With the happy decision/return of senior-to-be guard Kerwin Roach now behind us, Texas Basketball can look to the future of the 2018-19 season with a clearer understanding of who they will have and what they are working with.
The roster, as of a few minutes ago was finalized as such…
Jaxson Hayes – Fr.
Dylan Osetkowski – Sr.
Jericho Sims – So.
Royce Hamm – So.
Kamaka Hepa – Fr.
Gerald Liddell – Fr.
Brock Cunningham – Fr.
Jase Febres – So.
Kerwin Roach – Sr.
Andrew Jones – Jr.
Eli Long – Jr.
Courtney Ramey – Fr.
Matt Coleman – So.
A few thoughts on the above…
- It would appear almost set in stone that all of Coleman, Roach, Sims and Osetkowski will start. Who fills in that last spot comes with a lot of variables, such as
1. How much progress has Febres made?
2. How ready to contribute is Liddell?
3. Does Shaka feel comfortable with three ball handlers on the floor at the same time and go with Ramey or Long?
4. What, if anything, can/will Texas get from Jones?
- The backcourt is loaded but a touch one-dimensional for my liking. It’s great to have guards that can “do-it-all”, but they have to actually produce across the board or you simply have a bunch of guys who are okay at everything but don’t excel at anything (this is probably overly pessimistic, but Long and Ramey need to prove they can score/shoot at this level before we can simply count on it).
- The frontcourt is much more straightforward with Osetkowski and Sims likely to both be in the 30+ minute range next year with Hepa as the next guy off the bench at both spots and Hamm/Hayes fighting for the other “big” minutes.
- I think people will be surprised at how good of a prospect Liddell is (he’s higher ranked than Hepa, for instance, by some services) and how much he can be a playmaking forward in and around the paint. If he can contribute, he adds a dynamic Texas hasn’t had since Tevin left (Mack’s clear superiority as a perimeter shooter notwithstanding).
- Hamm, Cunningham, Hayes and Long appear (to me) to be the players with the toughest road to consistent minutes, but all of them bring value in one way or another.
- I know people are still clamoring (to some extent) for Havoc, but I just don’t know this roster has the makeup to make that work. Maybe for stretches, but not sustained for a full game.
- Playmaking is the most obvious and could be special if Texas were to get Jones back in some capacity
- Perimeter defense is in good hands with Ramey’s addition to Coleman and Roach
- Osetkowski and Sims bring diverse skill sets to the frontcourt and should be solid (if not spectacular) at all levels
- Offensive firepower will be there as all of Coleman, Roach, Ramey, Liddell, Long, Osetkowski, Hepa and Sims can put the ball on the floor against man while also bringing shooting range
- The only impactful rim protector (Hayes) isn’t a lock to earn consistent minutes and there’s nobody else who sticks out as an answer to that question
- Febres and Hepa are the purest shooters on the roster, but to say both are unproven is a mild understatement
- Making up for the loss in rebounding from Bamba will have to be taken seriously by everybody. Sims CAN do it and DO and Hepa CAN do it from time to time, but Bamba was a game-in/game-out double double guy. Where does that come from this year?
- Perimeter shooting, as almost always, will float or sink this boat
- Roach is the surest thing from the perimeter and he was under 30% from deep until late January (hardly deadeye stuff, although also probably the main reason he’ll be a Longhorn next year, too, so…)
- The springtime feedback about Febres has been fantastic, but until he proves he can add some wrinkles of ability off the bounce in the lane, he’ll need to be elite from deep to be guarded honestly
- Other than that, what does Texas get from that next group of guys? Hepa, Coleman, Ramey, Osetkowski and Long all have ability from deep, but are they closer to 25% or 35%? One of those numbers puts Texas in the conversation for a Big 12 title, the other could well put them at the bottom of the league.
- Jones is the wildcard. The hope is that he’ll return and play (to whatever capacity) this season. Can he do that? Can he be what he was? If not, what can he be? At the time of his diagnosis, Jones was shooting just under 47% from deep. That’s pretty damn good.
There’s no question that Kerwin’s decision is program changing in more than one respect. Certainly, he really helps the team with his ability as a playmaker, shooter and defender, but he also signifies a senior that Shaka will have had all four years to groom as he sees fit within his program.
Kerwin’s taking a risk by not simply opting to join the G League or head abroad, but he clearly believes Texas is his best option to get a look at the highest of levels.
Yay for us.
As for everybody else, Shaka has put together a diverse team that can attack defenses at every position and has the talent to be a second weekend kind of team (perhaps even more if a Jones-ian miracle occurs).
But shooting simply can’t be the issue it’s been in every other Shaka year (particularly the last two). If it is, there’ll be bigger questions than what Kerwin Roach is up to next year facing this team.