Longhorn basketball: Ranking Texas’ best recruiting classes

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Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

There’s a reason Texas head coach Shaka Smart has never been accused of being a bad recruiter, and we were reminded why last week. 

But Texas’ men’s basketball recruiting is something that has been done with exceptional diligence over the last few decades, consistently landing four and five-star recruits with NBA potential. Smart’s one-man recruiting class of Vandegrift High School star Greg Brown III is no exception, creating the most talented roster Smart has had going into his sixth season at Texas.

But is Brown’s signing Smart’s best recruiting work? And how does it compare to other recruiting classes Texas has had over the years? Here’s a look back at Texas’ best recruiting classes based on potential at the time of signing, national rank and production at the college and professional level. 

2004: LaMarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson and the No. 2 recruiting class in the country
Head Coach: Rick Barnes

The early Rick Barnes years were excellent for Texas fans. In 2004, Texas was a national competitor coming off a Sweet Sixteen appearance and two seasons removed from the school’s first Final Four since 1947. 

Texas was just a star or two away from competing for a Big 12 title, and Barnes delivered –– he signed the No. 2 class in the nation with three five-star recruits, including four of the top five  ranked high school players in Texas. 

UT won a Big 12 championship and returned to the Elite Eight two seasons later, led by the dynamic duo of center LaMarcus Aldridge and point guard Daniel “Boobie” Gibson. 

Aldridge and Gibson departed for the NBA following the Elite Eight run and went on to have sustained NBA careers –– Aldridge is a seven-time All-Star in his 14th professional season and Gibson played seven seasons before legal issues cut his career short in 2013. 

2006: Kevin Durant, D.J. Augustin and Damion Jones
Head Coach: Rick Barnes

By his ninth season at Texas, Barnes had established his recruiting M.O.: win the state of Texas, win the conference. 

Two seasons after Barnes signed the top three recruits in Texas, won a share of the Big 12 title and made an Elite Eight run with a top-10 finish, he repeated with nearly the exact same strategy. 

Barnes signed D.J. Augustin and Damion James, two of the state’s top three ranked players, and high school phenomenon Kevin Durant, the eventual Naismith Men’s Player of the Year. But Texas’ second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament wasn’t exactly the expected result, which was promptly followed with Durant declaring for the NBA Draft.

One season later, without Durant, history repeated itself when Texas won another Big 12 championship and made its second Elite Eight appearance in three years.

2017: Mo Bamba, Matt Coleman and Jericho Sims 
Head Coach: Shaka Smart

Don’t write this group off yet.

The 2017 recruiting class was Smart’s most anticipated incoming group, drawing from a national pool across four states and spotlighted by No. 3 recruit Mo Bamba, but its lack of production has received criticism.

Since being tabbed as the sixth-ranked class nationally in 2017, the group has managed just one NCAA Tournament appearance, though this past season getting cut short possibly stole a second appearance. But their luck might change soon. 

Texas clicked together late this past season, winning five of its last six games and propelling itself to its best Big 12 finish under Smart. Texas also returns its entire roster next season. Add the commitment of 2020 five-star Brown to the mix, and early NCAA Tournament bracketology predictions place Texas as a four seed with a top-25 finish. 

The four seniors from this class –– Matt Coleman, Jericho Sims, Royce Hamm and Jase Febres –– are going to have one last chance to prove themselves as they try to lead the Longhorns to success unseen since the Rick Barnes era.