One Burning Question: Who Will Run Point For Shaka Smart?

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 3rd, 2016

Last year’s Texas team was, more or less, the end of an era — the Rick Barnes Era. The Longhorns’ season ended on an incredible half-court heave from Northern Iowa in the NCAA Tournament, and 80 percent of Texas’ starting lineup on that day were made up of seniors. The other player, junior Isaiah Taylor, decided three weeks later that he would forgo his remaining year of eligibility and enter the NBA Draft. With Taylor gone, the two remaining scholarship players from the Barnes era are senior forward Shaq Cleare and junior guard Kendal Yancy. Taylor’s was the most painful departure of all, as he led the team in scoring (15.0 PPG), assists (5.0 APG) and games (33) last season. While it’s true that the Longhorns have an entire starting lineup to replace, head coach Shaka Smart‘s biggest concern is who he will direct to manage his offense on opening night. All we know right now is that it will be someone young who will have to learn the position on the fly.

Texas head coach Shaka Smart watches his young team in Nov. 2's exhibition game. (

Texas head coach Shaka Smart watches his young point guard Andrew Jones (#1) in November 2’s exhibition game versus Division II Angelo State. (

Election Day is almost here. In this vein, it appears that Smart is leaning in a particular direction but we may not have all precincts reporting just yet. Down three scholarship players in the Longhorns’ exhibition win last night, Smart started 6’4″ freshman Andrew Jones and he played well against a vastly inferior opponent. The Irving, Texas, native did what led to his meteoric rise at the tail end of his high school career — a little bit of everything. He scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished five assists and, most importantly, turned the ball over only once in 33 minutes of game action. Whether he’s facing D-II competition or the powers in the Big 12, Jones should have a good size advantage at the point guard position that makes him especially difficult for defenses to both contain and cut off his passing angles.

The other freshmen are formidable in their own right. Guard Jacob Young is yet another ready-to-score talent from the basketball factory that is Houston’s Yates High School. Like his older brother, Joseph, Young can fill it up from anywhere on the floor. For a team that shot an underwhelming 34.1 percent from behind the arc last season, this rookie is almost assured key minutes on the wing in his first season. While big man James Banks’ game is still very much “a piece of clay,” as Texas Director of Player Development Mike Morrell recently put it, his measurements (7’5″ wingspan) have the staff excited to see what he can become. Then there’s the crown jewel of the class: Jarrett Allen. Allen may be understated in his demeanor because he lets his game do the talking. At 6’11”, he’s an intriguing professional prospect because of his smooth offensive inside-outside skills and is significantly quicker than most players his size.

Group the newcomers with the sophomore trio of Tevin Mack, Eric Davis Jr., and Kerwin Roach Jr. and Smart has a young, talented core with tremendous upside. Given that Texas resides in the Big 12, there will of course be some bumps along the way. Fortunately for the Longhorns, though, their non-conference schedule isn’t as typically stacked, meaning Texas could find itself with two losses or fewer heading into conference play. It is difficult to imagine this team finishing outside of the top three or four in the Big 12 standings by the end of the season. The Longhorns will press, they’ll shoot and they’ll fly. And we’ll watch. Year Two of the Shaka Era is on in Austin.

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