Want daily Texas Longhorns content on the latest team and recruiting information from Eric Nahlin, Justin Wells, Ian Boyd, Scipio Tex, and Joe Cook? Sign up HERE today!
By: Tim Preston and Justin Wells
Austin Vandegrift small forward and top 10 national prospect Greg Brown III chose Texas on Friday over Michigan, Auburn, Memphis, Kentucky, and an opportunity to prepare for the 2021 NBA Draft in the G-League.
The 6-foot-9 wing is a Longhorn legacy. His father, Greg Brown Jr., played safety at Texas from 1998-2001.
“I’ve been around the guys (at Texas) for so long,” Brown III said. “It’s so easy being around them and Coach (Shaka) Smart. He’s recruited me since eighth grade. I love the team and the program.”
There were mornings when Vandegrift would open practice at 7 a.m., and Smart or assistant coach Jai Lucas would be there, just watching Brown III. It’s a relationship that’s been built over several years, and that familiarity is what is keeping the five-star close to home.
Yeehaw, homeys! Yee…haw!
Tolerate or hate Shaka Smart, you can only marvel at his ability to stay afloat even when all signs point to the bottom of the ocean.
So, what kind of recruit is the king of buoyancy getting in Greg Brown III?
Brown III’s UT bloodlines run about as strong as they come. His father was a two-time All-Conference safety at Texas. His mother, Tonya Wallace, was an All-American long jumper for the Horns. His uncle, Roderick Anderson, was part of two Southwest Conference champion teams under Tom Penders and played professional basketball overseas.
Still, as nice as that is, Brown III’s place as a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American is based on his own merit. The 6-foot-9 combo forward led his Vandegrift team to a 33-3 record while putting up gaudy numbers: 26.1 ppg, 13.2 rpg, 3.5 bpg, 2.1 apg shooting 54 percent from the field, 38 percent from three-point range, and 70 percent at the free throw line.
Super good, regardless of competition or other context.
It’s his EYBL numbers that do the hard work for me. EYBL represents the very best competition prep players can face before heading to college and often serve as a harbinger for determining the impact a player can make at the Division I level.
Brown III’s EYBL stats are equally impressive: 18.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 1.2 apg shooting 60 percent from the field, 61 percent at the line, and 16 percent from distance (we’ll get to the three point shooting numbers here, later).
Again, there’s a reason he’s ranked No. 9 overall in the 2020 class by ESPN, No. 10 by 247Sports and No. 8 by Rivals. It’s because he’s good.
- Have to start with his athleticism. It’s a word that gets thrown around too often, but Brown III’s athleticism is elite. Explosive. Strong. Agile. Fast. All of it. He’s crazy athletic.
- Might be the best player in the open floor in the country. Long strider and ideal body control make him a blur when he can run in space.
- Just an incredible dunker who finishes with authority and consistency around the rim.
- Smooth shooting motion and release. Mechanically, pretty sound.
- Natural rebounder who tracks and chases well in space.
- Plays with great effort and energy. Clearly wants to win and be a part of something good.
- Progressing ability to put the ball on the floor, which could blossom if his perimeter shot cleans up.
- Solid rim protector and shot blocker. Good timing.
- Finishes with both hands and is always a threat on oops/lobs.
- Underrated passer (when he stays in system).
- Knows UT’s guys very well from playing pickup games and spending time on campus.
- Can guard pretty much any spot on the floor (within reason) and should allow Texas to switch screens whenever they want.
- Needs to get stronger/fill out to handle physicality he’ll get from college bigs.
- Can be out of control as a playmaker (though his willingness to facilitate is not a bad thing).
- Shooting percentages (free throws and three pointers) aren’t as good as his stroke would lead you to think suggesting some rhythm and shot selection things to iron out.
- Pretty reliant player on playmakers/point guards. Not ready to be a high usage facilitator at this point.
A lot of Brown III’s success at Texas will rely on two things: 1) his three point shooting competence; and 2) his ability to impact rebounding in a way where he can create second chance points and end possessions on the defensive end. The rim runs, alley oops, and defensive ability are going to be there. He’s just too good to worry about those things. He’s simply not a guy who you can put the ball in his hands and expect to make things happen off the bounce or in the mid-range. Not consistently, anyways.
That will come, but it’ll most likely come in year five or six of his pro career, not while in Austin for one year.
Regarding his three point shooting, pay attention to his catch-and-shoot three point percentages. Can he be anywhere near his 35-40 percent mark he posted this year at Vandegrift? If so, he’s probably going to be a top five pick and Texas would have a chance to be a second weekend kind of team. If he’s closer to the 16 percent he shot during his most recent EYBL season, spacing will be a problem and he’ll need to function in more of a post role. Brown III could certainly do that, but it probably isn’t ideal given Royce Hamm, Kai Jones, and Will Baker all being more natural fits at that spot.
Regarding his rebounding, it wouldn’t surprise me if he led the team in rebounds, maybe even lapping the field. Texas desperately needs for him to be a player who can either end possessions defensively, or create second and third chances on the offensive end. That would be huge as none of Baker, Kai Jones, Andrew Jones, or Courtney Ramey are super adept at extending looks and being able to rely on a player like Brown III would take a ton of pressure off the rest of the team.
Hard to say this is a bigger pull than Mo Bamba (especially given the circumstances), but those are the two highest profile guys he’s brought in from a recruiting standpoint and Brown III represents easily the highest rated non-big man Smart has landed.
The clear rub, though, is that Brown III is going pro after this season, just as the team will at least lose Coleman, Febres, and Hamm to graduation.
So, while Brown III matters from a standpoint of making next year better and more competitive, the real piece is that Smart needs to win convincingly.
If he doesn’t, it seems like the most obvious time for his removal given the rebuild that would very plausibly be taking place after a subpar year.
If he does, it would be interesting to see what Smart could do if he was able to sell a surging program to the kind of high level guards he’s failed to land during his time in Austin. Texas was good before TJ Ford got to Austin, but landing a five-star guard like Ford changed the profile of the program and all of a sudden guys like LaMarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson, Kevin Durant, Damion James, Jordan Hamilton, and Avery Bradley were willing to come to the Forty Acres.
Yes, the true foundation of the program was the class with Brian Boddicker, James Thomas, Jason Klotz, Royal Ivey, and Brandon Mouton, but the year before Ford arrived Texas got smacked in the 2001 NCAA Tournament by 12-seed Temple. Then Ford shows up in Austin and Texas is all of a sudden a Sweet 16 team with a ton of momentum heading into a Final Four year.
Can next year be the season that gets Smart over the hump and able to throw his weight around with upper-echelon players that teams like Duke or North Carolina or Kansas take out of the state of Texas every year?
That’s the hope, at least.
Endgame (and a Quick NBA Comparison)
Brown III is the highest rated non-center prospect to come to Texas since Cory Joseph and arguably the most gifted forward prospect since Durant (which means, yes, I think he’s got more potential than both James and Hamilton).
I think of him as a not-quite-as-skilled Harrison Barnes-type who got to UNC as a tremendous athlete and shored up his shooting and ball skills before establishing a solid NBA career.
Now the impetus falls squarely on Smart’s shoulders. Can he maximize Brown III? Can he figure out minutes for Kai Jones, Baker, Hamm, and Cunningham? Can he help Andrew Jones, Ramey and Coleman be more consistent and high performing on a regular basis?
Plenty of questions, but this is a talented group made far more so by Brown III’s decision.