Much of the reason the 2020-21 Texas Longhorns campaign was considered to be a make or break year for the Shaka Smart era was because the roster was ideally constructed for considerable success. It featured a wealth of talent, experience, and depth all the way down the bench — so much so that Smart’s 2020 class had room for just one member.
The void was filled by Greg Brown III, a five-star forward regarded as a top-10 talent in his class. When Brown joined the class, he completed a peaking roster of 13 scholarship players that featured two former five-stars (Brown and Andrew Jones) and 10 former four-stars.
The depth on hand ensured that there simply wouldn’t be enough minutes to go around, which led to early-season transfers from sophomore center Will Baker and junior forward Gerald Liddell. Then, once the season ended in disappointing fashion to effectively signal the closure of Smart’s time in Austin, sophomore forward Kai Jones declared for the 2021 NBA Draft, senior center Royce Hamm Jr. and sophomore forward Donovan Williams each transferred to UNLV, and junior forward Kamaka Hepa entered transfer portal.
Now, more decisions need to be made as former Texas Tech and new Texas head coach Chris Beard awaits the fate of several other Longhorns, including all five starters.
Texas roster entering 2020-21 season:
- Senior PG Matt Coleman III — TBD
- Junior CG Courtney Ramey — TBD
- RS Junior SG Andrew Jones — Returning
- Freshman PF Greg Brown III — TBD
- Senior C Jericho Sims — TBD
- Sophomore PF Kai Jones — Declared for NBA Draft
- RS Sophomore F Brock Cunningham — Returning
- Senior SG Jase Febres — Returning
- Sophomore SF Donovan Williams — Transferred to UNLV
- Senior C Royce Hamm — Transferred to UNLV
- Junior F Kamaka Hepa — Transferred to Hawaii
- Junior SF Gerald Liddell — Transferred to Alabama State
- Sophomore C Will Baker — Transfered to Nevada
Coleman came to Texas four years ago to play for Smart, so even though he finished his senior season as a borderline NBA prospect, he’ll likely leave the program as opposed to taking advantage of the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility. Jericho Sims developed into a legitimate second round draft prospect as a senior, so there’s seemingly nothing left for him to prove at this level. Similar to Coleman, Brown came to the Forty Acres to play for Smart, and even beyond that, Brown was seen as a one-and-done prospect who’s receiving mid-to-late first round draft projections, so his return would be a surprise.
That isn’t to say Beard isn’t going to try to retain some of Texas’ best talent, though.
“I’m going to do the best I can to keep those guys here if they want to be here and if they understand that we’re trying to win a national championship,” Beard said during his introductory press conference. “Now, not when a new arena is built, not down the line, not let’s strive for it, now. I don’t know why you would ever work to try to do something in the future.”
But to win now, beyond the work to be done on the court, Beard will need several more capable bodies.
All told, of the 13 scholarship players who comprised the Texas roster entering last season, five have elected to transfer, one has entered the draft and three others are likely to follow suit.
As far as the incoming class is concerned, guard Tamar Bates requested his release from the program, while guard Emarion Ellis, forward David Joplin, and forward Keeyan Itejere each flipped their pledge and are following Smart to Marquette. In their place, Beard has since filled those voids with four-star guard Jaylon Tyson, who was previously signed to Beard in Lubbock.
So, save for any late transfers or unexpected returners, Beard will be entering his first offseason as the Horns’ head coach faced with nothing short of a complete roster rebuild, but he’s certainly excelling on that front through the transfer market.
Texas roster outlook entering 2021 offseason:
- Senior CG Courtney Ramey
- RS Senior SG Andrew Jones
- RS Junior F Brock Cunningham
- Senior SG Jase Febres
- Freshman SF Jaylon Tyson — 4-star
- Sophomore PG Devin Askew — Kentucky transfer
- Senior SF Timmy Allen — Utah transfer
- Senior PF Christian Bishop — Creighton transfer
- Junior PF Dylan Disu — Vanderbilt transfer
With five likely openings remaining, Beard’s best opportunity to fill those voids will continue to be the transfer market and his best bet may be to begin with those he coached last season.
Beyond landing the listed trio of Askew, Allen, and Bishop, Beard and Texas have been in contact with McClung. The Horns are also a finalist for the reigning Big Sky Conference MVP, Eastern Washington’s Tanner Groves, and are reportedly in contact with former Oklahoma point guard De’Vion Harmon.
Elsewhere, Texas is among those interested in high-scoring UNLV transfer guard Bryce Hamilton, though his services are in high demand. Of course, as Beard and his staff get settled in, Texas will likely be tied to several more transfer targets, and that’s nothing short of a necessity at this point.
The current Texas roster outlook includes just one big man in Bishop, and the Horns will have no depth to speak of. While that’s certainly less than ideal for a first-year head coach, the considerable needs throughout the roster could work to Beard’s advantage, as he can sell the opportunity for immediate playing time to provide an instant impact.
So, there’s certainly a steep challenge at hand as Beard looks to rebuild the actual roster, but understanding the expected roster turnover in Austin, it’s something Beard is comfortable with in the age of the transfer portal.
“It’s always kind of been in my comfort zone and what I’m used to with roster’s turning over,” Beard said, adding that “We already have a plan. Now it’s time to execute the plan.”