Sophomores see increased responsibility prior to season opener

Claire Cruz

Sophomore guards Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis Jr. have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.

Head coach Shaka Smart expects the duo to fill the void left by recently departed guards Javan Felix and Isaiah Taylor, last year’s respective leading scorer and floor general.

But the two aren’t fazed by their new roles. In fact, they see the challenge as an opportunity to seize and thrive on.

“It’s definitely been a big focal point,” Roach said. “I just really took on the [point guard] role and I’m trying to run with it. [Coach Smart] put more trust [in me], gave me more responsibility, just held me more accountable really for everything I do and just really gave me the keys.”

Roach is a tenacious, athletic player known for his impressive vertical and ability to throw down massive dunks. He credits his special bond with his coach — the two go out for breakfast on Sundays when Texas doesn’t practice — as one reason he feels comfortable taking on a leadership role.

Davis also looks forward to getting a chance in the limelight. He averaged 7.4 points per game last season, and most recently hit a three-point shot to put Team White over Team Orange in Texas’ intrasquad scrimmage last week.

The sophomore admitted he sometimes gets too caught up in his own play, but said he’s been working on putting the team’s needs first as he prepares to emerge as a leader.

“Whatever the team needs — that’s my whole thing this year,” Davis said. “I’m over myself. That’s something me and coach talked about this summer. Last year I was looking to the older guys for answers, now the young guys look at me for the answers, so I just try to be a leader at all times.” 

The two will immediately serve as mentors for freshman guard Andrew Jones.

Jones, a four-star recruit, made a solid first impression on the burnt orange faithful, scoring 10 points and dishing out eight assists in the Texas Tip-Off. He struggled at times defensively, but his passing prowess pairs well with the offensive system Smart plans to run this season.

Smart said Texas will be “even more inside-out than last year,” meaning the guards will be passing inside to the big men early and often. They will still get plenty of shooting opportunities, but Smart envisions a versatile Longhorn attack.

“We want those guys to sometimes do less, better,” Smart said. “Sometimes you can be better doing less if you just make a simple play. They’re talented guys, [Kerwin], Andrew, Eric, so you don’t want them just to be facilitators but at the same time you don’t want them to pound it, pound it, pound it and not really get much out of it so we have to find that balance.”

Texas will continue working toward that balance in its return to the Frank Erwin Center on Nov. 2 for an exhibition game against Angelo State.