Texas Longhorns

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Texas lands four-star forward Gerald Liddell

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Texas lands its second in-state four-star prospect this week.

Days after 2018 power forward Brock Cunningham pledged to join the Longhorns, Gerald Liddell, a highly-sought after wing, made his verbal commitment to Texas.

The 6-foot-8 small forward announced his decision on Twitter on Thursday evening.

Liddell had previously cut his lists seven, with Arizona, Baylor, Cal, Oregon, SMU and UCLA as the six other finalists.

The combination of size, versatility, athleticism, and length are ideal for a Shaka Smart team. He’ll be able to play multiple positions and should fit in nicely for an up-tempo team that likes to play in transition.

Liddell played for RM5 Elite in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer. In 16 appearances, he averaged 11.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game, connecting on 41 percent of his attempts from the field.

Rivals lists him as the No. 41 overall recruit in the Class of 2018.

WATCH: T.J. Ford cries in Rick Barnes’ arms following his graduation

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Fourteen years after T.J. Ford left the University of Texas for the NBA he returned to graduate. And his head coach, Rick Barnes, was there to see the former national player of the year receive his diploma.

Ford and Barnes shared an emotional moment when talking to reporters following the ceremony.

As a sophomore in 2003, Ford led the Longhorns to the program’s first Final Four appearance in 56 years. The floor general went on to be named Naismith College Player of the Year and received the John Wooden Award.

Barnes, who is currently the head coach at Tennessee, spent 17 seasons at Texas.

Ford’s No. 11 is retired by the university.

Texas’ Allen to hire agent and stay in draft

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Jarrett Allen has decided that after testing the NBA draft waters, he’s ready to dive in.

The Texas freshman will hire an agent and remain in the draft, the school announced Tuesday.

“It is with mixed emotions that I announce my decision to begin the process of hiring an agent and turning professional,” Allen said in a statement released by Texas. “Throughout this basketball season, I felt I have grown as a basketball player and as a person while learning how to approach and prepare for the game.

“These experiences and my continual improvement throughout this year have provided me the opportunity of a lifetime to live my dream of playing basketball at the highest level. I have had deep discussions with my family as well as coach (Shaka) Smart in making sure this is a sound decision.”

The 6-foot-11 Allen projects as a potential lottery pick after averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in his lone season in Austin. He shot 56.6 percent from the field. He attempted just seven 3-pointers on the year.

Allen came to Texas with many believing he’d ultimately go the one-and-done route, but he struggled some early before truly finding his footing late, leaving some to believe it was a real possibility he’d return to help Smart rebound from an 11-22 Year 2 with the Longhorns with four-star recruit Matt Coleman set to join the team and fill its desperate need at the point guard position.

Instead, Allen will go pro and Smart will have to await the decision of his other McDonald’s All-American freshman, Andrew Jones, who also has declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. If Jones ultimately decides to forego his eligibility and stay in the draft, Smart will be faced with a roster short on proven high-level talent.

The other scenario, though, is that Jones returns and Allen’s departure clears the way for five-star center Mo Bamba to join the Longhorns. The top-five 2017 recruit is reportedly considering Texas, Duke, Michigan and Kentucky as his collegiate destination.

 

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Texas’ Allen to test draft waters

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Texas freshman Jarrett Allen will test the professional waters this spring.

The former McDonald’s All-American will declare for the NBA draft, but will not hire an agent, according to multiple reports.

Allen, a 6-foot-11 forward, averaged 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in his first college season for the Longhorns while shooting 56.6 percent from the floor.

His choice will be an interesting one as he was often seen as a likely one-and-done candidate coming out of high school, but didn’t flourish right from the tip in Austin. He did, however, continue to get better down the stretch run of the season and put up five double-doubles over the last month with three 20-plus point games.

Should he return, though, the Longhorns should be much improved, especially where they needed it the most. Matt Coleman, a four-star recruit from Oak Hill Academy, committed to Texas to give the program the point guard it so desperately needed. Should the rest of the team, including fellow freshman Andrew Jones, return to Texas, Coleman’s presence should help make everyone – and the team – much better after struggling through big portions of last season.

The 2017 draft is generally considered strong, especially at the top, as well, though it is more guard-dominated than 2018 is thought to be.

March Madness 2017: Big 12 Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards

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Big 12 Player of the Year: Frank Mason III, Kansas

Mason’s play this season makes him the no-brainer conference player of the year and perhaps the frontrunner for the national award. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 5.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and a sizzling 49.3 percent from 3-point range for the potential No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

Big 12 Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas

There was a temptation to reward Brad Underwood for Oklahoma State’s turnaround, but it’s impossible not to recognize Self leading his program not only to a 13th-straight conference title, but doing it by four games in the country’s toughest league. Kansas may have the top talent in the league year in and year out, but Self’s presence on the sideline guarantees it comes together year in and year out. This season was no exception.

First-Team All-Big 12:

  • Frank Mason III, Kansas (POY)
  • Monte Morris, Iowa State: The nation’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio is as consistent an elite presence on the floor as there is in the country.
  • Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: The most dynamic and important piece of the country’s best offense, Evans averaged 18.7 points per game.
  • Josh Jackson, Kansas: Mason is Kansas’ MVP, but Jackson is the Jayhawks’ most difficult matchup and is a likely top-five NBA draft pick.
  • Johnathan Motley, Baylor: The big man doubled his rebounding output this season to average a double-double of 17.5 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Second Team All-Big 12:

  • Jevon Carter, West Virginia
  • Jeffrey Carroll, Oklahoma State
  • Devonte Graham, Kansas
  • Deonte Burton, Iowa State
  • Jo Lual-Acuil, Baylor

RELATED: Player of the Year | Coach of the Year | NBC Sports All-Americans

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The thought was coming into the year that the Big 12 would be down this season, but for the fourth-straight year it ranked as the country’s best conference by KenPom. Another thing that didn’t change was Kansas winning the league, making it 13 in a row for the Jayhawks. The league isn’t going to send a huge number to the NCAA tournament this season, but make no mistake, the conference’s round-robin schedule was a grind, making it all the more impressive Kansas cleared the league by four games.

The Bracket

When: March 8-11

Where: Sprint Center; Kansas City, Mo.

Final: Saturday, March 11, 6 p.m.

Favorite: Kansas

The Jayhawks are clearly the class of the Big 12, winning the conference by its largest margin since 2010. Kansas isn’t invulnerable at the Sprint Center, as the rest of the league has more than enough firepower to threaten them, but there’s no argument that makes anyone else the favorite.

And if they lose?: West Virginia

The Mountaineers should have swept Kansas this year. They rocked them in Morgantown, but blew a late lead in spectacular fashion in Lawrence later in the season. Their Press Virginia style seems to seriously bother the Jayhawks, and it could make for a raucous title game.

MORGANTOWN, WV - JANUARY 24: Head coach Bob Huggins of the West Virginia Mountaineers reacts to a call in the second half during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at WVU Coliseum on January 24, 2017 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Bob Huggins (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

Other Contenders:

  • Baylor: The Bears went 2-4 against the top-four of the conference, but their length and the talent of Johnathan Motley makes them an intriguing matchup
  • Iowa State: The Cyclones have won six of their last seven and three members of their core — Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas — who have won two Big 12 tournament titles in their career. They’ve also have claimed wins against each of the other top teams in the league this year.

Sleeper: Oklahoma State

The Cowboys opened the Big 12 slate with six-straight losses, but then won nine of 10 before ending the season with losses to Iowa State and Kansas. Their defense is porous, but their top-ranked KenPom offense, led by point guard Jawun Evans, makes them a legitimate threat to reel off three wins in three days.

The Bubble Dwellers: One

  • Kansas State: Most projections have the Wildcats just on the bad side of the field of 68 line, which means they’ll probably have to score a win against Baylor in the quarterfinals to move the needle. Depending on what happens around the rest of the country, that one more win could be enough to earn a berth.

Defining moment of the season: Kansas erasing a 14-point deficit in the final three minutes at home against West Virginia. This is Peak Phog Allen.

CBT Prediction: Kansas