Analysis: Scouting Texas basketball

By: Scottie Bordelon Scottie Bordelon's Twitter account
Published: Friday, November 9, 2018
Texas guard Matt Coleman (2) celebrates a score against TCU during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas guard Matt Coleman (2) celebrates a score against TCU during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)


Shaka Smart’s club did not earn any style points in its 12-point win over Eastern Illinois to open the 2018-19 season on Tuesday. But it wasn’t all that surprising given his top playmaking guard didn't play because of a suspension.

It’s no secret Kerwin Roach, the Longhorns’ most battle-tested guard (62 starts), makes the Longhorns tick. He is expected to return Friday against Arkansas. Smart said earlier this week that Roach has been great in moving on from his off-the-floor hiccup.

“These guys are young kids and sometimes they make mistakes and our job is to hold them accountable for those mistakes, but to also support them in their growth process,” Smart said. “He’s really down about the fact he hasn’t played in a couple of scrimmages. … When we have film sessions, he’s very knowledgeable about what we need to do to create success.”

Texas’ offense scored 106 points per 100 possessions last season with Roach on the floor over 1,500-plus possessions. As the primary ballhandler, the Longhorns were fairly efficient offensively and shot nearly 52 percent on 2-point looks and 35 percent from 3-point range. Without him, Texas was rather woeful on that end, turning the ball over on better than 19 percent of its possessions and scoring just .90 points per trip.

According to HoopLens, three of Roach’s top four performances last season came against good-to-great competition — Duke in the Phil Knight Invitational, vs. Oklahoma, and Nevada in the NCAA Tournament, a game the Longhorns lost 87-83. Roach knocked down 6 of 10 3-point attempts, scored 26 points and played every minute of the overtime loss to Nevada. He also added 18 points on 7 of 9 from the floor, including a highlight reel dunk, in the overtime loss to Duke.

Roach’s posterizing dunk against Duke last season is a prime example of his aggressiveness attacking the basket. He shot nearly 60 percent at the rim as a junior, according to The Stepien, so whoever Mike Anderson decides to match up with him - likely Jalen Harris - will have a challenge on his hands. Smart has challenged his team to attack in the first seven seconds of the shot clock and, with adequate depth, he feels as if it should be able to do so with some consistency.

Roach also proved to be up to the challenge on the defensive end in a few key games, particularly Duke and Alabama, when he held Grayson Allen to 4-11 from the floor and Collin Sexton to eight points on 4-12 shooting in 32 minutes.

Matt Coleman, a 6-2 sophomore guard who started each of Texas’ 34 games last season, averaged 10.2 points and led the Longhorns in assists at 4.1 per game. Smart has asked a lot of Coleman entering this season and believes he has arguably the highest ceiling of any player on the roster. He earned All-Big 12 honorable mention honors as a freshman and dished out 139 assists, which ranked fifth in the conference.

A transfer guard from Mount St. Mary’s, 6-1 Elijah Mitrou-Long brings more experience to the Longhorns’ backcourt. He scored better than 10 points per game in two seasons at his previous school and a team-leading 15 per night as a sophomore. Junior Andrew Jones, who was diagnosed with leukemia in January, could make an impact this season but will likely be brought on slowly. He scored one point and grabbed a rebound in nine minutes in Texas’ opener and has only been allowed to participate in basketball-related activities with the team since late August.

Courtney Ramey, part of Smart’s No. 8 recruiting class, is another dynamic guard to keep an eye on. Anderson recruited Ramey out of Webster Groves High School in St. Louis, where he is the program’s all-time leading scorer. He averaged 22 points, six rebounds and six assists per game as a senior and figures to be a vital part of the Texas bench early on. Sophomore Jase Febres scored nine points on three 3-pointers on Tuesday and gained steam as a contributor late last season when he earned 17 starts over the final 20 games.

“I like their guards,” Anderson said. “They've probably got a little bit more seasoned guards and they've got some guys off the bench. They're very, very athletic and have some quick guards that can jump out of the gym. We're going to have our hands full with this Texas team.”


Forwards like Jarrett Allen and Mo Bamba no longer add star power around the rim for Texas, but plenty of potential and talent remains on Smart’s roster this season, headlined by Dylan Ostekowski and sophomore Jericho Sims.

Osetkowski, a fifth-year senior, is the veteran of the bunch having played two seasons at Tulane prior to transferring to Texas. Like Coleman, he earned Big 12 honorable mention honors after starting in all 34 games a season ago. He reached double figures in scoring in 25 of those games and 10-plus rebounds five times. The Longhorns allowed .99 points per possession with him on the floor in 2017-18 and held opponents to under 48 percent on 2-point attempts.

Texas’ leading returning scorer, Osetkowski could pose defensive resistance at 6-9, 250 pounds when matched up against Daniel Gafford. Sims will be challenged to do the same. Outside of Bamba, who blocked 111 shots last season, the Longhorns did not turn opponents away at the rim often. Sims finished second on the team in that category with 18.

This season, Smart is hoping for Sims to string together stretches of brilliance he showcased in small sample sizes as a freshman in place of Bamba.

“He’s capable of the highlight plays and does some really, really impressive things around the rim,” Smart said of Sims. “Jericho is going to be fascinating to watch. I don’t expect him to be the most consistent guy in the league. I would love that. … He’s been more challenged by teammates and the coaching staff this year (to be productive).”

Jaxson Hayes, a 6-11 freshman who was ranked the No. 89 player in the nation out of Moeller High School in Cincinnati, is perhaps Texas' most intriguing frontcourt player. In high school, Hayes set the program’s single-season record for blocked shots (123) and finished with nine blocks twice as a senior.

It’s impressive for a player who grew up with a football background - Hayes’ father is the Cincinnati Bengals tight ends coach - and did not play on the summer circuit until after his junior year of high school. Smart says Hayes, who recorded both of Texas’ blocked shots against EIU, won’t be a secret to college basketball much longer.

“He’s going to be really, really good,” Smart added. “He has a bright future. His body is still developing and he’s gained around 15 pounds. Any time he struggles, he always comes back with an attitude of something to prove. He’s a fast learner.”

Kamaka Hepa, a 6-9 freshman forward, won Gatorade Player of the Year in Oregon as a senior in high school and twice in Alaska. He was a top-50 recruit, according to Rivals after averaging 16.5 points, 10-plus rebounds and better than six blocks per game. Gerald Liddell, an AAU teammate of Arkansas freshman forward Reggie Chaney, adds to a star-studded freshman class as a 6-8 playmaker around the rim.


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