The Freshmen Shine at Men’s Basketball Scrimmage

ROACH_YANCY

On Wednesday night, Texas men’s basketball held its first orange and white scrimmage under new head coach Shaka Smart. Held in the 3,000-capacity Gregory Gym, men’s basketball’s stomping grounds until 1977, fans showed up in droves to catch the first real glimpse of Shaka’s new-look team. An hour and a half before doors opened, a line stretched all the way down 21st Street.

A turnout of this size for a scrimmage is pretty surprising, unless you consider all the hype surrounding Smart before his first season at Texas. During pre-game warm-ups, the team had the fans going crazy. Freshman Kerwin Roach showed off his now-famous vertical with some flashy dunks. Senior big man Prince Ibeh threw down a windmill dunk, and casually walked away like it was no big deal as the crowd erupted. Fans constantly switched back and forth from each basket as players upped the stakes with each passing minute.

Once the scrimmage started, the crowd was electrified. All eyes were on the new additions to the team—the three freshmen and Maryland transfer Shaquille Cleare, who sat out all last season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. He drew a lot of hype in his year sitting out and Smart’s high praise of him last week only increased it further. Cleare was on the white team with fellow big man senior Connor Lammert, and together they formed a great defensive duo, each recording five rebounds. Cleare’s biggest issue is something Smart eluded to last week in practice: foul trouble, and tonight was no different as Cleare ended up with four. Ibeh and senior center Cam Ridley also racked up four fouls each on the orange team. All four big men played strong defense with blocks, great coverage, and rebounds, and even scored a handful of points. Foul trouble is definitely going to be a problem down the road for this aggressive defensive team.

But the freshmen trio stole the stage. Guard Tevin Mack was on the orange team while Roach and Eric Davis were on the white team. Roach stayed hot all game, and the crowd seemed to love him. He ended the game with 18 points, the most on either team. He showed off his perimeter shooting and his ability to shoot in the paint, and even racked up a few steals and rebounds. He controlled the game for the white team and stepped up as the leader along with senior Demarcus Holland. Roach and Davis each notched 16 points.

Once Davis got into a rhythm, he was able to show off his shooting ability that he is known for. He knocked down two threes with ease and hustled in the paint for some jump shots. Texas fans were elated to see Davis hit all six of his free throws, which have been a problem for the Longhorns the last few years.

Mack, previously committed to VCU under Shaka Smart, knocked down a pair of threes and grabbed four rebounds. Smart called Mack the best shooter on the team at a media event last week, and Mack backed that up at the scrimmage.

With a team loaded with talent, one may not expect Smart to play the freshmen much.  With their shooting ability, these freshmen showed that they deserve to be on the court, and that they should be big contributors for the Horns this season. With Texas’ new fast-paced and enthusiastic play, fans should get ready for a Texas basketball team they have never seen before. With two of Texas’ big leaders from last year, Jonathan Holmes and Myles Turner, now playing in the NBA, the Longhorn leadership roles are up for grabs. So far, the freshmen are willing bend over backward to snag those roles.

Above: Kendall Yancy defends Kerwin Roach.

Photo courtesy UT Athletics.

 

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