Shaka Smart is introduced as the new basketball coach at the University of Texas on Friday, April 3, 2015, at the Frank Erwin Center. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Men's Basketball

Longhorns building trust in Shaka Smart as practice begins Friday

Full team practice begins Friday; season opener scheduled for Nov. 13

Posted October 1st, 2015

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Navy SEAL training should bring out your best, theoretically. What really struck John McGuire last week was how the Longhorns were willing to do just about anything first-year coach Shaka Smart asked.

“I could tell the trust they have for him is growing,” said McGuire, who used to put Smart’s players at Virginia Commonwealth through the same regimen. “They were willing to go into some crazy stuff.”

Smart has spent months building relationships with his players in the coaches’ offices, weight room and dining hall. Starting Friday, they all move into Cooley Pavilion as the Longhorns begin full team workouts for the 2015-16 season.

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The men’s basketball team is still weeks away from any public unveiling. Big 12 media day is scheduled for Oct. 20. The  first exhibition game is Nov. 6 against Tarleton State. The season opener is Nov. 13 against Washington in Shanghai, China.

Unlike last season, there probably won’t be any misguided talk about reaching the Final Four in October. This team, while chock full of veteran leadership, may have its doubters, considering how the Horns struggled down the stretch last spring.

The Longhorns were a popular pick to win the Big 12 last season, but finished tied for sixth. Texas was bounced in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and coach Rick Barnes was fired after his 17th season.

Smart, widely considered one of the nation’s best up-and-coming coaches, changes the program’s dynamic. His infectious energy will be a recurring theme throughout the preseason.

The freshmen class is already generating buzz. Kerwin Roach, a state-champion triple jumper, leaped more than 13 feet in the air and tapped a marker. The video tore up the Internet earlier this week.

Can the Horns tear up the Big 12 this season? Several Big 12 stars return, including Iowa State’s Georges Niang and Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield. With Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis returning, Kansas will likely be picked to win its 12th straight league title.

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