It took a bit longer than originally expected, but Florida SG Demarcus Croaker finally committed to Rick Barnes and the Texas Longhorns on Tuesday afternoon. He joins Houston PG Isaiah Taylor as the second (and final) piece of the 2013 backcourt class.
Croaker is an extremely underrated recruit nationally (132 overall according to the 247sports composite rankings) who's primarily being overlooked because he's a bit undersized at the off-guard spot and played on an absolutely stacked AAU team with top-10 ranked Florida signees Kasey Hill and Chris Walker and former UT recruit (and KU signee) Joel Embiid.
Let's break down what actually adds up to a pretty big commitment.
Name: Demarcus Croaker
Weight: 175 lbs
High School: Jones (Orlando, FL)
What he does right
Well...pretty much everything. Most importantly, he's an insane scorer. Including dropping 46 earlier this season, which you can see highlights of here. Croaker is a veritable freak athlete (41-inch vertical) and will be on plenty of highlight reels throughout his tenure at Texas.
He's also a very good ball handler who could easily spend some time at the point if need be. I don't think I'd call him a combo guard, but he can definitely get into the lane and drop dimes when his teammates are open. Demarcus started out with a reputation as a pure slasher/athlete type, but his shot has improved enormously this season, to the point where he had a game where he went 7/7 from deep.
He has a sweet stroke, and is the rare three-level scorer nowadays that can score at the rim, from midrange, and from behind the arc. He's probably not a pure shooter quite yet, but his pull-up game is pure butter.
Potentially most important is the rumblings that the coaching staff views Croaker as having lockdown potential on defense, meaning he won't be riding the pine J'Covan Brown/Jordan Hamilton style with Barnes' incessant preference for defensive production over offensive production. This is backed up on his film, which shows a player that's lightning quick and extremely explosive both with the ball and on defense.
Simply put, if the desire to be a great defender is there, he'll be one. I apologize for the extremely vague description of his skill set, but from what I can tell, he honestly doesn't seem to have many tangible weaknesses from his highlight film.
As I alluded to earlier, there's just not much here to improve on. He's a little short for a 2 guard, but at 6'3" he's no shorter than Julien Lewis, who I've never seen struggle much due to his height. There just aren't that many NBA-sized shooting guards in college hoops nowadays. And if they are, they're often playing the 3 spot for their college teams.
Aside from his height, academics have been the other factor in keeping Croaker's recruitment and ranking under the radar. If he here two inches taller and had qualified earlier academically, we'd be talking about a guy Kentucky, Florida, and UNC would be going to war over. Instead of a Texas commitment over Murray State.
So he needs to not slack off school-wise after fighting so hard to get into college in the first place. A few nit picks are continuing to improve the range and consistency on his jumper and get stronger going to and finishing with his left hand. Neither are drastic concerns. More of polishing points.
Lastly, he's got a good deal of lean muscle on him, but like most freshman he'll have to continue adding weight to what could eventually be an extremely powerful frame. Especially if he wants to be a lockdown defender and finish consistently at the rim.
What it means
In case it wasn't patently obvious, I love this pickup for Texas. I think Croaker is a top-50 type in talent, as well as almost assuredly not being one and done due to his height. When you look at the landscape of college hoops nowadays, a lot of the dominant players are scoring 2-guards that are a tad too short or a tad too un-athletic to leave early for the NBA.
You can never have too many pure scorers, especially with a coach like Barnes who isn't known as a proficient instructor of offensive basketball nuances. Croaker is the kind of player who overcomes those deficiencies. He's a multi-faceted weapon on O who can create his own shot or score off the curl cuts Barnes has fallen in love with of late.
And he shouldn't be a weakness as a three-point spacer either. Assuming no transfers, Croaker will likely start as our third off-guard behind McClellan and Juice. Because of his offensive acumen, I expect him to pass his fellow Demarcus -- barring a significant off-season improvement on the scoring end by the latter. Barnes is obviously infatuated with Holland's effort and attitude, but Croaker should be able to offer reasonably comparable defensive production, while providing an infinitely more explosive presence on offense. And in case anybody was wondering, yes, I'm glad we got him instead of Keith Frazier, despite our need for another (read: a) pure shooter.