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.
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.