The last seven days have easily been among the most eventful of Shaka Smart’s tenure in Austin.
All within the past week, Mohamed Bamba penned his potential program-altering commitment to the Texas Longhorns, Andrew Jones announced that he’s bypassing the NBA Draft and returning to Austin for his sophomore season, and more surprisingly, reports surfaced indicating the ‘Horns are still very much in play for Brian Bowen; the lone uncommitted five-star prospect.
Texas has emerged as a legitimate landing spot for five-star prospect Brian Bowen, per a source. Oregon, UCLA, Creighton, and DePaul in mix.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) May 23, 2017
Most, if not all would agree the Bowen buzz caught the burnt orange nation by surprise, albeit a pleasant one. Back in February, Bowen released a top five consisting of Michigan State, Arizona, N.C. State, Creighton and of course, Texas, where he officially visited in November.
Much has changed throughout the past three and a half months, though.
Michigan State and Arizona—widely considered the previous favorites—are no longer realistic options, which obviously kicked the door open for a handful of other would-be suitors. Oregon and DePaul have since emerged as legitimate options and meanwhile, Texas essentially fell completely out of perceived contention and has now apparently made a resounding resurgence.
While the industry opinion favors the Ducks and Blue Demons’ chances down the stretch—DePaul recently hired Shane Heirman, Bowen’s head coach at La Lumiere, as an assistant—the potential pairing of Bowen and the burnt orange isn’t as off base as some may believe.
In a recruitment that’s now virtually as difficult to pinpoint and project as Bamba’s once was after seemingly being destined for Michigan State or Arizona just a month ago, here’s an attempt at connecting the dots between “Tugs” and Texas.
All within the last week, Smart’s roster landscape transformed from a likely fringe NCAA Tournament hopeful into a unit that can now enter the season with realistic hopes of a deep NCAA Tournament run. That’s the difference the nation’s No. 2 recruit’s signature and a former McDonald’s All-American’s return to college can make.
Suddenly, Texas appears to primed to make some national noise in 2017-18 and with just one remaining scholarship available and an uncemented role at small forward in the wake of Tevin Mack’s departure, incorporating Bowen and his 22 points per game can be the difference between really good and great.
PG – Matt Coleman
SG – Andrew Jones
SF - ???
PF – Dylan Osetkowski
C – Mohamed Bamba
Common sense says the noted opening on the wing isn’t such a hard thing to sell a five-star prospect on, especially considering Oregon will soon be adding a pair of wings headlined by five-star small forward Troy Brown and DePaul returns a host of lengthy talent on the perimeter including Eli Cain, Tre’Darius McCallum, Brandon Cyrus and Joe Hanel. While Texas does have options such as Kerwin Roach Jr. and Eric Davis Jr. looking for bounce-back seasons as juniors, neither option, nor any on the ‘Horns roster, appear to be as ideal of a fit in the starting lineup as a volume scorer such as Bowen would be.
And speaking of Eric Davis, the Saginaw native is among two of Bowen’s former teammates currently on the Longhorns roster.
As a sophomore, Bowen played alongside Davis at Saginaw Arthur Hill before transferring to national powerhouse La Lumiere and joining James Banks, where they ultimately fell to Matt Coleman’s Oak Hill Academy squad in the national championship game. As one may expect, Banks and Davis are doing their due diligence in trying to convince Bowen to rekindle their previous pairings in Austin.
@20tugs We saved the best for last. You're the last one. Gone finish it off— Eric Davis Jr (@EDJ10_) May 18, 2017
Whether those recruiting efforts ultimately pay off as Matt Coleman’s pursuit of Bamba did remains to be seen, but the possibility of Tugs-to-Texas has some traction and it’s pretty clear why.
If the thought of adding another five-star McDonald’s All-American to the fold and finishing with a No. 3-ranked class following an 11-win season still seems difficult to imagine, keep in mind that Smart and the ‘Horns pulled off a crazier feat a week ago today.