Following Texas’ win over Colorado in the NIT quarterfinals, Kerwin Roach II let out a laugh in the locker room that echoed throughout the room. Leaning forward in his chair, the senior guard was rocking a big smile and talking with his teammates. He seemed genuinely happy.
But Roach’s demeanor is a far cry from where he was a couple weeks ago. On Feb. 22, in the heart of the Longhorns’ conference schedule, Roach was suspended for the second time this season for a violation of
While his teammates struggled through Big 12 play, failing to achieve enough wins down the stretch in order to make the NCAA tournament, all Roach could do was watch from the bench in a grey Longhorns hoodie
Now, Roach is back for the NIT and entering games from an unfamiliar place — the Texas bench. And while he may not be starting games anymore, there might not be another player on the roster who’s enjoying the Longhorns’ run through the NIT more than him.
“I didn’t get to walk with a jersey on senior night,” Roach said. “I feel like this opportunity is just a blessing for me.”
During the tournament, Roach has impressed with his strong defense and is Texas’ leading scorer. He’s averaging 17.3 points per game in the four-game stretch, which includes a game-high 22 points in Tuesday’s win over TCU in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
Having Roach adjust so well to his new role has been a welcome sign for a Texas team that often struggled to find production when he was out of the lineup.
“He was really, really down and disappointed in himself,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “But I told him, you’re going to get to play again, so it’s all about how you respond when you get back. Our last three games, he’s been terrific and very, very aggressive and defended at a good level, which is what you want from a senior at the end of the year.”
Much like his team’s season, Roach’s four-year career on the Forty Acres has been a rollercoaster. He has been suspended three different times at Texas, and he’s missed the NCAA Tournament two times. He also led the Longhorns to victories over several blueblood programs, provided game-changing plays and sits at 17th in career points scored by a Texas basketball player.
But Roach isn’t focused on the blemishes or past successes right now. While the NIT may not be as prestigious as it once was, he’s focused on closing out his career with a championship — something he’s never done during his career.
“Success is success,” Roach said. “In my four years here, I’ve yet to win a championship in any tournament that I’ve played in. We couldn’t make it to the Big Dance, so we’re going to use this opportunity … and win a championship.”
If Texas beats Lipscomb in the NIT championship game on Thursday, you can expect Roach will be on the stage at the end, laughing, smiling and enjoying the final moments of his Longhorn career.