"Faster than a speeding bullet…Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!"
While this quote is synonymous with the American superhero, Superman, it’s strikingly applicable to the elite physical capabilities possessed by Texas Longhorns freshman guard Kerwin Roach Jr.
Since arriving on the 40 Acres this offseason after crushing Texas high school track and field records, Roach, the home-state Houston area product has done nothing but impress. Long before suiting up for his first collegiate appearance, Roach earned national praise for a vertical leap that you quite simply have to see to believe.
Them boys up to something they just not just bluffing pic.twitter.com/SRYjH9Ca9x— K2 (@KLR_doce) September 30, 2015
While elite athleticism doesn’t always translate gracefully to the hardwood, where skill, IQ, and precision are essential, early indications suggest Roach isn't going to have any problems showcasing that athleticism quickly and effectively.
To this point, the Longhorns have participated in two preseason scrimmages – the Texas Tip-Off (an intrasquad matchup) and their recent scrimmage against Tarleton State. In both outings, Roach headlined the Longhorns' offensive efforts, leading Texas in scoring with 18 points in the Texas Tip-Off, followed by tying freshman wing Tevin Mack for a game-high 16 points against Tarleton State. Collectively, Roach has connected on 10-19 field goals, including 4-10 from deep and 10-13 from the charity stripe. And most notably, Roach has managed to separate himself statistically while playing only 63 percent of the available minutes – 44 of 70.
Point being, despite Texas’ two appearances being a little misleading statistically – considering 10 Longhorns started in the Texas Tip-Off and played the majority of the contest – Roach’s high-volume productivity in limited opportunities speaks loudly towards his potential since he played only 19 minutes against Tarleton State. To that end, head coach Shaka Smart raved about his explosive freshman guard, per 247Sports:
"His potential is limitless," Smart said. "He’s got the most potential on our team."
While "potential" can often imply future reference, Roach’s potential is such that is should serve as a continual stepping stone from day one, being built upon game after game.
Considering the Longhorns' schedule, that’s exactly the process Roach will likely endure, with Texas pitted against in two tough early-season tests to open the season against Washington in China, along with Texas A&M in the "Battle 4 Atlantis" in the Bahamas. And then, following three considerably underwhelming games against UT-Arlington, Samford, and Texas San Antonio, the Longhorns play host to the North Carolina; owners of college basketball’s preseason No. 1 ranking.
With Texas featuring a slew of veteran guards amidst a backcourt logjam, it’s quite possible that Roach observes more than he participates in the Horns’ three early-season trials. But ultimately, it will be hard to argue against Roach cementing his place as a significant piece of Texas’ rotation, regardless of how deep it may be, and how could you when he’s creating highlight tapes out of defenders like this during his debut against outside competition:
KERWIN. ROACH. JR. The frosh had 16 pts in the 95-61 win over Tarleton State. Oh... and he did this. pic.twitter.com/W38u7G1FMO— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) November 7, 2015
And despite the lack of experience, Roach is far from limited to poster production. In addition to his aforementioned scoring contributions in Texas’ two early sightings, Roach has spread the ball around nicely with seven assists, been active in passing lanes and displayed great confidence and composure orchestrating the offense.
Saw the Kerwin Roach dunk on Sportscenter, but it's the Texas freshman's overall skill level at 6-4 that will impress NBA scouts. Future PG.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) November 7, 2015
Obviously, there isn’t a Longhorn on the roster that will overtake Isaiah Taylor as the lead floor general, but in addition to the Taylor-Roach lineups Smart has in store – which as he notes, will give Texas one of the quickest 1-2 combinations in the country – the majority of Taylor’s relief minutes will likely come through Roach.
Should Roach’s regular season offensive exertions replicate that of his preseason, it’s unlikely that any of the three frosh have a more impactful presence in Smart’s initial season at the helm. He’s the only of the three that can play each position on the wing, quite easily the most skillful athlete, oozes defensive potential, and the ability to create for himself inside-and-out doesn’t hurt in earning minutes on a team looking to rank up points in bunches.
Smart recently said Roach could potentially be the best player on the team. That’s tremendous praise considering Texas’ roster boasts the likes of Taylor and former McDonald’s All-American Cameron Ridley, amidst a slew of proven veteran talent. But based off of every early indication available, does such commendation really come as a surprise?