Smart impressed with freshmen at Team USA, focused on building team chemistry

Ezra Siegel

Head coach Shaka Smart met with the media on Tuesday to discuss his experience coaching Team USA and the offseason. Here are some takeaways from his availability.

Strong first impressions of Banks and Allen

Smart got an early look at two of his prized recruits as head coach of Team USA’s Under-18 team the past few weeks. Incoming five-star center Jarrett Allen and four-star forward James Banks both played for Smart at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship in Valdivia, Chile.

The team went undefeated and took home the gold.

“We got a chance to know each other off the court but also on the court,” Smart said. “[I got] a chance to learn how these guys respond in different situations and the best ways to coach them.”

Both players flashed valuable skills throughout the tournament. Allen averaged 10.6 points and nine rebounds, while Banks collected nine rebounds and six blocks in the semifinals against Brazil. The Longhorns are counting on both players to fill holes in the frontcourt left by graduated seniors Prince Ibeh, Cameron Ridley and Connor Lammert.

Smart said he liked what he saw from the freshmen duo both on and off the court.

“Both of those guys grew as players,” Smart said. “Their personalities fit very well together. They’re very different personality-wise, but I think there’s a high level of respect among the two of them.”

Workouts and team bonding set to ramp up  

Texas’ roster is finally all together after Team USA obligations and recruiting trips kept coaches and players scattered over the past few weeks. Smart now hopes to shift gears and ramp up workouts to get the team ready for training camp in the Fall.

“Between now and August 12, we will all be here every day — players, coaches [and] everyone” Smart said.

The Longhorns added four freshmen and two transfers after losing seven players to graduation and the NBA Draft this offseason. With such heavy roster turnover, Smart hopes the next few weeks together fosters a strong team chemistry.

“It’s a great opportunity to spend a lot of time together,” Smart said. “We have so many new guys on our team. So in order to create the dynamic we need of a connected group of guys, we all need to get to know each other.”