Tuesday December 15th, 2015

Javan Felix’s game-winning jumper as time expired to beat No. 3 North Carolina on Saturday was the first of two victories for Texas in the last few days.

The second came Monday when five-star point guard Andrew Jones committed to head coach Shaka Smart and the Longhorns.

Jones (MacArthur/Irving, Texas) is ranked No. 28 in the class of 2016 on Scout.com and is listed as the No. 7 point guard. He happened to be in attendance at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin on Saturday to witness the upset.

“Over the past couple months, since the end of July, I’ve built a strong relationship with coach Smart,” Jones told Scout.com. “It was to the point where we were texting every morning. He was sending me motivational quotes about how to be a leader and how to stay positive.”

At 6'4", Jones has incredible size for the point and is excellent in transition. He has also skyrocketed up the rankings since last year and has really come into his own as one the nation’s best ballhandlers.

Jones will likely have a year to learn under current junior Isaiah Taylor, assuming he returns for his senior year, and should be able to give Smart valuable minutes off the bench. If Taylor happens to declare, then Jones could very well earn the starting nod to open the 2016–17 season. His three-point shooting has gotten better of late, and with his size he could pose many problems for opposing guards on the perimeter, offensively and defensively.

Jones’s commitment to Texas is Smart’s first big win on the recruiting trail in his first season since leaving VCU and replacing long-time coach Rick Barnes. The Longhorns beat out Arizona, Baylor, Louisville and Texas A&M among others to snag Jones, the third top-100 recruit in Smart’s first class. Four-star prospects James Banks (La Lumiere School/La Porte, Ind.) and Jacob Young (Yates/Houston) have also committed.

Smart landing Jones is important from a basketball standpoint, but its effects on the Texas program could be worth far more than that. It shows the rest of the Big 12—as well as the Texas boosters—that Smart is already capable of landing big-time recruits in a major conference, especially ones close to home. Consider that last year the Longhorns missed out on the top five recruits from the state of Texas, with three heading to in-state rival Texas A&M.

A highly touted Dallas prospect committing to the Longhorns is no small victory, and one that could resonate throughout Smart’s tenure. Texas is also in the running for 6'10" center Jarrett Allen, Scout.com’s No. 16 ranked player and a five-star recruit from St. Stephen’s Episcopal in Austin, who could step in immediately and fill the role of the departing Cameron Ridley and Connor Lammert in the frontcourt. With Jones pledging to Smart, it’s possible that Allen could follow suit and re-open an in-state pipeline that has been somewhat lacking in recent years.

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