For an elite recruit whose eventual college decision will make as much noise as that of five-star power forward Jarrett Allen, his recruitment has been rather quiet. Aside from cutting his college consideration list to eight in September, updates have been few and far between, and Allen's maintained a quality poker face in regards to any schools that may be considered the favorites for the 6-9 McDonald's All-American.
The Texas Longhorns are among the programs still holding hope of landing the Austin-area big man, along with Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Houston, Kansas State, and Indiana.
My final 8 schools.... pic.twitter.com/79u6c4sUTj— Jarrett Allen (@JarrettAllen55) September 23, 2015
For various reasons, one could conclude that the realistic pool of potential college destinations isn't quite as deep as Allen's most recent cuts would suggest. Typically, powerhouses Kentucky and Kansas handpick its crop of five-star talents. But between Kentucky's top-ranked class featuring three five-star big men joining a roster already owning substantial frontcourt talent, and Kansas adding five-star center Udoka Azubuike and four-star power forward Mitch Lightfoot to what will likely be Cheick Diallo, Carlton Bragg, and Landen Lucas manning the paint, limited playing time could be the deciding factor for the likely one-and-done Allen.
The same may be the case for North Carolina, as the Tar Heels are adding four-star center, Tony Bradley, to a frontcourt that will feature power forwards Theo Pinson and Isaiah Hicks, as well as the slim chance that Kennedy Meeks returns to college next season.
K-State and Indiana are still in the running for Allen, but there's been very little noise, if any, that either are legitimate contenders, and both look to be distant afterthoughts at this point. Notre Dame is still a team to consider. The Fighting Irish earned one of Allen's official visits, and will be looking for a high-caliber talent to replace Zach Auguste, but they, too, look like outsiders in a two-horse race where the Texas Longhorns and Houston Cougars are the lone thoroughbreds.
It's no secret -- landing Allen would be of colossal importance to both Texas and Houston. The Cougars haven't seen a five-star talent join the program since Danuel House in 2012, whom played two seasons before transferring to Texas A&M. And adding Allen would make Houston an immediate team to be reckoned with in the AAC, as they've already started making noise without him this season, compiling a 16-7 record with numerous impressive wins.
Houston picks off SMU at home. Cougars could be Top-25 good in 16-17 if they add Jarrett Allen. A big story to watch in the state of Texas.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 2, 2016
The Longhorns, on the other hand, would be just fine without Allen, due to an abundance of quality backcourt talent, but the lack of a bonafide interior presence with Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh, and Connor Lammert all graduating could be the difference between a good Texas team, and a great one next season.
Both programs have obvious selling points for Allen. At Houston, Allen would jump in as an immediate starter and focal point of the program. Considering Allen may likely be a one-and-done, assuming a role as the key player at Houston in the AAC, as opposed to becoming the missing link at Texas in the Big 12, could seem considerably appealing. To put it simply, the competition level in the Big 12 - quite arguably the most competitive conference in the nation for the past 2-3 seasons - is far superior to that of the ACC, so if padded stats for an NBA Draft resume is what Allen seeks, it won't come easily at Texas.
Additionally, while I have no personal insight, I'm sure Houston is selling Allen on the possibility of becoming the guy whose decision and presence changes the landscape of a program, quite similarly to TCU's hopes of landing Marques Bolden. While Texas would greatly benefit from adding Allen, an absolutely loaded perimeter featuring Kerwin Roach Jr., Eric Davis Jr., Tevin Mack, Kendal Yancy, newcomers in four-star point guard, Jacob Young, and five-star McDonald's All-American combo guard, Andrew Jones, and if Texas is lucky, a senior Isaiah Taylor will headline next year's unit, regardless of Allen's presence.
But there is a plus side to that equation. Anyone with eyes can see that Shaka Smart is building something special at Texas, and with a recruiting class that's currently No. 11 in the nation, per 247Sports, there's reason for optimism surrounding the future. Although Allen wouldn't immediately step on the 40 Acres as the key cog, he would be joining a program that's rapidly gaining momentum, and would be able to ease in and develop comfort at the highest level of college basketball, as opposed to being thrown into the fire and expected to produce at a high level; similar to Myles Turner last season. But that said, Allen is a five-star talent for a reason, and understands the value he would bring to Texas from day one, per 247Sports:
"Since they're losing like seven people and a lot of big men, they just want me to fill in right away," Allen said. "That definitely appeals to me."
Based on Allen's recent flurry of unofficial visits to Texas, it's not hard to conclude that there's a lot about Texas that's appealing. Although he still has one official visit remaining, which he's unsure whether it will be used for Texas or North Carolina, the potential Longhorn has been on campus for Texas' January 16 win over Oklahoma State, January 26 victory over TCU, and February 6 win over Texas Tech. As expected, Allen has noticed the development of Texas' bigs under Darrin Horn's guidance, but it's Smart's energy and enthusiasm that's garnered Allen's utmost attention, per 247Sports:
"I feel he just wants to have fun," Allen said. "He's diving on the floor and doing what the kids are doing. He seems like a good coach. He reminds me of Coach (Lamont) King."
Having fun, as Allen noted in a recent interview, is his number one rule for his team. If fun truly is of that much importance to Allen, he won't have to look much further than the product, and the coach currently in Allen's hometown of Austin.
Allen is expected to enjoy the entirety of his recruitment before making a decision in April. While Houston was considered to be the favorite for a large portion of his recruitment, 2016 has seemingly been dominated by Smart and Texas, and 247Sports' last four Crystal Ball projections favor the Longhorns. I expect this projection to come to fruition in just over two months, and Allen committing to Texas would give the Longhorns the nation's No. 5 class, per 247Sports class calculator.
If Allen ultimately does become a Longhorn, here's a glance at the tremendous paper roster Smart and his staff will have to work with entering 2017, although the depth chart would be a complete toss up (* signifies a potential member):
PG: *SR Isaiah Taylor, SO Kerwin Roach Jr.,
SG: SO Eric Davis Jr., FR Jacob Young, JR Joe Schwartz
SF: FR Andrew Jones, SR Kendal Yancy, SR Danny Newsome
PF: *FR Jarrett Allen, SO Tevin Mack, SR Ryan McCLurg
C: SR Shaq Cleare, FR James Banks
While Texas is guaranteed to lose Ridley, Ibeh, Lammert, Demarcus Holland, and Javan Felix, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Baylor, and West Virginia are also losing numerous key pieces. If Allen joined the burnt orange nation, and Taylor decided to return and improve his draft stock in a Buddy Hield-esc fashion, the roster noted above, headlined by one of the nation's elite floor generals with two McDonald's All-Americans joining, would quite arguably be the most impressive in the Big 12.
Whether this logic ultimately plays into Allen's decision remains to be seen, but one would assume he's not blind to the potential next year's unit could have with his commitment and Smart running the show. Between the option to join said roster, playing under a tremendously energetic and fun coach in Shaka Smart, being able to start in college basketball's toughest conference right out of the gates, and staying home to enjoy mama's cooking whenever he pleases, I don't see Allen wandering outside of Austin for college.