Texas Longhorns head coach Shaka Smart was officially named as the head coach for the 2016 U-18 Men's Basketball Team. The team will compete at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship, held in Valdivia, Chile from July 19-23. Smart will be flanked by assistants Kevin Ollie (Connecticut) and Mark Turgeon (Maryland).
Smart takes over coaching duties from Billy Donovan, who helmed the past two U-18 squads in 2014 and 2012. Smart served as an assistant to Donovan on the 2012 team.
Beyond the opportunity to showcase his coaching prowess, Smart also gets a chance to boost recruiting efforts. USA Basketball historically has strong Nike ties, which aligns well with UT's recent decision to re-up with the company.
The roster is typically a mix of incoming college freshmen and high school seniors, with this year's age cutoff of players born after January 1, 1998. It'll give Smart a sneak preview of some of next year's diaper dandies, which potentially could include Texans Jarrett Allen, Marques Bolden, or Terrance Ferguson.
As far as future recruits go, Jarred Vanderbilt from Houston Victory Prep, a top target in the 2017 class, has a good chance of making the team. Vanderbilt was a starter on USA Basketball's 2015 U-16 team that swept the FIBA Americas U-16 Championship. Two 2018 Texans with Longhorn offers, Jaedon Ledee and Gerald Liddell, are extreme longshots to make the U-18 team but also have ties to the USA Basketball program.
Best of luck to Coach Smart and his squad this summer.