Of the seven talents Shaka Smart has reeled in during his 14 months in Austin with the Texas Longhorns, none have provided more significance that Friday's addition of five-star big man Jarrett Allen. Despite having now turned some of the nation's top high school talent into Longhorns, including two All-Americans and three other four-star recruits, the magnitude of what keeping Allen within the city limits means quite easily trumps any of his previous commitments.
Taking Texas back
Much of the reason Rick Barnes is now coaching at the other UT (Tennessee) is due to Texas becoming a hot-bed for high school talent and Barnes largely failing to wake recruits up to the basketball potential of the state's flagship university. The course of Smart's first full recruiting cycle provided much different results, as landing the duo of Allen and Andrew Jones now gives the Longhorns two of the state's five 2016 McDonald's All-Americans -- only two of the previous 15 committed to Barnes.
More impressively, Smart did so despite his Longhorns grinding through a turbulent season in the daunting Big 12 before yet another First Round NCAA Tournament loss. Now with multiple All-Americans on the roster, an increasingly talented Texas team could see it's postseason misfortunes reversed, which has been noted by elite recruits as a reason for heading elsewhere -- they want to win when it matters most.
Jarrett Allen heightens the ‘Horns hopes
Prior to Allen signing on the dotted line to become a Longhorn, it was four-star La Lumiere center James Banks who was Texas' most impactful recruit. All-American combo guard Andrew Jones is a special two-way talent that the fans in Austin will be lucky to enjoy two seasons of before he likely hears his name called in the early portion of the NBA Draft, but Texas certainly wasn't lacking perimeter talent before Jones committed.
The frontcourt cupboards, on the other hand, were quite bare. Even with senior center Shaquille Cleare and now, Arkansas-Little Rock graduate transfer forward Mareik Isom, it wouldn't be hard to imagine Banks proving the be the most valuable two-way post presence. Smart would be forced to compete with only a three-man interior rotation of marginal talent and a true freshman.
Allen's commitment changes everything.
Now, the Longhorns will feature the projected No. 10 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft anchoring the paint, and it doesn't hurt that his versatility is tailor-made to fit Smart's up-tempo system.
Texas makes the Jarrett Allen news official. Here's Shaka Smart on Allen. pic.twitter.com/2nmuS2e7tc— Chris Hummer (@chris_hummer) June 4, 2016
From his first outing as a Longhorn, Allen's defensive potential will help fill the 445-rebound, 115-block void Prince Ibeh, Connor Lammert and Cameron Ridley left behind. Allen's a terrific rebounder in traffic and is a much better than advertised rim protector, possession the potential to even be elite and follow the footsteps of Ibeh and Myles Turner, whom each earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. Allen's eight total blocks limited minutes during the McDonald's All-American game and Nike Hoop Summit provide proof.
As for the offensive side of things, Allen's quick and accurate outlet passes and ability to push the ball in transition when necessary will only make the lives of Texas' wings easier, which is where the bulk of the scoring will likely come from.
Not to mention, having a 6'10, 227-pound big man with ability to make guard-like plays like the one below will only make Texas that much more of a rubiks cube for opposing defenses.
Jarrett Allen to Terrance Ferguson was fun https://t.co/35kUulG3Oz— Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) April 9, 2016
And similarly to Banks, Allen runs the floor tremendously well and will find his share of looks in transition by simply beating slower, un-attentive defenders down the floor.
This, alone, will provide a considerable step forward in Smart's Longhorns looking more like the fast-paced, up-and-down, try-to-keep-up teams at VCU. In small-ball lineups, Allen can stretch the floor as a center that can get up and down and knock down mid-range jumpers, which could even allow Tevin Mack to play some power forward -- providing the Longhorns with four perimeter weapons; five if Allen can consistently hit from deep.
In bigger rotations, Allen can provide role of a go-to scorer in the paint with his soft touch around the rim, while taking a bit of attention off Cleare if he can improve his footwork a bit, which often overshadowed his fairly impressive low-post arsenal.
But what's arguably the most impressive trait Allen possesses isn't the multi-dimensional two-way talent that made him the No. 17 player in the nation. He's uniquely content in playing his role in the way that a potential star can when there's sufficient talent around him. He simply puts on his hard hat, or in Allen's case, his headband, and goes to work.
With three, if not four 2017 NBA Draft prospects in Allen, Jones, Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis, there will certainly be times when Allen isn't needed to dominate offensively, and he's shown signs of being the kind of selfless talent that puts the team first.
Allen's a high-character, high-caliber player that's seldom seen with the pedestal today's elite recruits are placed upon.
From a sheer talent perspective, Allen's addition not only gives Texas the No. 6 freshman class, per 247Sports, but a legitimate chance to finish second in the Big 12 behind, guess who... Kansas.
With the help of Allen, a few more wins -- more notably in March -- should lead to a few more choice in-state recruits following the route the Austin-native patiently decided to travel. That's how powerhouse programs dominate college basketball, right?