Shaka Smart

Texas lands four-star 2019 wing Donovan Williams

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Texas started its Class of 2019 recruiting efforts in a positive way on Wednesday with a commitment from in-state wing Donovan Williams.

The 6-foot-5 Williams is coming off of a strong summer that saw him elevate near the top 50 in many national recruiting rankings. The versatile Williams was one of the better players in attendance at the NBPA Top 100 Camp before improving his Nike EYBL numbers during the Peach Jam with Houston Hoops.

Williams hails from Fort Bend, as he continues head coach Shaka Smart’s strong streak of in-state recruiting. While the Longhorns have also recruited well at the national level, landing nearby players like Williams has been the key to steady talent coming to Austin the past few seasons.

A late-rising wing guard like Williams is a strong start to the Class of 2019, as Texas will look to find more talent to put around Williams in the hopes of another top-20 class.

Texas lands four-star forward Gerald Liddell

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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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.

Texas’ woes continue with home loss to Kent State

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Texas has problems.

That’s not exactly new information, but the Longhorns’ issue were laid bare Tuesday as they lost at home to Kent State, 63-58, in yet another display of missed free throws, absent 3-point shooting, an inability to clean the glass and bad late-game execution for coach Shaka Smart’s squad.

Before the season, Texas looked as though it could potentially stake a claim as the league’s second-best team – behind Kansas, obviously – with incoming McDonald’s All-American freshman Jarrett Allen and Andrew Jones providing a major infusion of talent to go along with returnees like Kerwin Roach, Tevin Mack, Eric Davis and Shaquille Cleare. The loss of Isaiah Taylor was going to hurt, sure, but in what was supposed to be a down year in the Big 12, it wasn’t far-fetched to see this team contend.

Instead, just two days ahead of league play, it isn’t hard to make the argument Texas is the worst team in the Big 12.

The Longhorns’ resume up to this point had some built-in mitigating factors. Northwestern looks like it might actually get to an NCAA tournament and Colorado has been solid, so losses on a neutral floor in November aren’t major red flags. Nobody is going to feel good to a loss at home to UT-Arlington, but the Mavericks have currently won nine straight, including a victory over St. Mary’s. Setbacks to Michigan and Arkansas don’t seem to be any great sin, either.

Individually, you can reason those losses away. Taken together, though, it paints a pretty unflattering non-conference portrait of Texas. The latest brushstroke, Tuesday’s home loss to the Golden Flashes, brings all that into stark relief.

All of the Longhorns’ troubles were on full display.

Terrible 3-point shooting? Check. Texas, ranked outside the top-300 in 3-point percentage nationally, was 2 of 18 from deep, going nearly 27 minutes between makes.

Awful from the line? You bet. The Longhorns were 14 of 24 (58.3 percent) from the stripe in an effort that will drag down their already poor team mark of 67.2 percent.

Questionable rebounding ability? Rearing its head again. Texas gave up 22 offensive rebounds (over 50 percent of the Flashes’ misses) to give Kent State, which shot 37.7 percent, the leeway to spray and pray.

Late game miscues? Present and accounted for. Down by just one with 1 minute, 17 seconds left, Texas gave up an offensive rebound that led to a layup, missed inside, gave up a dunk, allowed an offensive board on a free throw and surrendered another dunk.

Texas did what Texas has done throughout much of this year, just in maybe more extreme fashion than normal.

The Longhorns appear to be primed to fall far short of preseason expectations which spells potential disaster for them in a Big 12 that looks as though it will far exceed preseason expectations. In what was supposed to be a down year, Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia all appear to be potential top-10 teams while Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and TCU have combined for just eight losses.

That would be a major problem for most coaches at a school as resource-rich as Texas, but in Austin, it might not produce more than a few grumbles from the dedicated few bona fide basketball fans. The rest of the fanbase will be too fixated in getting around-the-clock updates on what Tom Herman and the football program are up to.

At many schools, fan passion and interest is often a selling point for administrators trying to lure coaches to run their programs. At Texas, the opposite may be true. Basketball mediocrity can be tolerated long enough for a coach to find his footing while football garners the bulk of the interest and ire.

Smart’s success on the recruiting trail and his track record at VCU strongly suggest he’ll get Texas moving in the right direction, even if it take a more roundabout detour than most were expecting. The great thing about the Texas job is that many might not really take notice until those wins start arriving in a year or two.

Texas bolsters 2017 frontcourt

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Shaka Smart has added another four-star forward to his 2017 recruiting class.

Texas picked up a commitment Tuesday from 6-foot-8 Jericho Sims of Minnesota, according to multiple reports.

Sims, who visited Texas this past weekend, is ranked in the top-50 by Scout and in the top-75 by ESPN and 247Sports. He joins Royce Hamm, a top-100 forward from Houston, as members Smart’s second recruiting class at Texas.

“Jericho Sims is a late-blooming big man who has a lot of room to grow in terms of upside,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “A good athlete with a good frame to work with, Sims should help immediately on the glass and defensively but his offense will be a work in progress.

“Texas has a large recruiting class and targeted Sims later than many, so this is a nice commitment for the Longhorns.”

The commitment represents a significant get for the Longhorns, who beat out the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Ohio State, Connecticut and Sims’ hometown Gophers, whom his father played basketball for in the 1970s and his brother football more recently.

Sims and Hamm both are players that could help Smart and his staff transition more back to the Havoc style of play Smart employed at VCU as both have the length, speed and athleticism to help the Longhorns dial up the pressure and push tempo.

Texas lands five-star 2016 power forward Allen

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With Marques Bolden having committed to Duke, there was one elite front court prospect on the board in the Class of 2016 who had yet to make his college decision. 6-foot-10 power forward Jarrett Allen, ranked 15th in the class by Rivals.com, was down to Texas and Houston as possible destinations as of late April (Kansas was also viewed as a possibility earlier this spring).

Friday morning he made his decision in low-key fashion, simply signing a grant-in-aid agreement to join Shaka Smart’s program at Texas. News of Allen’s signing was first reported by Scout.com.

By keeping Allen, who attended St. Stephen’s Episcopal HS in Austin and was a McDonald’s All-American, in town the Longhorns have wrapped up one of the top recruiting classes in the country. Allen joins a freshman class that includes guards Andrew Jones and Jacob Young, and 6-foot-11 center James Banks.

Texas also made some additions on the transfer front, with former Tulane forward Dylan Osetkowski having to sit out the 2016-17 season and former Little Rock forward Mareik Isom being eligible to play immediately.

Given the amount of production lost in the front court, Texas needed one more addition to join Banks and holdover Shaquille Cleare. And in Allen, the Longhorns add a talented prospect whose length and athleticism make him a good fit for what Texas will look to do moving forward when it comes to front court prospects.

Texas guard Taylor hires agent, will remain in NBA Draft

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Texas became considerably less experienced at the point guard position Thursday, as junior Isaiah Taylor announced that he has decided to hire an agent and remain in the 2016 NBA Draft pool. This past season Taylor averaged 15.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in his lone season playing for head coach Shaka Smart.

The Longhorns also lost senior Javan Felix from their perimeter rotation, but there is some young talent at Smart’s disposal as he looks to build on this season’s trip to the NCAA tournament.

Kendal Yancy will be a senior next season, with Kerwin Roach, Tevin Mack and Eric Davis Jr. all being sophomore. And in addition to that quartet of returnees the Longhorns add freshmen Andrew Jones and Jacob Young. Texas will have to account for the experience lost due to Taylor’s departure, but the cupboard isn’t bare either.

Taylor put together his best season under Smart, with his averages increasing as did his percentages from the field (42.0 percent) and from three (31.1 percent). DraftExpress.com has Taylor ranked 13th amongst college juniors, and he was projected to be a second round pick in next year’s draft.