Despite having only hauled in one commitment during the first six months as the Texas Longhorns head basketball coach, Shaka Smart and his staff have provided plenty of reason for optimism for the future of Texas hoops, and more specifically, potential success on the recruiting front. Even with the misses, it’s been quite impressive for Smart, after only a handful of months at the helm, to have Texas heavily in the run to land numerous four and five-star recruits, such as in-state guard De’Aaron Fox.
But as Texas has fallen out of consideration for one recruit after another for various reasons, September has been a rather up-and-down month for the Horns’ recruiting efforts, with the last week being especially brutal with key targets heading elsewhere.
Key Texas Misses
No Texas miss looms larger than four-star power forward Javin DeLaurier’s commitment to the Duke Blue Devils over Texas and Notre Dame Sunday afternoon.
For the majority of his recruitment, the Longhorns were considered the favorite to land the Virginia native, whom Smart had been pursuing since his days at VCU. But since Coach K and Duke swooped in about two weeks ago amped up their pursuit, Texas quickly became and afterthought. Considering DeLaurier was one of the final remaining big men targets on the Longhorns 2016 wish list, which will be crucial for the season after Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert all depart following graduation, Texas’ need for a talented big man is increasing while the talent pool decreases.
Last Monday, the Longhorns saw two targets commit to programs not named Texas. Amir Coffey elected to remain in-state after committing to the Golden Gophers over the Longhorns. Smart and the Horns’ were among the frontrunners to land the four-star shooting guard, but it was basically a foregone conclusion that it would take some luck and a prayer to lure the Hopkins product out of his home state. Additionally, Cameron McGriff, a three-star small forward hailing from South Grand Prairie, Tx., headed out of state to join Travis Ford and Oklahoma State.
Recent Texas Target Visits
Obviously, missing out of key targets nearly always serves as a sign of disappointment, even if just for the simple fact that a highly sought-after talent won’t be in burnt orange in college. But there’s certainly no shortage of good news to be relayed.
I’ll begin with the best news Texas has received since the commitment of 2016 guard Jacob Young back in June.
Last Wednesday, amidst a slew of Texas targets committing elsewhere, the Longhorns’ highest-priority, five-star center and Austin native Jarrett Allen, released his final eight schools and Texas is still standing.
My final 8 schools.... pic.twitter.com/79u6c4sUTj— Jarrett Allen (@JarrettAllen55) September 23, 2015
While Texas making the cut for the Austin big man doesn’t come as a surprise, considering the Longhorns have been viewed as the heavy favorite for his entire recruitment, it will be interesting to see how the home state hopefuls fare against some of the nation’s powerhouses.
To put it simply, Allen is a can’t-miss recruit for the Longhorns. As of now, Texas will have a very limited frontcourt in 2016. As the most highly coveted target left on the Longhorns board, Smart’s first true test will be keeping Allen at home and filling a position of desperate need.
Allen took an unofficial visit to campus September 5, and Smart reportedly stopped in to visit him at practice recently.
Another extremely talented in-state talent the Horns’ would love to keep home is the Irving product and four-star combo guard, Andrew Jones. Texas made Jones’ recent list cut and remains in the top seven, but it appears to be a clear two-horse race between the Longhorns and Wildcats, with Arizona viewed as the favorite.
Both have been quite active in his recruitment, with Arizona hosting Jones for an unofficial visit September 10, with Texas hosting a UV two days later for Alumni weekend, while Kevin Durant, T.J. Ford, Tristan Thompson and Myles Turner were on campus. Jones reportedly was able to play in a pickup game with Durant and Ford, which surely aided in the allure of coming to Texas and being able to join those two as a Longhorn legend.
Jones also took a UV to Texas August 4. Both, Texas and Arizona had in-home visits with Jones in September, as well.
Finally, Texas hosted two key targets over the past weekend, beginning with San Antonio Churchill’s Clevon Brown on Friday. This wasn’t the first time Brown, the three-star power forward visited, as he took a UV back on August 3.
At this point, the Longhorns only competition to land the in-state product is Vanderbilt, as Brown’s AAU coach, Seth Engelken said Brown will choose between the two. Brown took an OV to Vandy September 11, so it will be interesting to see if Texas making the final impression impacts his decision. The Longhorns are currently projected as the landing spot for Brown.
Lastly, Texas hosted Braxton Blackwell over the weekend, and despite already having a fair amount of wing depth likely to return for 2016, Smart would certainly be ecstatic with a commitment from the four-star Mouth Of Wilson (Va.) forward.
As it stands, Vanderbilt is the favorite for the Nashville native, but the weekend visit for Blackwell could swing things into Texas’ favor. Rumor has it, Blackwell really enjoyed the pace and enthusiasm Texas plays with, loves the city of Austin and really sees where he could fit within Smart’s offense.
Despite the recent misses, Texas is still being very heavily considered by a nice handful of tremendous talents. Obviously, Smart can’t land all of them, but adding two or three could certainly overcome Texas’ recent recruiting misfortunes and allow Smart to conclude his first recruitment cycle with a top 10 class.
And considering a majority of Texas’ misses, both old and new, are largely due to recruits not being sure of how Smart’s system will translate to a much more competitive conference, time will likely be the biggest obstacle for Smart bring elite talent to Austin. Once the wins start coming, the recruits will follow.