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Longhorns head coach Shaka Smart can't wait to get the season started

We've got notes pertaining to Kerwin Roach, Isaiah Taylor, Demarcus Holland, Shaquille Cleare, Prince Ibeh and many more.

KANSAS CITY, MO - - It’s fairly evident in hearing Shaka Smart talk that he has extremely high hopes for freshman point guard Kerwin Roach.

“Kerwin Roach has the most potential on our team,” he said.

Smart thinks he and Isaiah Taylor will be on the floor quite a bit together and that if they do, Roach will move over to shooting guard.

Right now I would say the No. 1 thing he has to get better at is the No. 1 thing you evaluate a point guard on and that’s assist-to-turnover ratio and getting guys involved at the right time and place,” Smart said. “He needs to improve there. Fortunately he’s a guy that can play multiple positions.”

 

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If there is a player on this team that this staff admires more than Demarcus Holland, I’d like to see him.

Smart didn’t hesitate in saying that Holland was the team’s best leader at this point “because he does the right thing on the court the majority of the time. He says the right thing and he has an edge to him.”

Smart thinks that Taylor has leadership qualities as well but there is a sense that he needs to improve in this area.

“He just needs to understand that the way that he’s able to lift up his teammates is going to directly effect the season he has individually,” Smart said. “He’s been good with that so far. He’s getting better.”

Smart would like all of his players to adopt a tougher edge, or a “nastiness.” Right now he said that Holland and Shaquille Cleare are the only players that display that “nastiness.”

“We have to get tougher, tougher minded,” Smart said.

 

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It shouldn’t come as any surprise to hear that Smart and his staff emphasize transitions. This team wants to run, at all times.

“As far as basketball, we certainly want to play faster than maybe they did in the past,” Smart said. “We’re going to take advantage of some of the speed of our guards. I think with Isaiah Taylor and Kerwin Roach we have two of the fastest guards in the country.”

 

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Before Texas gets to clicking on the court it has to do so off of it, and that’s one of the main things that Smart is focusing in on right now. It’s why he had the team go through the Navy Seal training a few weeks ago.

“The mindset has to come first,” he said. “The identity, the approach actually proceeds the x’s and o’s. We are trying to build that mindset. It’s not something that you do overnight. Guys have done a good job of being receptive but, at the same time, we haven’t been hit with any adversity yet. So we’ll see how we respond to that.”

 

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Smart said that Texas is ahead defensively where they are offensively.

He thinks the team’s biggest strength at the moment is depth and experience.

“We have some older guys that have been around and been in some wars,” he said.

Even so, Texas does not have all of its offensive and defensive sets in.

 “We’re getting there,” Smart said. “We’re in a situation where we want to make sure our guys know exactly what we want them to do. We might not have as much in as we would have if our staff was here for several years but that’s OK. I think it’s about doing the things you want to do well more so than having everything in.”

 

 

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Texas might not have a freshman as heralded as Myles Turner on its roster, but it does have three freshmen – Roach, Eric DavisTevin Mack - that should be around UT for a while and that could benefit this program greatly down the road.

I like the freshmen a lot. Those three guys are going to be really good,” he said. “They don’t know what they don’t know. They are young an inexperienced. They will have very, very bright futures as long as they can keep a positive attitude, work hard and do the right things. The sky is the limit long term. I’m not saying anyone of them is going to set the world on fire as a freshmen but I think they all can help us this year in game.”

 

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If Texas were to play a game right now Smart would feel comfortable playing anywhere from 10 to 11 guys.

“We have 12 scholarship guys and all are in the conversation,” he said. “I don’t know what our starting lineup would be. But we have a lot of guys that can contribute.”

I’ve been asked several times what I thought Texas’ starting lineup would be if the season started today, and, man, is that a tough question. There are so many different routes the staff could go and, quite frankly, I think it could vary depending on the opponent. Texas is that deep.

If I had to guess what the starting lineup will be in Shanghai against Washington I’ll go with: Isaiah Taylor at PG, Demarcus Holland at the SG, Tevin Mack at the SF, Connor Lammert at the PF and Prince Ibeh at the C. At least that’s what I’d roll out.

Again, there are so many different lineups Texas can go with. It’s a great position for this staff to be in.

 

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I’ve spoken to several people since the staff took over in April and I’m not sure there is a player on this team that the staff feels, as a whole, has more upside than Prince Ibeh.

Yes, I know that Smart said that Roach “has the most potential on the team” but they just don’t make them like Ibeh all that often.

I’m told that the staff had some NBA scouts come through a few weeks back and they basically said that if he can do what he does with consistency – rebound on both ends, not just block but alter shots, play good post defense and show an ability to flash to the perimeter and defend smaller players like he showed at the tail end of last season – then he could play in the NBA for 10 years. The NBA thinks that highly of him.

 “I love Prince,” Smart said. “He came here with a lot of potential. He’s shown flashes. The No. 1 key for him is to stay healthy. He’s been banged up since we got here six months ago. If we can keep him healthy and keep him highly engaged. An engaged Prince Ibeh is a very, very effective Prince Ibeh from what I’ve seen so far.

“We’ve got other coaches and NBA scouts coming to practice and they are all saying, ‘If he can run the floor and he can block shots and go after rebounds, then that guy is a special player.’ It’s about focusing on his strengths.”


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