We’re getting closer to the opening tip. In our continuing series, Texas guards Damarcus Craoker and Kendal Yancy are the subjects in this Preseason Hoops Post No. 10.
Breakdown: Demarcus Croaker
● 6-foot-2, 190-lb Combo Guard
● Jones High School (Orlando, FL)
● Recruited by Rob Lanier
● Ranked as a 4* recruit and the 93rd player overall in the country
● Committed to Texas March 26, 2013
● Averaged 3.3 pts, 0.9 rbs, and 0.3 asts on 36/30/67% shooting in 9.5 minutes per game as a freshman.
During a three game stretch at the beginning of the conference season, Croaker appeared to be on the precipice of truly breaking out. In contests against OU, OSU and Tech, Croaker racked up 64 minutes, 35 points and shot 13-24 overall and 9-16 from three.
The guy we all assumed would be our perimeter scorer was finally coming into his own and Barnes was affording him the long leash we hoped he would.
Then he played 59 minutes over the next nine games. In all, he played only 106 minutes the rest of the season. And, making matters worse, he shot a dismal 1-22 from deep over that same time period (dropping his three point field goal percentage on the season from 41% to 30%).
It was a frustrating end to what had been a promising season for the freshman guard (and new dad) from Orlando, and one that left people around the program wondering if Croaker would transfer back closer to his home (and newborn son) during the offseason.
To the delight of most, Croaker stayed and hopes to be a difference maker for his team. It also should be noted that he’s listed a full 20 pounds heavier on this year’s roster than last. That’s a positive for his hopefully improving defense.
He certainly has some skills to work with.
• Has the cleanest jump shot on the team with terrific elevation and a high release
• Is comfortable shooting from deep anywhere around the arc
• Has the ability to handle the ball in traffic when he uses his vision and gets his head up
• Was arguably the best post feeder of the guards (even as good as Holland and Taylor)
• Is blessed with elite athleticism (quickness, change of direction, explosiveness as a leaper, reach)
• Runs the floor very well and has a knack for finishing at the rim on the break
• Has a desire to do what the coaches want, even to the detriment of the rest of his game sometimes, but wants to please his bosses
It’s easy to lay much of the blame for Croaker’s late season swoon on Coach Barnes. The minutes went away and, then, so too did the production.
But Croaker has plenty of fault for this as well.
His per minute rebounding, assist and steal numbers were terrible. His defense was often scatterbrained and unfocused. He was asked to come in and be a positive difference maker and often it seemed as if he was out of place without any idea of how to get himself back into position.
His limitations were rather pronounced.
• He lacks strength and girth, which hurt him as he fought through screens and in his recovery
• He rarely took advantage of his athleticism as a cutter/mover and instead floated on to the perimeter looking for threes
• He too often caught the ball and picked up his dribble instead of being patient and creating space
• He was knocked out of the way for rebounds because of a lack of awareness and energy
• He would allow a poor pass or poor shot to take him out of his game too quickly and he ended up losing some of the coaching staff’s trust
How to Best Utilize Croaker
If Croaker gets big minutes, I still think we could see a lot of J’Covan Brown and Brandon Mouton in the ways that Croaker could play on offense; weak side positioning looking for kick outs and quick-cuts. He needs to get open looks early in the offense and be given the chance to create spacing with his quickness and bounce. Keeping him away from big bodies/traffic will be important as well.
Putting him on an island to rise or to dribble penetrate off of rotating defense will be the name of the game as much as we can muster it.
Defensively, expect him to be tested by Barnes some to see what he’s been able to get together as a defender over the offseason. He’ll still struggle with stronger, bullish guards as well as guys who opposing teams will run through staggered screens and on baseline sweeps, but he should be drawing the third perimeter scorer for most teams, which should hide some of his deficiencies.
In zone, his ability to stay home and recover to prevent three point shooting will be important for the team as well as his own minutes (Felix’s comparable struggles notwithstanding).
Talent wise, Croaker is a special kind of player. You need only watch his highlight video from this summer where he went up against NBA starter Ben Gordon in some pickup games to see what level he’s capable of. Find that here.
Still, the staff was clearly more comfortable putting the ball in Felix’s hand all season last year, and it’s not like the off guard minutes are getting any bigger with Holmes likely to take 15+ minutes at the small forward spot.
The nonconference schedule will be crucial for Croaker to not only hit some shots and build his confidence, but to also show the coaching staff what he’s got in him as a defender as he fights for the backup wing minutes behind Holland and Holmes.
Best Case: 8 pts, 2 rbs, 1.5 asts, 1.5 stls on 45/38/75 shooting in 15 mpg.
Worst Case: 4 pts, 1 rb, .5 ast, .2 stls on 40/30/65 shooting in 8 mpg.
Background: Kendal Yancy
● 6-foot-3, 200-lb Combo Guard
● Berkner (Richardson, TX)
● Recruited by Rob Lanier
● Ranked as the #85 overall prospect in the country
● Committed on March 30, 2013 after originally signing with USC
● Averaged 3.4 pts, 2.2 rbs, and 0.9 asts on 41/35/56% shooting in 12.1 minutes per game as a freshman.
Similarly to Croaker, Yancy experienced the famous “Barnes Inconsistency Crush” last year. After playing 16 or more minutes in 10 of the team’s first 15 games, Kendal topped the 16 minute mark only three more times in Texas’ last 19 contests.
That inconsistency of playing time meant Yancy was forced to come in and make the most of his minutes (along with Croaker and Walker) but found himself behind Holland, Felix and Martez as the season came to a close.
But that doesn’t mean Texas fans should expect more of the same as this season nears. In fact, there’s a chance that Texas’ hopes hinge as much on him as they do any non-starting player on the Longhorns roster. And Yancy may just have the game to live up to the task.
• Proved to be a capable ball handler as a backup point guard with vision, the ability to create for others and a knack for getting into the paint with the ball
• Showed a penchant for getting to the free throw line
• Was pushing Holland as a perimeter defender and was clearly the second best perimeter defender on the team for most of the season
• Hit a high enough percentage from three to lead fans to believe he might be okay from deep (he hit a few in Texas’ open scrimmage before the ISU football game as well)
• Is a solid, if unspectacular passer, but possesses better vision and range as a passer than Felix or Holland
• On average, actually possessed the best +/- ratio of any player on the team
• Has sneaky good athleticism and quickness as a leaper/mover
• Absorbs contact well as a finisher in the lane or as a rebounder
While Yancy’s well-rounded game makes him a player who could command some minutes, his lack of ability to separate himself from his teammates might also be his undoing.
He’s not the shooter Felix or Croaker are. He’s not the defender Holland is. He’s not the playmaker Taylor is. He doesn’t have Holmes’ size of skill set as a bigger wing.
He’s a guy that does a lot of stuff well, but does he do anything well enough to warrant big minutes? We’ll see.
How to Best Utilize Yancy
His versatility should allow him to function in a multitude of areas. He can be a weak side player off the ball and function as a spot up shooter/cutter/rebound chaser. Or he can be a ball handler who serves in more of a read and react role where spacing is higher without Taylor on the court. He can also be a dangerous player in a faster, more frenetic style where we ask him to turn defense into offense on the floor.
Defensively, expect Barnes to put a decent amount of faith in Yancy and for him to be asked to guard the better of the opposition’s guards generally whenever he’s out there. In zone, he’ll be up top as a guard predominantly (Holland will still likely be on the bottom when there’s a three guard lineup on the floor).
Texas fans should prepare for Felix to get a majority of the minutes behind both the one and two spots. I’m not saying I agree with that choice, or that I think it’s totally unavoidable, but that’s where the safe money is at this point.
Still, if there’s a player that can step up and take those minutes away from Javan, it may well be Kendal’s opportunity to do so, especially if he proves to be an adequate shooter from three as the season progresses.
Barnes covets his defense mindset and prowess, so that will allow for a chance.
Similarly to Croaker, however, it’s most likely that Yancy will either take over a backup spot as his own, or that he’s fighting for even scrub minutes all year long.
Best Case: 8 pts, 2.5 rbs, 3.5 asts on 45/35/75 shooting in 25 minutes.
Worst Case: 4 pts, 2.5 rbs, 2 asts on 40/30/65 shooting in 12 minutes.