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What the addition of Max Abmas means for Texas

The Golden Eagles transfer is one of the best pure scorers at the guard position in recent history for the Longhorns.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Oral Roberts vs Duke Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

An offseason that was trending in the wrong direction for new Texas Longhorns head coach Rodney Terry as recently as a week ago started turning around on Saturday with the commitment of former Virginia Cavaliers forward Kadin Shedrick and gained serious momentum on Thursday with the pledge of former Oral Roberts Golden Eagles guard Max Abmas, whose name is pronounced “Ace-miss.”

CBS Sports ranks Abmas as the second-best player in the NCAA transfer portal this offseason with On3 slotting him as the top available point guard, so the proven ability of Abmas makes him a huge addition for the Longhorns as a player with the capability of replacing and perhaps even exceeding the contributions of Marcus Carr, the lead guard for Texas over the last two seasons.

Although Abmas is undersized at 6’0 and lacks ideal length and athleticism, contributing to a lack of interest as a recruit out of Dallas Jesuit, the Oral Roberts transfer led the nation in scoring at 24.5 points per game during the 2020-21 season on the way to earning Lou Henson National Mid-Major Player of the Year honors. Notably, Abmas performed well against high-major opponents that season in addition to helping the Golden Eagles make a run to the Sweet 16 for only the second time in program history.

Against Oklahoma State, Abmas scored 33 points on 6-of-12 shooting from three-point range while making all seven of his free-throw attempts and adding six rebounds and seven assists. A week later, he made four three-pointers against Oklahoma while scoring 20 points.

In the NCAA Tournament, Abmas wasn’t always efficient from three-point line with poor shooting efforts from beyond the arc against North Dakota State and Florida, but he made up for it by getting to the line consistently in those games, hitting 20-of-22 free throws combined and was a better playmaker than he’s shown consistently in his career with 21 assists in those four games. Overall, Abmas averaged 25.8 points per game in those four games, becoming the first player since Steph Curry to score 25 or more points in his first three NCAA Tournament games.

The scoring ability of Abmas is remarkable in its efficiency — he’s a 38.8-percent career three-point shooter despite averaging nearly nine per game and shot 91.9 percent from the free-throw line in 2022-23 on 5.1 attempts per game, just short of his career high of 5.5 attempts per game.

Abmas makes up for his lack of size as a shooter with a quick trigger and a pure stroke that allows him to convert off the dribble and playing off the ball, coming off screens or in pure catch-and shoot situations. Regardless of the situation, Abmas has an elite ability to square up and remain on balance even on contested shots. He also has range well beyond the three-point line, forcing defenses to extend well past the arc.

The shot credibility of Abmas allows him to get quality mid-range looks — he hit 44.9 percent of his two-point shots that did not come at the rim — or get to the basket, where his ability to use his body to create space allows him to finish against bigger players, including at times with his off hand. In 2022-23, he made 57.1 percent of his shots at the rim.

A smart player, Abmas has a strong feel for when he push the ball in transition and also cuts well off the ball, making him an even more difficult player to defend. And even though Abmas lacks high-level athleticism, his ability to change speed and direction combine with his shooting ability and quick first step to make him extremely effective off the bounce.

Abmas is such a high-volume scorer that he isn’t necessarily a pure point guard, but he has proven that he can create for his teammates in the NCAA Tournament and could see his assist numbers improve at Texas with better players around him.

If Tyrese Hunter removes his name from the 2023 NBA Draft and opts to return to school — the most likely outcome — the two players will likely share point-guard duties with Abmas serving as the primary pick-and-roll facilitator, but also creating space for his teammates off the ball by coming off screens and taking advantage of opponents overplaying him with his ability to cut off the ball.

Arguably the best pure scorer Texas has had at the guard position since J’Covan Brown, Abmas is an exciting addition for the Longhorns who should lead the team in scoring and help Terry and his staff fill in roster needs around him out of the portal — playing with him should have some definite appeal with key targets.