For the third time in as many cycles, the headliner of Shaka Smart’s recruiting class came in the form of his final pledge.
After Kamaka Hepa, Gerald Liddell, Jaxson Hayes, and Brock Cunningham each inked an NLI with the Texas Longhorns during the early signing period, Saint Louis (Mo.) Webster Groves point guard Courtney Ramey, a former Louisville commit, prolonged his second recruitment well into the spring. On April 27, after entertaining interest from Louisville, Missouri, and Oklahoma State, among numerous others, Ramey relied upon a long-standing relationship and joined Smart’s latest top 10 class at Texas.
“Coach Smart of the University of Texas and his staff has recruited me the longest and has always made me a top priority,” Ramey said in his announcement.
Per my son Courtney Ramey words: "After a long deligent process on which me and my family did our best to keep it just between us, the time has come after a lot of prayer and being very patient. I have finally decided on the school I want to attend:" pic.twitter.com/L4uW0GWvtY— Terrell Ramey (@Rameybasketball) April 27, 2018
A four-star floor general, Ramey was not only the most coveted and highly ranked talent to sign with Texas this cycle at No. 41 nationally, per the 247Sports Composite, but to an extent, he was gift-wrapped and presented to Smart on a Derby City platter as Rick Pitino’s parting gift. A long-standing relationship with Smart aside, Louisville is Ramey’s dream school and prior to Sept. 27, the Missouri product was on board with the Cardinals and their Hall of Fame coach, who knows a quality floor general when he sees one. However, as scrutiny intensified regarding Pitino’s alleged role in an FBI probe, the tea leaves pointed towards his ultimate termination, and thus, Ramey re-opened his recruitment.
Exactly seven months later, Ramey joined the burnt orange nation, adding another layer of versatility to what should become a fairly formidable backcourt in 2018-19.
With Kerwin Roach II recently announcing his return to Texas for a final season, where he’ll join incumbent starting point guard Matt Coleman, Ramey won’t be required to shoulder a significant offensive load during his debut season, as Coleman was as a freshman. Ramey is likely in for a reserve role off the bench, but given his skill set, he'll allow Smart to tinker with a variety of units as he discovers which lineups provide the most offensive firepower — an area that must be addressed after Texas ranked 221st in scoring last season (72.1).
Ramey can certainly help to that end.
The leading scorer in Webster Groves history after totaling 1,838 points, Ramey can produce points from all three levels and do so in a fluid and efficient manner. A confident shooter beyond the arc, Ramey converted 39.2 percent of his three-point attempts last season, which would be better than any returning Longhorn if he were able to match that productivity as a freshman.
“He’s really shot the ball well in our skill workout; probably better than any of our other guards. His work ethic has been terrific,” Smart said of Ramey, adding that he was in the gym at 6:00 a.m. ahead of a 6:45 a.m. workout. Despite his sharpshooting touch, though, courtesy of a crafty handle and the quickness to beat defenders off the dribble with either hand, Ramey was more heavily reliant upon his ability to get to the rim at will or pull up for an increasingly underutilized mid-range jumper. For example, only 31.9 percent of Ramey’s field goal attempts last season came from beyond the arc, which speaks more to his willingness to assert himself offensively, as he still averaged 4.2 three-point attempts per game.
That scoring potential may be what gets Ramey on the floor at first, but it’s what he does elsewhere that will allow Ramey to cement his role in the rotation as he acclimates to the talent and experience around him. In addition to his scoring prowess — he averaged 21.8 points per game last season — Ramey finished as Webster Groves all-time assist leader (521), and ranks second in rebounds (741) and steals (201).
Bearing in mind his skill set and the perimeter talent that will surround him, Ramey’s role may often be defined by who he’s sharing the court with.
On the surface, considering Mount St. Mary’s transfer Elijah Mitrou-Long is the most likely starter alongside Coleman and Roach, Ramey’s projected role is that of a backup point guard. However, Coleman averaged 34 minutes per game last season, which means aside from that handful of minutes Ramey is required to serve as the team’s primary facilitator, he’ll be playing alongside some combination of Coleman, Roach, Long, Jase Febres, fellow four-star freshman wing Gerald Liddell, and potentially a healthy Andrew Jones.
“The exciting thing is he has some older guards to lean on and depend on and learn from, and he’s been very open to that,” Smart said of Ramey.
The most likely scenario is that Ramey’s minutes will be divided fairly evenly between duties as a lead facilitator, and an off-ball scorer and secondary ball handler.
Despite his scoring upside, Ramey is unquestionably a true point guard with excellent court vision and a feel for when and where to make the right pass. These attributes and Texas’ projected depth on the perimeter should allow Smart to alleviate a small portion of Coleman’s workload — likely a drop to 30-31 minutes per game — and hand Ramey the offensive reins for 9-10 minutes per contest. For the other 7-10 minutes, Ramey’s aforementioned shooting touch and willingness to assert himself should add another dimension to a Texas offense in which Ramey will almost always be the third or fourth option, as Coleman, Roach, Long (considering his final season at Mount St. Mary’s), and Dylan Osetkowski totaled 42.8 field goal attempts per game last season.
If the stars align properly on that side of the court, Ramey’s presence could prove especially positive for a Longhorns offense that’s remained largely sub-par under Smart. Not to mention, when he’s running alongside Coleman, Ramey’s comfort handling the ball and putting others in position to score should add some much-needed life and fluidity to an offense that was, at times last season, Coleman dribbling and four guys standing around the perimeter waiting for something to happen.
Beyond the ball handling and offensive savvy, Ramey’s presence may also be felt on the glass, as he’s an effective and willing offensive rebounder who snagged 50 offensive boards last season.
Ramey’s versatility should be equally as evident on the other end of the floor.
An excellent on-ball defender who can be tenacious when engaged, which is far more often than not, Ramey is now listed at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds. With a frame quite similar to that of Roach, Ramey has the length to defend multiple positions and more notably, he possesses the defensive motor to do so.
Package this entire skill set into one player, and at the high school level, you get a proven winner. Ramey capped his high school career in convincing fashion, as he poured on 27 points, six assists, and six rebounds in a 101-90 win over Chaminade College Prep to net Webster Groves its second state title in as many seasons.
Of course, capturing titles at the collegiate level won’t come quite as easily, especially in a conference Kansas has dominated for nearly a full decade and a half, but Ramey is another essential piece in what appears to be a Texas roster most closely capable of executing what Smart found so much success with at VCU.
“[Ramey’s] a terrific player with high competitive character that makes people around him better,” Smart said after Ramey signed in NLI. “We value the fact that Courtney is about relationships and winning. His playmaking ability and leadership tie together an already talented class.”
Burnt Orange Nation also previewed four-star power forward Kamaka Hepa here.