Texas basketball preview: Can Shaka Smart take advantage of a talented roster and lead the Longhorns to a Big 12 title?
This article originally appeared in the the Nov. 9, 2015, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here.
At VCU, Shaka Smart built his Havoc defense around quickness. In Isaiah Taylor, the Longhorns’ new coach has one of the fastest players in college basketball. Yet Smart wants the 6'3" junior point guard to cool his jets occasionally—at least on offense. “Sometimes what’s needed is to shift down from fifth gear to third,” Smart says. “He’s learning that.” Taylor averaged 13.1 points and 4.6 assists last season, but made only 40.1% of his field goal attempts because he tried too hard to break down defenses and wound up forcing shots. Taylor’s focus this year will be creating high-quality looks for teammates. He’ll get help on the perimeter from Demarcus Holland, a hard-nosed senior, and freshman Eric Davis Jr., an opportunistic scorer with range.
Smart expects the Longhorns to play like his 2011 Final Four squad at VCU, which relied more on zone D and hit an NCAA tournament record 61 three-pointers. Last season under Rick Barnes, who’s now at Tennessee, the Longhorns ranked seventh in the Big 12 (and 212th nationally) in threes. “We’re not going to press every single possession, we’re not going to trap as much,” says Smart. “But we’re still going to play with a level of energy and togetherness. That’s really what Havoc was about. It’s a mind-set more so than X’s and O’s.”
Lammert was the Longhorns’ glue guy last year, and now the 6'10" stretch forward will be counted on to hit clutch threes. Coach Shaka Smart expects Lemmert’s rate to rise dramatically from the 29.5% he hit in 2014–15.
“The two biggest strengths that we have right now are experience and depth. We can play a lot of guys, which combined with the way that we want to play aggressiveness-wise and speed-wise should allow us to play really hard.” — Shaka Smart
Projected depth chart