Texas guard Kerwin Roach II (12) controls the ball against Kansas during an NCAA college basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, in Austin, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Up-and-down Kerwin Roach II is the poster child of this Texas basketball program

Posted March 13th, 2019

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Story highlights
  • Senior guard Kerwin "Snoop" Roach returns to the Texas basketball team against Kansas after a five-game suspension.
  • In many ways, Roach is emblematic of the Longhorn program: once highly coveted, wildly inconsistent, very likable.
  • "I wouldn't say we're mad," freshman guard Courtney Ramey said of Roach and his suspension. "Just disappointed. But he's still our brother."

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In so many respects, he’s emblematic of the Texas basketball program.

Fraught with potential.

Highly coveted once.

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Well-respected for his past.

Good guy.

Great expectations.

Very likable.

Inconsistent.

Great table manners.

We’re talking Kerwin Roach II, but we just as easily could be referring to Shaka Smart. Both are ending their fourth years at Texas with more low moments than highlights, dashes of excellence sprinkled around careers of disappointment, and universal affection from those around him. They’re likable by the media, they play and coach hard, they’re beloved by their teammates and players. “I love the guy,” freshman Jaxson Hayes said of Smart on Wednesday.

Texas guard Kerwin Roach II (12) flashes the “Hook ‘Em Horns” sign following Texas’ 75-72 win over Oklahoma in an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, in Austin, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Yeah, Snoop Roach is pretty much the poster child of the basketball program since Smart arrived as the expected savior from Virginia Commonwealth. Smart took the VCU Rams to a Final Four and was 107 games over .500. At Texas, his teams have been in the final four in the Big 12 standings once (otherwise finishing 10th, sixth and sixth this year), have not won a single NCAA Tournament game and are in jeopardy of missing the Dance this season for the second time in three years.

Many regard both as a bill of goods and are still waiting a proper return on the school’s investments. Neither has delivered. Not consistently.

Everybody from UCLA to Indiana once wanted Smart. Snoop ranked as high as the 34th best prospect in the nation by Rivals.com out of Galena Park North Shore.

Texas forward Mohamed Bamba (4) and guard Kerwin Roach II (12) walk off the court during an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, in Austin, Texas. Baylor won 74-73 in double overtime. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Smart didn’t bring Havoc to Austin. Snoop didn’t bring a championship.

Smart can’t get out of his own way, and Snoop’s a gifted, athletic player but without clearly definable basketball skills that could endear him to NBA scouts. He’s not a great shooter on the perimeter or with a great handle, but can guard the opponent’s best player, can break down a defense with strong dribble penetration, offer on-the-mark lobs to big men like Hayes and find open men like Jase Febres in the corner.

Smart’s record at Texas is one game over .500. One. Roach never made the first or second all-conference team. Rather, he’s the leader of the All-Suspended Team, having served three suspensions for violating team rules, including two this season. Some think Shaka should be fired. Roach should have been kicked off the team.

From every trusted source we have, Smart will return for next season. Something to do with a pricey $13 million.

Roach, however, is running out of time.

His next Longhorns game could be his last, assuming you don’t regard the afterthought of the NIT a legitimate post-season tournament. We presume Texas would be a lock for that event.

His return to the floor after missing five games — Texas went 1-4 in that span — comes at a dire time. He and his teammates desperately need a statement-making victory over Kansas in Thursday night’s quarterfinals game of the Big 12 tournament to earn any shot at making the NCAA Tournament.

November 29, 2016 – Texas Kerwin Roach Jr. (12) dunks the ball all alone after a steal against UTA in the first half of NCAA men’s basketball, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, in Austin. (Rodolfo Gonzalez for Austin American-Statesman)

In short, Snoop threw Texas for a loop. Curiously enough, his teammates almost beat OU on the road in his absence, played well enough to build (but not hold) a 19-point lead at Baylor and crushed a struggling Iowa State team. The last two games? Uh, not so good.

Asked to describe Texas’ season, guard Matt Coleman said, “Imperfect.”

Perfect description.

In many respects, Roach is to blame for this team’s sins. He was supposed to be the leader and, ahem, moral compass, if you will, of a team that’s suddenly lost its way. He was, indeed, the team’s leading scorer at 15 points per game and one of its more capable defenders. In his last game on Feb. 16 against Oklahoma State, he scored 16 points in 34 minutes with three assists and a pair of steals. He’s been held to single digits just three times and put up 32 on North Carolina.

Yeah, I’d say Texas missed him.

Like his team, he can be very good or very bad. And no one knows if the Good Texas or the Bad Texas will show up here at the Sprint Center. Roach seemed very subdued at Wednesday’s practice. He showed little rust. In one drill, he drained six straight three-pointers and 10 of 11. In another, he missed a layup and immediately did 10 pushups as penance.

Bottom line, he selfishly broke team rules at a time when Texas needed him the most, and that says it all about this very big rut that Smart’s team finds itself in. Roach was not allowed to speak to the media on Wednesday. So much for transparency.

“It kind of threw things off,” Coleman said.

Surprisingly, none of his teammates seem mad at him even though it could be argued his unreliability crippled this club.

“I wouldn’t say we’re mad,” said freshman Courtney Ramey, one of the few bright spots on this 16-15, maddeningly inconsistent team. “Just disappointed. He’s still our brother. And we’re being positive.”

Texas needs Roach’s veteran presence on the floor Thursday night. That much is obvious.

Asked if Roach will start or come off the bench against the Jayhawks, Smart smiled and said, “We’ll see.”

That’s the safe answer to pretty much everything involving Texas basketball these days.

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