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Matt Coleman named one of the most important players in the Big 12

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The junior point guard needs to take the next step as a player for the Longhorns to take the next step as a program.

NCAA Basketball: NIT Final Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

In a guard-driven league, three of the five most important players in the Big 12 next season will play that position, according to NCAA.com’s Andy Katz, who named Texas Longhorns junior point guard Matt Coleman as one of those five players.

“The Longhorns lost Kerwin Roach II, Jaxson Hayes and Dylan Osetkowski,” Katz wrote. “The next man up is Coleman. He’s ready for the challenge to be the extension of Shaka Smart. If he can shoulder the responsibility of being the go-to perimeter scorer and the lead on D, then Texas can once again be in the chase for an NCAA tournament bid. The hype will be on freshman center Will Baker, but he needs Coleman to deliver him the ball and keep the pressure atop the perimeter.”

Coleman arrived in Austin two years ago as the nation’s No. 11 point guard, according to the 247Sports Composite, and the player who was supposed to help turn around head coach Shaka Smart’s program after a year without a true lead ball handler.

Through his first two seasons, Coleman hasn’t lived up to expectations, with the biggest disappointment the lack of development between his freshman and sophomore seasons — he improved his three-point shooting, but his overall shooting percentage dropped and he continued to struggle with foul problems. Most of his other statistics basically remained static.

Besides staying on the court more consistently and scoring more efficiently, the biggest necessary steps for Coleman are for his leadership to be “more salt than sugar” and to play with the joy that defines him when he’s at his best.

According to Smart, Coleman thinks the most like a coach of all the Texas players, so he does needs to be an extension of Smart on the court, as Katz mentioned, in addition to taking on bigger roles offensively and defensively.

The third year in a program is often when players truly break out and it’s time for Coleman to do the same as one of the conference’s most important players.