Back in the summer, at the end of the evaluation period, I had the good fortune to have Kerwin Roach as an evaluation assignment. Rumors had surfaced that the Texas guard could play, but even his local proponents, if anything, undersold him.
Roach simply tore it up that week, drawing increasingly large throngs of coaches desperate to find a new guard prospect — Roach most accurately is a combo, but some view him as a point — and rewarding their interest with a stirring set of performances.
The skinny scorer navigated his ensuing recruitment quickly, ultimately pledging this October to in-state Texas over co-finalists California and Wichita State. While he may have forfeited any media frenzy surrounding his decision due to his late emergence and fall timeline, don’t let that fool you into believing he’s anything but a potential impact player for the Longhorns.
Roach has two critical attributes in his favor: He’s a tall combo at 6-3, and he’s very athletic. His quickness enables him to burst past opponents in the halfcourt, and he’s a terror with a great stride when the running the break.
Because he’s relatively tall, he enjoys multiple options by which he can finish plays. He doesn’t have to rely on scoop shots or trickery; he can get to and above the rim or extend lofting jumpers over shotblockers.
Clearly, penetration will remain a hallmark of his game going forward, but Roach can perform other duties very capably as well. He’s a streaky jump shooter but not a bad one, and his range appears fluid well past the three-point stripe. He may not fare well from deep as a freshman, but by the time he’s finished in Austin the guess here is that he’ll prove to be a multi-level threat.
And then there’s defense. Like most high school players, Roach has a long way to go in terms of technique and focus, but his potential to defend either backcourt spot is stupendous. He possesses the quickness and length to become a smothering performer for Rick Barnes.
Around these parts, we’re always fans of players who rise late and improve so substantially. Roach is only now beginning to realize the player he can be, and it’s worth noting that his experience versus national competition was far less extensive than that of most top-100 peers. Given more time to acclimate to that environment, he might become even more effective.
Roach is very thin and not anywhere close to a suitable college frame. Some of his greatest talents — scoring in the lane being chief among them — are likely to become suppressed until he can take a hit and keep going. Right now, he struggles big-time to play through contact.
He’s also a combo guard despite playing on the ball, due to the fact that he’s an okay, not great playmaker and that his decision-making also requires improvement. At the same time, he doesn’t look comfortable off the ball, so his developing an identity for the ‘Horns may require some patience from fans.
Roach is a difficult eval due to the fact that he’s far less vetted than most blue-chip seniors. Although it’s unlikely, certainly he could have played above his actual talent in Las Vegas.
Far more likely, however, is that we’ve only begun to witness the things he can make happen on the court. He isn’t ready to step in as a starter for UT, but the Longhorns have a clear vision for how he’ll fit and should be able to get the best from him over the next several seasons.
As Roach becomes stronger, his game will reap handsome benefits. And if he can steady his jumper, he actually does possess the style of a modern NBA lead guard. He’s likely years away from reaching that level, but don’t discount his chances, either.