Texas guard Matt Coleman III (2) and guard Courtney Ramey (3) watch their teammates practice at the Erwin Center, Tuesday, Oct., 29, 2019. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

Men's Basketball

As new season begins, Texas needs guards Courtney Ramey, Matt Coleman to be stars

Without an obvious one-and-done star in the middle, it's up to the backcourt leaders to push the Longhorns this season

Posted November 4th, 2019

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Story highlights
  • “I think Matt’s one of the best players in the league,” Ramey said.
  • “Courtney has a very strong personality,” Shaka Smart said.
  • Longhorns could be without forward Gerald Liddell in the season opener.

Courtney Ramey was legitimately upset when the preseason All-Big 12 honors were unveiled. Not a single Longhorn cracked the top five.

Junior guard Matt Coleman III earned honorable mention status, which means he received some votes. But overall, a program that’s produced three straight first-round NBA draft picks was viewed as having a bare cupboard.

“I laugh at them. I know what we have. I know who we have on the team,” Ramey said. “All my life, I’ve been proving people wrong. So this is an opportunity for me to prove people wrong.”

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Ramey said flat-out he took the preseason coaches’ vote as a sign of “disrespect.”

“I think Matt’s one of the best players in the league,” Ramey said. “I think Jase (Febres) is, I think Jericho (Sims) is and I think I am, too. But hey, talking isn’t going to get me on the team. My play and our team play is going to get me on the team.”

It’s a guard-oriented game, and these Longhorns will go only as far as Ramey and Coleman can take them this season. The journey begins anew Tuesday against Northern Colorado at the Erwin Center.

Men’s preview: Northern Colorado vs. Texas, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Erwin Center

“Ready or not, here they come,” UT coach Shaka Smart said. “Our team’s gonna go as those two guys go.”

Texas guard Matt Coleman III (2) screams after taking a charge against Colorado during their NIT quarterfinals game in late March at the Erwin Center. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

It hasn’t exactly been a smooth preseason as far as injuries go. Ramey suffered a right wrist injury when he fell after a 3-point attempt. He didn’t require surgery, but he was forced to sit and watch practice for awhile. Last Tuesday, he was finally cleared to resume practice. The same day, Coleman suffered a minor hamstring injury and was limited for three or four days, Smart said.

It’s problematic, because UT’s best two guards haven’t been on the court together much in the days leading up to Tuesday’s opener.

“So that hasn’t been ideal,” Smart said, “but I love the fact that when the ball goes up in the air (Tuesday), those guys are going to be out there together.”

Ramey has a killer instinct that’s embedded into his core DNA. Coleman once played on the Team USA under-18 squad that featured 10 future NBA players. These are two guards likely to average at least 25 minutes-plus this season, and they’ll be the ones tapped to explain what happened after wins and losses.

In Coleman’s two previous seasons, the 6-2 guard averaged 3.7 assists per game and shot 30.9% from 3-point range. Ramey, a 6-3 sophomore, averaged three assists per game and shot 38.6% beyond the arc.

Texas guard Courtney Ramey (3) drives to the basket against TCU center Kevin Samuel (21) during the second half of a NIT semifinal game at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“I feel like they’re going to come out and do more than people expect them to do,” forward Kamaka Hepa said.

They’ve got plenty of help. Junior guard Jase Febres is the team’s long-ball threat. Andrew Jones, classified now as a redshirt sophomore, will also play “significant” minutes this season after battling back leukemia.

But this is Coleman and Ramey’s team. On this, there is no doubt.

“Courtney has a very strong personality,” Smart said. “It’s important for Matt to still be the best version of Matt, even while he’s out there playing with a strong personality like Courtney’s.”

The guard play is even more important this season since Texas does not have an obvious one-and-done big man. The Horns knew Jarrett Allen and Mo Bamba were going to be one-year wonders. They didn’t expect Jaxson Hayes to develop as quickly as he did and jump into the NBA draft last season.

Standing 6 feet, 11 inches, freshman Will Baker from Westlake has the obvious size. Another 6-11 freshman, Kai Jones, may be the Longhorns’ best shot blocker at the moment, Smart said.

“I would say right now to put that type of expectation on any of our freshmen or any of our guys is not really realistic for them,” Smart said.

Thus, it’s up to Ramey, Coleman and the rest of the backcourt to lead the way. And maybe they’ll prove some other Big 12 coaches dead wrong.

“So I laughed at ’em,” Ramey said. “We’ll show them throughout this season.”

Briefly: The Longhorns could be without forward Gerald Liddell in the season opener. He took a knee to the head in practice and suffered a concussion, Smart said. Liddell’s playing status had not been determined midday Monday, but he’s likely to be in the starting lineup when cleared.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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