fits from any of those avenues, Smart could simply choose not to use the final scholarship and deploy it in the 2020 class.
Let’s walk through those options.
The most appealing option available is former Michigan signee Jalen Wilson, a small forward from Denton Guyer. If the Longhorns hire former Wolverines assistant Luke Yaklich, Wilson’s primary recruiter, it’s possible that Texas could become a factor in Wilson’s recruitment. However, Smart didn’t extend an offer to Wilson during his first recruiting process and the nation’s No. 50 prospect, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, has already set up official visits to Kansas and North Carolina. Wilson also seemingly took notice of Juwan Howard’s reported hire at Michigan.
So any interest between Wilson and the Horns seems relatively unlikely, even if Yaklich does end up in Austin.
Taking a multi-year transfer who has to sit out a year would impact the limited openings in what will likely be a small 2020 class, so that doesn’t loom as the best option.
If Smart does decide to go that route, one potential option is former Oregon point guard Victor Bailey, an Austin McNeil product. On the negative side, Bailey fell out of the rotation for the Ducks late last season, but he did shoot nearly 40 percent from three-point range and protected the basketball well, both skills that would fit well with the Longhorns.
There isn’t any buzz about graduate transfers connected to Texas and there aren’t any major gaps on the roster, either, though perhaps an experienced defender and rebounder in the frontcourt would make sense.
The best available graduate transfer who fits that mold is former UNLV standout Shakur Justion, once a highly-regarded junior college transfer who suffered a knee injury last season and only played in eight games. He scored 14.6 points per game as a junior and added 10.0 rebounds — the 6’7, 220-pounder is an efficient scorer and strong on the glass. However, he’s not a long-range shooter, struggled at the free-throw line, turned the ball over frequently, and isn’t a shot blocker.
Another option is currently in the NBA Draft — former Virginia Tech power forward Kerry Blackshear Jr., who is also under pursuit by Florida, Kentucky, and Texas A&M. The 6’10, 250-pounder has some offensive skill, but he’s not a strong enough defender or rebounder to make him especially appealing for Texas given his other interest.
It’s possible that a player emerges from off the current radar to end up taking that final scholarship spot for the 2019-20 season, but given the lack of a strong graduate transfer fit, the best guess right now is that Texas saves that spot for the 2020 recruiting class.