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Shaka Smart’s 2017 class may require all of Texas’ available scholarships

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The ‘Horns head coach may have to juggle limited scholarships with Texas still in the mix with multiple high-level targets.

Photo: USA Basketball

It’s rare in college basketball for a coach and a program to run out of available scholarships, but that’s a problem with which Shaka Smart and the Texas Longhorns may soon be face-to-face. Following an offseason headlined by a rotation’s worth of departures and the arrival of the nation’s fifth-ranked recruiting class, Smart is left with five scholarships to build his 2017 class.

Considering multiple high-level recruits are still considering the ‘Horns, will that be enough?

As it currently stands, following a somewhat surprising pair of four-star commitments from power forward Jericho Sims and shooting guard Jase Febres, Texas has only two available 2017 scholarships remaining. Four-star power forward Royce Hamm—one of Febres’ best friends—committed July 1.

If any current Longhorns, such as Jarrett Allen, Andrew Jones or Kerwin Roach Jr. were to depart for the NBA after the upcoming season, or if Texas saw attrition from transfers, the scholarship total would reflectively increase. But for now, two scholarships remain and it's quite possible that both availabilities are filled before Smart's 2017 class concludes.

The name most commonly mentioned as a likely Texas-bound target is four-star Oak Hill Academy point guard Matt Coleman. That still looks to be the case.

Duke made a late surge in Coleman’s recruitment and still has a chance to land the electric lefty, but time may be running out.

In a recent recruiting update with Rivals, which followed Coleman’s October 11 official visit, Coleman was asked if Duke was now at the top of his list, in which he responded, “I wouldn’t say they’re at the top,” before adding “but they’re inching there.” With his final official visit to Texas looming on October 28, the Blue Devils have started looking elsewhere for a point guard.

Outside of a significant surprise, Coleman will be a Longhorn before long, leaving Texas with only one remaining scholarship.

What happens beyond this point now appears to have much more clarity than what was available only a week ago.

Natchitoches Central combo guard Brandon Rachal and five-star Findlay Prep product P.J. Washington were once considered realistic options. Rachal then committed to LSU Wednesday morning, while Washington is down to Kentucky, North Carolina and Arizona after Texas reportedly backed out of his recruitment the same morning.

Texas is still an option for numerous elite prospects including five-star forwards Mohamed Bamba and Brian Bowen, and four-star forwards Rayshaun Hammonds and Kimani Lawrence, but there’s been little to suggest they’re headed to Austin.

Barring yet another surprise commitment, it appears two legitimate targets still remain in play for the ‘Horns in four-star shooting guard Charles O’Bannon Jr. and five-star small forward Jarred Vanderbilt.

Of the two, O’Bannon Jr. looks to be the more likely target. Despite being a UCLA legacy, his Crystal Ball has always favored Texas, and he’s noted his high interest in the ‘Horns some time back, though, much like Allen last season, O’Bannon’s recruitment has been played pretty close to vest.

But in what could be considered good news for Texas, O’Bannon recently took official visits to UCLA and USC, and though it may be due to him simply not wanting to speak out, neither visit generated much recruiting buzz. Following his upcoming October 21 visit to North Carolina State, O’Bannon will conclude his official visit schedule in Austin on November 11. Smart could get the last say in a recruitment that’s favored Texas from the jump.

Vanderbilt, on the other hand, has seemed to be a bit of a long-shot, but Texas is definitely still in contention here. 247Sports reported that Vanderbilt could potentially visit the 40 Acres during the same weekend as Coleman, which could prove beneficial if Coleman is nearing a decision and plays recruiter for the ‘Horns, as well.

The Victory Prep product recently went in-depth on the teams still in contention for his services, in which he said this about Texas, per Rivals:

“They are making the statement. Back when I was a little kid everybody wanted to go to Texas. Then maybe the last 10 years or so people would leave Texas because they were kind of down but now Coach Smart is bringing it back where people want to stay in Texas and put on for their state. They have three guys already and two of them are in state guys and they are all top 100 guys and I know Royce Hamm and Jase Febres well. They are putting together a great class.”

While Texas would be tasked with outlasting North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and TCU in hopes of securing Vanderbilt’s commitment, his comments on what the deciding factor will be should bode well for the ‘Horns’ chances.

"But mainly it’s going to be the relationships that I build from here on until that time. Who can I connect with the best and feel has my best interests at heart.”

Smart has become renowned for his ability to develop sincere relationships with players and recruits, so there’s reason to feel good about Texas’ chances down the stretch. It’s worth noting, though, that Vanderbilt’s cousin, Corey Barker, was hired as an assistant at TCU over the summer, which is why many perceive the Horned Frogs to be the favorite for the Houston area talent.


Of the two remaining scholarships, it’s beginning to look like a near lock that Coleman ends up in burnt orange, and Texas has long appeared to be the team to beat for O’Bannon Jr. My guess is he ultimately becomes a Longhorn, and if not, Texas is still firmly in the mix and Vanderbilt, which may come down to an in-state battle between Texas and TCU.

Any combination of the two, which still appears quite possible, would provide Smart with yet another top five recruiting class in Austin—his second in as many seasons. And even if Texas landed two of the remaining three realistic options before the third closes his recruitment, don’t expect Texas to quit pursuing the other. Allen is a one-and-done candidate and Roach has garnered NBA interest dating back to his freshman season, as well.

Even in the case of no departures, an additional commitment in the absence of an additional scholarship could result in a situation similar to what brought Jalen Bond to Texas after he originally signed his Letter of Intent with Pittsburgh, as he was advised by the program to head elsewhere.

That’s a bridge Smart may be forced to cross before his 2017 class concludes.