What’s Next for Texas Men’s Basketball?

It has been a wild 10 days for Texas men’s basketball, culminating in head coach Shaka Smart having more spots to fill than he would have liked.

Future top-five pick Mohamed Bamba was never making it past freshman year, announcing his decision to forego his final three years of eligibility almost immediately after the season ended. Two days after that, sophomore guard Jacob Young decided to transfer. Earlier this week, junior guard Kerwin Roach announced his intention to enter the NBA draft. And, on Wednesday morning, suspended junior guard Eric Davis Jr. followed suit, followed by notice later that afternoon that sophomore center James Banks would transfer. That makes five undergraduate players (and three guards) gone from Shaka Smart’s 2017-18 squad, a team that went 19-15 and was bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the first round by Nevada earlier this month.

That’s a lot of turnover without even considering that sophomore scorer Andrew Jones, in the midst of a battle with leukemia, probably won’t be ready to return to action when next season rolls around. Or that junior power forward Dylan Osetkowski could also opt to turn pro.

So what is Shaka Smart to do?

First, the good news: Shaka Smart is an excellent recruiter. The same man who convinced all of Rick Barnes’ final recruiting class to continue on to Texas after Barnes was fired in 2015; nabbed McDonald’s All-American center Jarrett Allen the following year; and swayed Bamba from Kentucky, Duke, and Michigan has the No. 13 class entering 2018-19, according to 247Sports.com.

Texas has signed the No. 2 player in Texas, small forward Gerald Liddell, and the No. 1 player in Oregon, power forward Kamaka Hepa, plus Cincinnati, Ohio-based power forward Jaxson Hayes (offered by Kentucky, Georgetown, and Ohio State), and local small forward Brock Cunningham, who chose Texas over Oklahoma.

The bad news? There aren’t any guards among that incoming class—yet. Texas is losing three rostered players via graduation in addition to Bamba, Roach, Young, Davis, and Banks, so there’s room to add more guards when the regular signing period begins on April 11. Courtney Ramey, the No. 1 point guard in Missouri, visited Texas on Dec. 28, and has yet to make his decision. Smart and his recruiting team has offered a scholarship to Ramey, and 247Sports says that his chances of coming to Texas are “warm,” for whatever that’s worth. The site also predicts that there is a 52 percent chance he’ll end up at Villanova.

A silver lining to all this uncertainty—especially at the guard position—is that Roach isn’t necessarily gone. While he is declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft, NCAA rules dictate that as long as he doesn’t hire an agent, he can retain his final year of eligibility and return to Texas as long as he removes his name from the draft before 5 p.m. EST on June 11, 10 days before the draft.

In a statement, Roach said: “My family and I talked with Coach Smart and we have all decided that it is best for me to test the waters. We want to see where I may stand in this year’s draft, but we’re also keeping all options open. We want to get the most accurate feedback directly from the NBA, so we can make the best decision for my future.”

Roach is dipping his toes in the water to see where he’ll likely get drafted, or if teams are interested at all. An NBADraft.net mock has Roach going in the second round to Philadelphia. Roach is likely to get an invitation to the NBA Draft Combine, held May 16-20 in Chicago. Depending on how that goes, Roach will either roll the dice in the draft, or return to Texas.

And its not all doom-and-gloom on the roster that remains. Freshman guard Matt Coleman trailed only Osetkowski in minutes last season, averaging 34 per game and starting all 34 games. As the season rolled along, Coleman’s game elevated, and he ended the season with his highest scoring total yet, dropping 25 in a loss. And with Davis suspended after allegedly receiving $1,500 in payments from ASM sports and Jones hospitalized, young guards like freshman Jase Febres picked up some crucial game experience.

Again, the situation Smart faces is in no way ideal, but in college sports, rarely is it ever.

 
 
 

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