National Signing Day put the focus on the Texas football team, but it isn’t the only Longhorn team fighting for high-profile players. The men’s basketball team is currently trying to fill five scholarships for next year. Texas will lose Cam Ridley, Prince Ibeh, Connor Lammert, Javan Felix and Demarcus Holland. That’s quite a hit, and it doesn’t even factor in Isaiah Taylor, who has flirted with the NBA the past two seasons.
If Taylor bolts, that’s six scholarships.
So who are the Longhorns recruiting for basketball? Three players have already signed or committed to Texas, and they’re good enough to give Texas the No. 3-rated class (even though the bulk of high-profile players are undecided).
One of those players is James Banks, a 6-foot-10-inch center from La Porte, Ind., who is the No. 61-ranked player in the country. He should give Texas a nice size addition after the Horns lose Ridley and Ibeh. He and Jacob Young signed with Texas last November in the early signing period.
Young is the first Texas product to sign with coach Shaka Smart’s Longhorns. Banks and Young are 4-star prospects, according to 247 Sports.
The biggest star of the recruiting class, though, so far is Andrew Jones, a 5-star guard from Irving MacArthur who committed to Texas in December. Jones, a 2016 McDonald’s All-American, has been on the Longhorns’ radar for a long time, way before Smart joined the fold. However, Smart closed the deal on the 6-foot-4-inch guard, who could be an upgrade over Felix next season.
So who else could be coming to Texas? Here’s a few names to watch as the spring brings some tense moments in college basketball recruiting.
Jarrett Allen, forward, Austin
The St. Stephen’s Episcopal High School product in Texas’ backyard has several teams vying for him. The 5-star, 6-foot-9-inch Allen, a 2016 McDonald’s All-American, is being recruited hard by the University of Houston (hopefully coach Kelvin Sampson isn’t getting too texty), and powerhouse Kentucky. Texas, though, may have the best chance of any school in the Big 12 to land the coveted post player.
Big 12 powerhouse Kansas is in the mix on Allen, but the Jayhawks already have two post players committed for next year in Mitch Lightfoot (6-foot-8) and Udoka Azbuike (6-foot-11). Factor in the possible return of several Jayhawk post players, and it may have cooled Kansas’ pursuit of Allen, and Allen’s own interest.
Smart is clearly having a a breakthrough on in-state recruiting with Jones and Young coming to Austin. Texas nabbing the fifth (Jones) and sixth (Allen) best players in the state would be huge for a coach who has spent most of his career on the East Coast.
DeAndre Williams, forward, Houston
Klein Forest High School’s latest product is a 6-foot-8, 190-pound small forward who is a 4-star recruit. Once again, Houston is recruiting the local product hard, which may be more of a sign that the former Oklahoma and Indiana coach, Sampson, is building a strong program in Houston. This will be a true in-state test for Smart with Houston, Baylor and SMU all recruiting Williams.
Kostas Antetokounmpo, forward, Milwaukee, Wis.
If the name, for some reason, sounds familiar to basketball fans, it’s because he’s the younger brother of the”Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Greece native who now plays at Whitefish Bay Dominican High School is a lot like his emerging NBA star brother. He’s 6-foot-9 with great athletic ability. His brother was 6-foot-9 when he was drafted, but somehow grew two inches and is now 7 feet tall, so maybe the younger brother could do the same, which would be very freaky.
Big 12 rival Iowa State is recruiting him, as well as Memphis and nearby Marquette. He’s reportedly interested in Texas, but the Longhorns may be getting into the race a little late. Still, the Longhorns (along with Kansas) are tracking Antetokounmpo, according to 247Sports.
Nick Rakocevic, forward, Westchester, Ill.
Chicago-area product Rakocevic is being recruited by about every relevant basketball program and Texas may be way behind on this recruitment and definitely is a long-shot to land him. But if Texas can come from behind and beat out North Carolina, Duke, Louisville, Wisconsin, Purdue and the current favorite, Miami, then it’ll be a major sign of what could happen in the future with Smart at Texas.
Here’s the funny thing about the St. Joseph High School (famous for Isiah Thomas and the greatest sports documentary, and 1994 Oscar nominee, “Hoop Dreams”) standout Rakocevic: He’s currently just a 3-star recruit. He’s doing what other big recruits have done in the past and exploding on the scene late. The 6-foot-10-inch forward is averaging 22 points and 17 rebounds, reports ScoutHoops.
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