This year’s recruiting piece is going to be a bit different than previous years, mainly because there’s really only one name to know (his name rhymes with Freg Frown). Instead of going through and listing a series of relatively improbable commitments, I’m going to take a look at the recruiting numbers in upcoming years and chart out a path ahead because it could portend a tumultuous future if it isn’t navigated correctly. As always, if you’re looking for in-depth recruiting info there are others who are more attuned to recruiting than me. Dustin McComas is consistently plugged in to Texas Longhorns basketball recruiting; along with him, Tim Preston, and Justin Wells, you can stay as updated on Texas recruiting as your heart desires. If you want information that’s more national in nature, Kevin Flaherty and Andrew Slater are excellent sources of recruiting information.
Who Texas is Recruiting
Greg Brown (6-9 Forward; Austin, TX)
With all apologies to Bryce Thompson, Karim Mane, and Niels Lane(now committed to Florida), Greg Brown is the player Texas is all-in on. When I say all-in, I mean they’re tucking him into bed at night, singing lullabies, and gently massaging his feet while graduate assistants are burying punji stick traps outside the door to keep Roy Williams, John Calipari, Penny Hardaway, and Bruce Pearl from whispering sweet nothings in his ear. Texas is used to battling one or two of these guys for a recruit, but all four is an Altered Carbon envoy clone deathmatch. Texas is up for it, though, and their proximity to the Austinite is helping their cause. Brown is a rare talent, the type of one-and-done who if you have spent more than an hour on Twitter in the last year, you’ve probably seen at least one of his highlights. He’s built like a shorter Kevin Durant and his game is not entirely dissimilar - though the big caveat is that there are very few guys that size who could shoot like KD at that age - but the comparisons will be made by lazy sportswriters. (Like me, apparently. Let’s move on.) Brown is long, very athletic, has a good handle for his size, and an outside shot good enough to make basically every school you can imagine offer him. He was on the same AAU team as Cade Cunningham, a top-ten recruit who is probably going to Oklahoma State since Mike Boynton hired his brother to “coach” next year. It’s unlikely to happen, but if Brown could convince Cunningham to come to Austin, hoo boy that could be fun as hell. Right now all the crystal ball projections have Brown coming to Texas - and almost all the Cunningham crystal balls point to the Cowboys - but he still has a number of official visits left and the heat will be on from some of the best recruiters in the game.
PROJECTS TO: Kevin Durant, except not. Or maybe? No, definitely not; let’s be conservative and say Kevin Durant crossed with Zion Williamson.
Texas is all-in on Brown like they were for Jarrett Allen and Will Baker because they know he could be the final piece to a team looking to make a deep March run. To wit:
The 2020-2021 Roster
|Seniors (2020-2021)||Matt Coleman (G); Jase Febres (G/F); Royce Hamm (F); Jericho Sims (F)|
|Juniors (2020-2021)||Kamaka Hepa (F); Andrew Jones (G); Gerald Liddell (F); Courtney Ramey (G)|
|Sophomores (2020-2021)||Will Baker (F); Brock Cunningham (F); Kai Jones (F); Donovan Williams (G)|
|Freshmen (2020-2021)||Greg Brown (F)? Maybe one more?|
This lineup is probably a top-ten squad when the season begins and will be the best shot Shaka Smart has had at a Big 12 title since he’s been at Texas. You have starting guards who will easily combine for 200 starts between them, a fully-weaponized Andrew Jones, shooters all over the court, and a frontcourt with at least three guys who can defend & shoot a respectable three. Plus, you’re looking at the second year of a Yaklich-led defense, a team that has been running the same offense for multiple years for the first time in a long time, and depth at every position. AND GREG BROWN. You want to see the cherry-on-top recruiting situation I referenced last year? You’re looking at it here. 2020-2021 is the Texas Longhorns talent cycle peaking harder than a pilled-up raver at EDC Vegas when Steve Aoki throws his third cake.
If this is the situation that unfolds next fall Texas is going to be gunning for something big, and they’re going to need to make something out of it because the next year could be rough. That squad will lose a minimum of five players in Coleman, Febres, Hamm, Sims, and Brown, and potentially more if someone like Baker or Ramey decide to go pro. As small as the 2020 class is likely to be, the 2021 class is probably going to be enormous, because it will have to be. Attrition could be similar to what Texas experienced after Shaka’s first year, when all of Rick Barnes’ seniors and Isaiah Taylor moved on. This means Shaka will have to work some real recruiting magic not to hit the skids in 2021. He could also be dealing with replacing assistants as Luke Yaklich seems to be a hot head coaching candidate sooner than later. Neill Berry is probably going to move on at some point as well, so it’s difficult to say who will be recruiting the 2021 kids. It could be both of them, it could be neither.
There are ways Shaka Smart’s staff can mitigate the serious turnover. For starters, Shaka’s staff will be better acclimated to the recruiting landscape than they were when they were still unpacking their track pants in Austin. They won’t be starting from scratch with the area AAU squads and they will (hopefully) (please god) be selling a deep NCAA Tournament run and (seriously, I need this) recent history as a conference contender as a reason to come to the Forty Acres. They could turn their recruiting efforts inward to see if they can keep the likes of Will Baker, Andrew Jones, and Courtney Ramey in the fold for one more year. Also, they have the grad transfer market and the regular transfer market to shore things up that season provided the non-grad transfers can get immediate eligibility. (The favored son of many Texas fans, Chris Beard, mines the transfer market as heavily as any high-major coach in the business, so it’s a plausible, albeit marginally higher risk option than traditional recruiting.) It could be a way to bring in some veteran talent rather than relying on a half-dozen freshmen to do a ton of heavy lifting in the Big 12. I don’t know if they will be successful at dealing with this issue; I’m barely able to keep an eye on recruiting trends a month from now so predicting 20 months from now is irresponsible even by my standards. If you’re looking for the long-term issue that concerns me the most, this is it.