Despite only being the latest Texas Longhorns basketball brain trust for just over three months, Shaka Smart has done a rather considerable job proving his worth in short order, especially on the recruiting trail. Within 24 hours of his hiring, Smart had already extended multiple offers in addition to walking into a handful of recruiting tasks within the program at the time.
As I noted in my previous recruiting update, Smart was immediately faced with the chore of not only keeping the two previous Texas commits that Rick Barnes reeled in on board in Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach, but keeping star point guard Isaiah Taylor in Austin for another season after reports suggested he was leaning towards declaring for the NBA Draft. Smart passed both tests and all three are still Longhorns. To add the cherry on top of what was already set to be a talented and deep Texas roster for 2015-16, Smart ultimately brought along with him Tevin Mack, a four-star small forward that committed to Smart at VCU.
With his 2015 class in place, let’s take a look at Smart’s 2016 wish list and where he stands with some coveted recruits in-state and across the nation.
I’ll begin with Jacob Young, as he’s the lone commit for Smart’s 2016 class to this point. The four-star point guard out of Houston (Yates) is a high-volume scorer with great range and the ability to create for himself and his teammates with relative ease. Ranked as the No. 9 overall recruit in Texas, Young’s skill set will allow him to play both guard positions in Smart’s up-tempo offense. Also worth noting that Young is the younger brother of Joe Young – former Oregon star and current Indiana Pacer. Young committed June 30, only 10 days after receiving an offer.
Top Texas Targets
Despite Texas having already receiving a commit from a high-level point guard, there’s no question De’Aaron Fox is the most important recruit on the Longhorns’ board at this point.
Along with being an elite combo guard with the potential to enter Texas as one of the most highly-regarded floor generals to land on the 40 Acres, Fox is a perfect fit for Smart’s system on both ends of the court. The 6’4 Fox, ranked as the nation’s No. 8 overall recruit, can stroke with ease from the perimeter and is even more efficient when attacking the rim.
247Sports ranks Fox as the top prospect in Texas and failing to land elite in-state talent was always one of Barnes biggest criticisms. With Texas being viewed as the early favorite to land Fox, keeping him in the state and making him a Longhorn will be the most convincing test possible for Smart’s recruiting ability thus far. Fox noted in an interview with Scout that Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M, Louisville and Kansas are the schools prioritizing him. Fox unofficially visited Texas April 18 and June 6.
Another reason landing Fox would be such a huge addition is the very real possibility of another highly touted five-star talent following him to Austin, and this time at a position in severe need of a commitment. In a recent interview, Fox mentioned that he and five-star Desoto (TX) center Marques Bolden will likely play together in college. Bolden joined Fox on his unofficial visit to Texas June 6.
At this point, 247Sports Crystal Ball projects Kansas as a heavy favorite for Bolden. He recently noted Texas, Baylor, Duke and Kansas as the schools coming at him the hardest right now. Bolden ranks as the top center in Texas and with Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert all set to conclude their eligibility after next season, Bolden would be a great in-state addition, especially if his arrival was alongside Fox.
While Smart will be working to keep elite recruits in state, he’ll also be tasked with trying to keep five-star big man Jarrett Allen within the Austin city limits. The 6’9 power forward ranks No. 3 overall in Texas and his viewed as a convincing Longhorn lean, but his recruitment has gained some serious steam as of late. To keep Allen from wandering, Smart will have to contend with powerhouses Kentucky, North Carolina and Big 12 foe Kansas. Allen also holds offers from Baylor, Kansas State and SMU, among others.
Five-star Prime Prep (Dallas) shooting guard Terrance Ferguson is yet another high-caliber in-state talent on the Texas radar. Ferguson ranks only behind Fox in Texas, but he may be headed out of state to Kansas, as the Jayhawks staff has been the most active in Ferguson’s recruitment. Ferguson was expected to visit Texas last month, along with Fox and Bolden but canceled and it’s unclear whether he will visit in the near future.
247Sports recently reported Ferguson plans to trim his list down to five schools at the end of the summer. There’s little insight as two where Texas stands on that list as of now, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Texas remain in contention, nor miss on Ferguson.
While it may be a longshot for Texas to land Ferguson, another in-state shooting guard is on Smart’s priority list and it’s much more likely that four-star Seven Lakes (Katy) product Kameron McGusty could boast burnt orange upon his college decision. In a recent interview with Orangebloods, the flashy 6’5 guard raved about how active the Horns have been in his recruitment as of late.
"I would have to say they are probably recruiting me the most. They call every day. They've been on me. There isn't a day I go without talking to one of them whether it's Shaka Smart or coach Horn. I talk to them every day."
The nation’s No. 8 ranked shooting guard received an offer April 14 and took an unofficial visit May 30.
Although he doesn’t currently hold an offer from Texas, four-star small forward Cameron McGriff is another guy to keep an eye on. Physically, McGriff is a beast that runs the floor well and competes on both sides of the ball. He took an unofficial visit to Texas June 26.
Out Of State Priorities
Four-star power forward Javin DeLaurier isn’t someone that’s new on Smart’s radar. In fact, Smart was heavily recruiting the Virginia native during his time at VCU and now that he’s in Texas, he’s continued those efforts and in the most recent update, DeLaurier listed the Longhorns as one of the six schools standing out to him. This isn’t a surprise with Smart already having been in touch with DeLaurier far before stepping on the 40 Acres.
With DeLaurier’s ability as a two-way forward that runs the floor, plays above the rim and competes defensively, landing DeLaurier will be huge for Texas, especially considering Smart likely won’t walk away with both in-state prizes Bolden and Allen for 2016. 247Sports currently lists DeLaurier as a heavy Texas lean.
Despite USC being viewed as the heavy favorite to land Sierra Canyon (CA) point guard Devearl Ramsey, Smart and the Horns have been extremely active in pursuing the four-star floor general and those efforts aren’t going unnoticed, according to Sierra Canyon head coach Ty Nichols.
"We decided before the summer started that we're going to wait till the end of July and see who shows him the most love - the genuine effort to show that they really want him on campus. Texas is doing that. They're calling, texting. Texas is doing an unbelievable job recruiting Devearl. That's a fact."
Ramsey received a visit from Smart and a Texas offer April 20.
De’Riante Jenkins isn’t a guy who has been on the Longhorns board very long, but the Texas staff has made an impression on the four-star small forward out of Florida nonetheless. In a recent interview with Scout, Jenkins names Texas as one of the three programs making him a priority, along with Clemson and Indiana. 247Sports projects Clemson as the clear favorite to land Jenkins.
As noted earlier, Texas will lose the bulk of their frontcourt production after next season, with the exception being transfer Shaquille Cleare, who should be around for the 2016-17 season. That potential void down low is what makes four-star center James Banks such an intriguing prospect for the Longhorns.
Just as with Jenkins, the Georgia product hasn’t been on Texas’ radar very long, but Smart and Mike Morrell have let their presence be felt in short order, per Orangebloods.
"That's a newer one for me. Coach Smart and Coach [Mike] Morrell have really been recruiting me hard," Banks said. "They seem to have a really good program. Since it is a new offer, I still have a lot more to learn about their program, but it should be a good look. Texas has had a lot of pros come out at the forward position like Lamarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant."
Texas should benefit from extended time before a decision from Banks and the history of former Longhorn big men who have went on to successful NBA careers has certainly seems to have caught Banks’ attention.
Nick Rakocevic, a three-star power forward from Illinois, recently released his top 10 schools and the Longhorns made the cut.
I want to thank all the coaches that have recruited and gave me great opportunities. These are my final 10 schools! pic.twitter.com/jrUqyBl2le— Nick Rakocevic (@nick_rakocevic1) June 27, 2015
Rakocevic currently holds a UT offer and took an unofficial visit January 17. Iowa and Wisconsin are considered the favorites to land the lanky 6’9 forward as of now.
Unlikely Out Of State Targets
Nearly every program in the country would love to add Kobi Simmons, the No. 1 point guard in 2016 to their roster after next season and all but one of those programs will walk away disappointed. Texas threw its name in the mix for the Georgia native with an offer, but at this point, the signs point towards Simmons heading to Kentucky in hopes of becoming the next great Wildcats guard.
DeMatha Catholic (MD) shooting guard Markelle Fultz is another five-star out-of-state target holding a Texas offer, but it’s unlikely that offer ever leads to a commitment. To this point, Arizona, Louisville and Maryland stand as the favorites for Fultz and as far as Texas is concerned, the Horns interest in Fultz doesn’t appear to be mutual.
Rawle Alkins, a five-star shooting guard target out of New York received an offer from Texas May 13 and 247Sports reports mutual interest. But Smart and his staff will be competing with the likes of Kansas and Kentucky in trying to lure the state’s top shooting guard to the bottom of the map.
Four-star small forward Mario Kegler holds an offer from the Horns, but Texas looks like a long shot to lure the Mississippi product to the Lone Star State, to say the least. Arizona State, UConn and Mississippi State are viewed as the favorites to land Kegler, with a handful of other SEC teams right in the mix.
Bruce Brown was the very first recruit to receive an offer from Smart after he was named the Longhorns new head coach. At the time of his offer, the Horns trailed UConn as the favorite for the Vermont Academy (VT) guard and months later, Texas still trails, now behind favorite Indiana, among a handful of other programs.
Braxton Blackwell is a four-star small forward out of Tennessee with interest from the Longhorns. Ranked as the No. 8 small forward in the country, Blackwell received an offer from Texas April 4 and an in-home visit April 19. But despite the efforts to gain favor with the Nashville product, 247Sports Crystal Ball projects Blackweel to remain withing is current region of the country, whether it be Vanderbilt, Indiana, Louisville or Tennessee. Blackwell currently holds 25 total offers.
McDonogh 35 (LA) point guard DeJon Jarreau is the final unlikely out of state target on this list. The nation’s No. 10 point guard holds a Texas offer and although Texas doesn’t seem to be anywhere near a garnering major interest from Jarreau, as the only school with reported major mutual interest is Memphis, the Longhorns should have plenty of time to play catch up with Jarreau appearing to be quite far from a decision. The first step is simply making his next cut.
for everybody.. my top ten list of schools will be out after peach jam!— DeJon Jarreau (@LaDeeky) July 8, 2015
Others Holding Offers
The following recruits currently hold offers from Texas, but have little documented interest in Texas:
· Brison Gresham: 3-star PF (LA)
· Juwan Durham: 4-star PF (FL)
· De’Ron Davis: 4-star PF (CO)
· Jaylen Barford: 4-star CG (JUCO)
· Devonte Green: 3-star PG (NY)
Potential Targets To Watch
From what I’ve gathered, the following are recruits on the Longhorns radar who don’t currently hold an offer with little insight on where Texas stands in their recruitment:
· Curtis Hollis: 3-star SF (interest; no offer)
· Kostas Antetokounpo: 4-star SF
· Curtis Jones: 4-star CG (interest; no offer)
· Andrew Jones: 3-star CG
· Schnider Herard: 4-star C
· Eli Wright: 4-star SG (interest; no offer)
· Carson Edwards: 3-star PG
· DeAndre Williams: SF
· Ryan Gomes: PF
· Juwan Pettigrew: SF
· Daryl Myers Jr.: PG
· Gilbert Thomas: PG
All rankings according to 247Sports Composite.