This article is an excerpt from the soon to be released Smart Texas Basketball 2017, written by Jonny Brashear and Jeff Haley. The book releases on October 23, and you can pre-order now via Amazon Kindle or Apple iTunes.
One of the most important Texas Longhorns this season will be a player new to Texas fans. Dylan Osetkowski graduated from JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, California and accepted a scholarship to play basketball at Tulane. He was a strong, physical forward who was probably carrying a few more pounds than was desirable. After seeing minutes as a freshman he dropped some weight and became a full-time starter as a sophomore, leading his team in rebounding and minutes played. Tulane coach Ed Conroy was fired after the season, and Osetkowski elected to transfer. One of the better available front court transfers that spring, he was contacted by a number of programs and ultimately selected Texas over Arizona.
As we discuss in greater detail in the Offense chapter, one of the key missing pieces for Texas last season was a 4-man who could threaten the defense when catching the ball on the perimeter. During the 2015-2016 season Connor Lammert played this role, while in the 2016-2017 season Smart had nowhere to turn after Tevin Mack was suspended. While Jarrett Allen and Shaq Cleare were effective scorers around the basket, neither had much success making plays when facing up against the defense from outside the three point line.
The Texas Longhorns will score far more easily if Tulane transfer Dylan Osetkowski is successful in this role; based on what we saw in Australia, Osetkowski looks up to the task. Shaka Smart’s high ball screen game opens up when the 4-man can hit a shot, and becomes even more potent when this player can pass and attack the basket off the dribble.
In his two seasons at Tulane, Osetkowski showed the ability to do a number of things -- he is a strong and athletic big man who can really hit the glass -- but his shooting ability is something that was hard to get a read on. He wasn’t afraid to shoot threes, but his rate of connecting on them left something to be desired, hitting 32 percent of his 57 chances from long range so far in his D-I career.
One thing we have learned from doing this over the years is that previous seasons’ three point percentages often aren’t all that helpful for predicting the future. This is because very few college players attempt enough threes for us to really be able to get a read on how good they actually are shooting the ball. So we don’t worry so much about Osetkowski only being a 32 percent career three point shooter on a small sample of shots. A player’s willingness to shoot the three, and a coaching staff’s willingness to allow it, are frequently more helpful indicators of actual shooting ability.
What we do worry about is that his free throw shooting, which tends to be a somewhat better indicator of actual shooting ability, also hasn’t been that great. In his two seasons in New Orleans, Osetkowski has only made 61 percent of his free throws. But there is some positive news here -- he did show year over year improvement shooting 48 percent from the line as a freshman and 68 percent from the line as a sophomore. Continuing on something like this trajectory would indicate that Osetkowski will be ready to hit some shots for the Longhorns.
At Tulane, most of Osetkowski’s offensive attempts came on cuts to the basket, on low post touches, and on the offensive glass. Truth is that Osetkowski wasn’t particularly effective operating from the low post at Tulane. He only scored 53 points in 92 logged post up scoring chances in the Synergy database, which is a pretty lousy rate. His struggles were largely due to the fact that he had a hard time putting the ball in the basket, shooting just 30 percent from the floor in post up plays. Osetkowski liked to look for his hook shot or short jump shot chances when he caught the ball on the block, but just didn’t convert very many of them.
But that was then, and this is now. Osetkowski has spent the last 19 months working on his game, and based on what we saw during Texas’ summer exhibition games in Australia he has made considerable strides. He has always been a decent passer with some ball handling ability, and those skills have been further cultivated over the last year and now will be unleashed in the Texas offense. Osetkowski has been given a huge amount of responsibility by Smart -- he has the green light to take off with the ball after pulling down a defensive rebound and lead the break himself, which is something that is going to happen a lot this year. Osetkowski is going to go end to end with the ball often enough that you will get used to it happening.
On the defensive end of the floor, he is a physical rebounder who will help add some muscle to a Texas frontline that will be young and thin. The skill that he absolutely proved in his two seasons in the American Athletic Conference is that he can rebound. His play and temperament suggests that he will get into mild scuffles with opponents from time to time; this combined with his size and diverse skill set is why we think he may remind Longhorn fans on occasion of Jonathan Holmes. If he lives up to this comparison then I think everyone will be pretty happy.
Osetkowski is going to be an important player for the Longhorns this season, and stands a good chance to finish the season in the top three on the team in minutes played, points, and rebounds. The Longhorns will look to get the ball inside to him, and will use him even more as a perimeter shooter and ball handler. Texas will need his experience and physicality.