Tuesday marked the most explosive day of new head coach Chris Beard’s brief tenure with the Texas Longhorns as former Utah Utes forward Timmy Allen and former Kentucky Wildcats point guard Devin Askew both committed to the Longhorns as guard Andrew Jones announced his return for a sixth season on the Forty Acres.
Along with guard Jase Febres, who announced on Monday that he’ll be back for his super senior season, the retention of Febres and Jones provides the Longhorns with some proven shooting ability.
But what about Allen and Askew?
With Askew, Beard is getting a former national recruit who was ranked as the No. 32 player nationally in the 2020 recruiting class out of powerhouse high school Mater Dei in California. Like every other aspect of Kentucky basketball last season, particularly the win-loss record, things didn’t go as planned for Askew in Lexington.
An honor roll student in high school and a finance major at Kentucky, 6’3, 198-pounder is clearly intelligent. He was also a solid multi-sport athlete at Mater Dei, playing football and soccer in addition to basketball.
From Askew’s statistical profile, his shooting ability didn’t translate particularly well as a freshman — after shooting 41.3 percent from three during the Nike EYBL in 2019, Askew only made 27.8 percent on 54 attempts during his season at Kentucky. The relatively low shot volume introduced a higher degree of natural variability for Askew, but the combination of his previous success and his strong free-throw shooting — 80.6 percent — suggests that Askew should improve his three-point shooting at Texas.
While steady year-to-year shooting improvement is common for most college basketball players, Matt Coleman is a useful comparison for Askew. Coleman shot 46.3 percent as a senior at Oak Hill before struggling as a freshman at Texas, hitting only 28.6 percent from three while making 78.7 percent of his free throws. As a sophomore, Coleman improved to 32.6 percent from distance before hitting 39.5 percent as a junior.
So the question isn’t really whether Askew will develop into a better shooter, but how much of a jump he can make as a sophomore and whether that trajectory ends up looking like Coleman’s trajectory.
The strange part of Askew’s statistical profile was his usage rate at Kentucky — he ranked ninth on the team in possessions used (15.6 percent) and ninth in percentage of shots taken (13.5 percent). Simply put, Askew wasn’t a primary playmaker for the Wildcats in terms of creating shots for himself or others, as his 18.7 percent assist rate ranked inside the top 500 nationally, but lagged far behind what Coleman accomplished as a freshman (23.2 percent).
On film, Askew shows up as a solid athlete, but he doesn’t have high-level quickness off the bounce or explosiveness as a leaper. He is, however, comfortable driving left and finishing with his off hand or showing off his type of soft touch on floaters going either direction that help make his outside shot more projectable. Off the bounce, Askew was able to hit mid-range jump shots dribbling to his right and left and drew fouls consistently, nearly cracking the top 200 nationally.
With the low usage rate for Askew last season, the ideal scenario for him and for Texas is getting guard Courtney Ramey back for the 2021-22 season to reduce the pressure on Askew as a playmaker.
Allen should help in that regard, too — the Utah transfer had the ball in his hands a lot last season, ranking in the top 60 in usage rate (29.4 percent) and racking up an assist rate of 23.6 percent, which would have led the Texas team. The 6’6, 198-pounder has some pure scoring ability, averaging 17.3 points per game as a sophomore and 17.2 points per game as a junior.
Like Askew, Allen was able to get to the free-throw line at a high rate by drawing 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes (No. 78 nationally) and then converting at 76.9 percent.
At Utah, Allen often worked in isolation from the right elbow extended, using his back-down game to create shots for himself or find open teammates, as many teams opted to send extra defenders at him to get the ball out of his hands. When Allen couldn’t get touches in that spot, the Utes liked to run him off stagger screens to get him the ball on the move with the opportunity to quickly get downhill.
Playing off the ball, Allen has the ability to cut to open spots and make himself available for his teammates in good scoring position. Off the bounce, Allen can finish with either hand and shows a nice combination of patience and strong footwork when he gets into the paint. He can also serve as the ball handler in pick-and-roll situations.
When Allen struggled as a sophomore, it was because he wasn’t scoring effectively in the mid range and he was being forced to pass out of double teams. The Arizona product not a good outside shooter, either, hitting less than 27 percent from three for his career — Allen needs to have some shooters around him to space to court in order to give him room to operate. So it’s questionable whether playing Allen and guard Brock Cunningham together next season will be a strong fit for Beard since both struggle so much from beyond the arc. But having Jones and Febres back should benefit Allen tremendously.
On defense, the first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2021 is known as a strong perimeter defender who fits the mold of what Beard wants from his players and is able to defend without fouling, averaging only 2.1 fouls called against him per 40 minutes, which would have ranked first on the 2020-21 Texas team.
Allen is the big get here to help Texas “stay old” next season, while Askew looks like the replacement for Coleman who should benefit from playing at least a year with Allen and likely Ramey as primary playmakers before taking over a bigger role in the offense.
In a single day, Beard managed to add two key pieces to his first team on the Forty Acres. Next up? Time to find some frontcourt players.