Smart’s one-man recruiting class brings excitement to Texas basketball

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Photo Credit: Jack Myer | Daily Texan Staff

Shaka Smart’s 2020 one-man recruiting class might be his best yet as Texas’ head coach. 

Although the 2020 class is Smart’s smallest since he assumed the reins of the program in 2015, five-star Austin native Greg Brown III’s commitment has the Longhorns ecstatic about the possibilities for a team returning all 12 players after finishing third in the Big 12 last season.

“Going back quite a few years, Greg (Brown) has been our number one priority, really not even close to anybody else in this 2020 class. We’re really excited and grateful that he decided to join our program,” Smart said in a Monday teleconference. “He’s one of those guys that you can watch in the layup line and know that he’s a little bit different.”

Smart’s five-year recruitment of Brown has been his longest recruitment of any player, both as an assistant and a head coach. Smart first offered Brown when the Vandegrift High School star  was a middle schooler playing on an AAU circuit.

Former Longhorn and Orlando Magic center Mo Bamba, a one-and-done player under Smart, had long been excited for Brown’s commitment. Asked prior to Brown’s announcement if he had any advice for the five-star, Bamba laughingly said, “Hurry up and join the family, dummy!” He later expressed his excitement about Brown’s commitment via Twitter, tweeting “Big Man U!” after Brown’s announcement. 

Smart said Brown’s commitment will have a significant influence on his coaching search to replace assistant Luke Yaklich, who left Texas after just one season to become the head coach at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“When you hire an assistant coach or anyone to join your staff, one of the first things you want to factor in is your current roster,” Smart said. “Obviously, Greg is a big part of that now. He’s part of that consideration.”

Brown is widely expected to spend one season at Texas before declaring for the NBA Draft and becoming Smart’s fourth one-and-done player. Brown joked with The Undefeated’s Marc Spears during his verbal commitment Friday that he will be “talking about another decision” next year.

But Smart isn’t ready to look to the future yet. 

He has several things to figure out first, such as how Brown will fit into a rotation returning all 12 players and how to remain engaged with his team during quarantine. 

Smart said in Monday’s teleconference that the team has been restricted to Zoom meetings to comply with stay at home orders, and most players don’t have a way to actively train from their residences. Regardless of restrictions, players have welcomed Brown to the team with open arms, asking Smart for Brown’s phone number within minutes of his verbal commitment.

But without the ability to meet and practice as a team, there’s nothing for the Longhorns to do besides “win the wait” until basketball returns.

“We’re optimistic that we’re going to be able to come back and play, but at the same time there are certain things outside of our control,” Smart said. “We’ll be as excited as we’ve ever been to practice and play basketball, regardless of what month and year that is.”