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  1. Texas Basketball Preview: The Freshmen

    In anticipation for Shaka Smart's second season on The 40 Acres, HornSports college basketball writer Chris Flanagan will go in-depth on the Texas men's basketball team. This week, we preview the freshmen class of the Texas Men's Basketball team.

    The Freshmen

    The Class of 2016 comes in as one of the highest ranked recruiting class in Texas history. Texas ranked 5th in the country according to the composit rankings of 247Sports. That's the highest ranking since 2011. While the 2011 class will likely never be remembered for their time at Texas, the 2016 freshmen class will have the opportunity to set the tone of the Shaka Smart era.

    Superstar: Jarrett Allen

    It's tough to project who will be the superstar of a class that hasn't yet played a minute on the hardwood, but Jarrett Allen is the gem that many coaches across the nation wanted. The Austin native kept things extremely quiet, so much so that he didn't announce he was committing to the Longhorns.

    Jarrett Allen will likely be the starter at the 4 spot to begin the season. Allen is already projected as a lottery pick by NBADraft.net. This will likely be a one and done season for Allen and there is no doubt with the lack of depth in the front court that he will get plenty of playing time.

    Hidden Gem: James Banks

    Staying with the big man, the Indiana native snubbed all his home state schools to be a Longhorn. Many people were surprised that James Banks made the U18 USA Basketball team but it's easy to see why he was selected. He's long, fast and tough down low. He is the perfect center for the system that the Longhorns want to run. While Shaq Cleare has the edge in experience, I wouldn't be surprised if Banks becomes the starter at center when Big 12 play rolls around.

    Other Members

    Andrew Jones
    The 5-star combo guard will be trying to get some playing time this year with a deep guard rotation. The McDonald's All-American is a great ball handler but doesn't have that lightning quick first step like Isaiah Taylor had. However, he is so long with his stride that he is deceptively fast. Expect Andrew to stay 2-3 years at Texas and potentially one-and-done if he has a breakout season.

    Jacob Young
    Jacob Young was the first to commit to the 2016 class and has an impressive lineage of basketball excellence. His Dad, Michael Young, is the 3rd highest scorer in Houston Cougars history as a member of Phi Slama Jama. His brother, Joe Young, was named Pac-12 player of the year averaging nearly 20 points a game. Not to be outdone, last year he lead the AAU circuit in scoring at nearly 30 points per game, including a 50 point game. Now, with a deep guard rotation, I wouldn't expect 50 point games anytime soon and I wouldn't be shocked if he redshirts this year to build scholarship depth for the Longhorns.

    Overall Preview

    The expectation is for this talented group of freshmen to perform right out of the gate. The front court guys will be expected to handle the load for the team, as there is only a rotation of 4 big men for the entire year. The guards will likely get the chance to play but I don't expect to see them contribute as much as the big men.

    Texas opens the season against Incarnate Word Academy on November 11th in Austin.

    • Oct 06 2016 07:53 AM
    • by Chris Flanagan
  2. Texas Women's Basketball ends season at 31-...

    The Texas women’s basketball team ended its 2015-16 campaign a week ago Monday in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA tournament.

    The Longhorns lost to the University of Connecticut, 65-86, holding the Huskies to their lowest offensive scoring night in the tournament through their first four games. Before the game, UCONN scored an average of 98.7 points a contest.

    It was unfortunate that Texas drew a No. 2 seed in UCONN’s region as the Huskies are aiming for their fourth consecutive national title, but the Longhorns never gave up.

    “I think everyone could see that our team was exhausting themselves trying to compete,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said in the postgame conference.

    Freshman guard Lashann Higgs and sophomore guard Ariel Atkins each scored 19 points, tying for the team high in points. Higgs came off the bench and utilized her 19 minutes wisely; the 19 points she scored created a new career high for her. Atkins played nearly the entire game, totaling 33 minutes of work. She hit three-of-four from 3-point range and swiped three steals.

    Higgs and Atkins both earned Bridgeport All-Regional Team honors, giving Texas its first spots on an NCAA All-Regional team since 2003. They accompanied three other UCONN players on the list. Atkins averaged 18 points and 2.8 steals a game through four tournament games, leading the Longhorns in both categories. Higgs recorded double figures in scoring for three games, giving herself an average of 11.5 points a game for the tournament.

    The 2015-16 season for the Longhorns ended up being one of their best seasons in recent years. Texas finished with 31 overall wins, marking a first in program history since the 1987-88 season. The Longhorns started the season undefeated, winning their first 16 games before losing to Baylor and finished with a 15-3 conference record. The team won its way to the Big 12 Championship game for the second consecutive year but came up short to Baylor. The No. 2 seed the Longhorns earned for the NCAA tournament marked their best seeding since 2004 when the team received a No. 1 seed.

    “I think we are a phenomenal basketball team,” said Aston. “I didn’t say that last year. We weren’t. But I think we are a really good. And very easily could have been in the Final Four had we gone in a different region.”

    The 2016-17 Texas women’s basketball team will have some big shoes to fill. Seniors Imani Boyette, Brady Sanders, Celina Rodrigo and Empress Davenport are all graduating and leaving the forty acres. Boyette ended her career as the only Longhorn to record more than 1,000 career points, 1,000 career rebounds and 200 career blocks. Rodrigo leaves the program as the active leader in career assists. She recorded 140 assists this past season, which was 51 more than second place. Davenport played in every Longhorn matchup this season, starting in 34 of the 36 games. Sanders, recovering from her offseason surgery, struggled to see much of the court this past season, but she entered her last year co-leading the team in career games played. Sanders played in 29 of the games this past season.

    Texas’ underclassmen have already been stepping up as seen through Higgs and Atkins performances during the NCAA tournament. Coming into the tournament, Atkins averaged 10 points a game. The 15 points she scored against Alabama State during the first round marked her lowest offensive showing during the tournament – She scored 22 against Missouri, 16 against UCLA and 19 against UCONN. During Big 12 conference play, Higgs only recorded minutes in 16 of the 18 games, averaging 4.1 points. Higgs ended the Longhorns’ NCAA tournament run with the third highest average in points on the team – Atkins and sophomore guard Brooke McCarty were the two teammates ahead of her.

    Texas had a good run this season, finishing with more than 30 wins, but Aston is ready for a championship, and reaching the Elite Eight this season should encourage the team to push for more next season, according to Aston.

    “As much as 31-5 sounds unbelievable, and I do think that we were an unbelievable team and had an unbelievable year, we still don’t have a ring,” said Aston. “We are still chasing championships. So, we should be highly motivated.”

    • Apr 05 2016 09:00 AM
    • by Taylor Smith