Nearly two entire seasons into his tenure with the Texas Longhorns, sophomore guard Jase Febres is beginning to look a lot like the elite sharpshooter Shaka Smart recruited out of Houston Westfield in 2016.
Along the way, Febres has provided promising flashes of his perimeter touch, though the consistency Smart sought after was sorely lacking. For example, Febres followed a 23-point explosion (7-of-9 from three) in a Big 12-opening blowout win over Kansas State with nine total points (1-of-8 from three) throughout the next two games, and later succeeded back-to-back 12-point performances (7-of-16 from three) against Texas Tech and Kansas with 12 total points (2-of-10 from three) against Oklahoma and TCU.
Such is the inconsistency of sophomores.
Nevertheless, at a point in the season at which Texas needs every bit of productivity it can find with leading scorer Kerwin Roach II suspended due to a violation of team rules, Febres has caught fire.
Save for the aforementioned win over the Wildcats, Febres had never once hit five threes in a single outing, a near-two-season stretch that included 52 appearances.
However, Febres has now found the net on at least five treys three times in as many games, beginning with a 5-of-15 showing against Oklahoma on Feb. 23.
That was the start of a tremendously successful week for Febres — far and away the most successful stretch of his career, in fact. Febres has since netted 7-of-14 perimeter attempts in an overtime loss to Baylor on Wednesday before besting himself yet again with a career-high 26 points after cashing in on 8-of-10 three-pointers in a much-needed 87-69 blowout win over Iowa State on Saturday.
With Roach still sidelined, the sophomore’s shooting surge against the Cyclones marked the third straight game in which Febres filled those shoes by leading the Longhorns in scoring.
“Honestly, I had a lot of open looks that I had to knock down,” Febres said post-game of his eight threes, which marks the most made by any Longhorn since A.J. Abrams connected on eight against Minnesota in the 2009 NCAA Tournament.
“They kept feeding me, kept finding me,” Febres added.
Febres was on yesterday— Texas Basketball (@TexasMBB) March 3, 2019
Check it out pic.twitter.com/vDjOqFbQp2
“Jase went through a stretch a couple weeks ago of about three, four games where he was just really pressing,” Smart said following Texas’ 17-point win over Iowa State, per the Express-News’ Nick Moyle. “We kept telling him, ‘Hey, man, next one’s in there. You’re fine. And focus on all the other areas where you can help your team.’”
Suddenly, Febres is shooting as sharply as any Longhorn in recent memory.
Bolstered by 20 three-point connections throughout the noted three-game stretch, Febres has now nailed 52 treys throughout the 2018-19 conference slate, now the school record for most threes made during conference action, as Febres surpassed Kevin Durant (50 in 2007) on Saturday.
When paired with his non-conference perimeter performance, Febres is up to 73 made threes thus far on the season, the most for any Longhorns player since J’Covan Brown converted 80 threes in 2011-12.
Surprisingly enough, 39-percent success rate for Febres from deep doesn’t even headline the Horns — that honor belongs to freshman guard Courtney Ramey, who is connecting at a praiseworthy 40 percent clip. Nevertheless, it’s Ramey pointing the praise in the direction of Febres:
Texas G Courtney Ramey on Jase Febres, who hit eight 3s today: "He's a great shooter. One of the best shooters I've ever seen."— Trenton Daeschner (@TrentDaeschner) March 2, 2019
Smart echoed Ramey’s remarks following Febres sensational showing on Saturday, deeming Febres to be the second-best shooter he’s ever coached, trailing only former VCU star and current Phoenix Suns guard Troy Daniels.
“But Jase is ahead of where Troy was at this same stage,” Smart said, via Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman. “He’s got an effortless stroke, and he can get it off in a short amount of time. He’s finding his way in the game and as a person. He’s becoming a man.”
Finding his way and maturing into a man, as Smart put it, couldn’t have come at a better time for Texas.
After the 26 points from Febres headlined the win over Iowa State, Texas is now 16-13 on the season with nine Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 wins. And, of course, every win is now a significant one in regards to the program’s NCAA Tournament résumé.
Febres’ impact was even apparent in the losses to Oklahoma and Baylor, as it was two late triples from Febres in the final three minutes that pulled Texas without two against the Sooners in the final minute, 69-67, while five Febres threes played a key role in the Horns amassing a 19-point cushion over the Bears.
While Texas capturing only one win throughout this sharpshooting stretch from Febres obviously isn’t ideal, the timing of his offensive eruption certainly is as Texas inches towards a potential NCAA Tournament berth.
If Febres can maintain anything close to this level of perimeter productivity, a few more wins may very well be in the Longhorns future before the Big Dance. Perhaps even in it.