The Longhorns had one of, if not the tallest team in the country last season, and that didn’t even factor in 6-foot-8, 285-pound Shaquille Cleare, who was sitting out after transferring in from Maryland.
Texas is without Myles Turner and Jonathan Holmes this season, but it does return the bulk of its size from a year ago in Connor Lammert (6-10, 235), Prince Ibeh (6-11, 265), and Cameron Ridley (6-10, 290), as well as Cleare, who will play this season.
It’s a bit different than what Shaka Smart was used to at VCU, but it’s not like he didn’t have any height to work with.
“I think one thing that's maybe a misnomer about our teams at VCU is that we didn't have good players up front,” he said. “We had some really good players. In fact, every year our starting four or five led us in scoring in the six years I was there. But we just played a very fast-paced style where the guards really made a lot of plays in the open floor.”
The biggest thing for Texas’ bigs right now, according to their head coach, is buying into what the staff wants them to do. That means run the floor, play with that “nastiness” that Smart has described only Cleare as possessing to this point, and staying out of foul trouble, which could be a tall task with all these new rule changes.
“At Texas, we're fortunate, in this first year, we have a lot of big guys that we think can be really good players for us and contribute to success,” Smart said. “Then we also have a lot of perimeter guys that we can play with, with great depth. So if those guys, again, can buy into the system of playing with great aggressiveness and enthusiasm, togetherness, then we'll have a chance to do some big things.”
One of the biggest keys to Texas’ post play is going to be Lammert because of his pick-and-pop abilities, and outside shooting presence.
Lammert averaged 22 minutes per game a season ago, which is the most of any returning post player. His time certainly won’t dip, and could increase, if he can hit jus jumper with more consistency.
Lammert shot just 39 percent from the field, and only 29 percent from three-point range. He’ll need to be better.
So to will Ridley, whose role in Smart’s system is yet to be determined to the public. He’s apparently slimmed down some and is said to be in better shape.
The biggest thing for Ridley is going to be his want-to, and him believing in his abilities. I’ve spoken to some people tied into the program that say he’s coming along in this regard. Much like Smart has said that an engaged Prince Ibeh is the best type of Prince Ibeh, and engaged Ridley is going to be of similar help to this team.
If he can assert himself down low, and stay on the court and out of foul trouble - he did a decent job of this last season with only 65 fouls [team lead with Turner at 82] – he could carve out a very important niche on this team, especially in those tough road games in Big 12 play.