College basketball’s early signing period is less than a month away and the Longhorns are still without a commitment in 2013. What gives?
Should Texas be in panic mode right now, especially in a year when three of the top five players in the country are from the state of Texas and two of them (Andrew and Aaron Harrison) have already committed elsewhere?
Not so fast says Reggie Rankin, a scout and analyst for ESPN's RecruitingNation. Rankin, who has coached in the SEC, Big 12, MAC and various other places for 14 seasons, answered a few questions for HornsNation about Texas’ 2013 class and a few others about the program in general.
HornsNation: Should Texas fans be concerned that the Longhorns don’t have a commitment yet in 2013?
Reggie Rankin: It’s important in recruiting to not overreact. I wouldn’t overreact if I were a Texas fan. Look at their roster. They are a young team. They got Cameron [Ridley], who was right there with [Baylor freshman] Isaiah Austin last year as the two big boys in the state. I wouldn’t be concerned in that regard. I believe that Texas does a good job of recruiting inside and out. They start inside and then expand outside the state. One of the things that people have to understand is timing is everything. Some kids might look at their roster and don’t see the fit. I think Texas is a national name and a respected power. I think they will be just fine in the state and be able to go outside the border and find kids that are talented and good kids. I wouldn’t panic.
HN: Texas’ top target remains Julius Randle and with good reason. He’s the No. 4 player in the ESPN 100 and a beast on the block. What do you like about him?
Rankin: What makes him special to me is not only his size and talent, but I love his toughness and aggressiveness. That’s what makes him special and will make him an immediate impact player at the high major college level because he is relentless and goes right at guys. The aggressive approach is the best approach for young players. As a coach it is a lot easier to tone them down than to tone them up. Once he gets into a college environment on a daily basis, I think his game goes to another level.
HN: Where do you put him if you are a college coach?
Rankin: I think he’s a power forward. He’s a straight power forward. He’s not a center and he’s not a small forward. Everything about his game is attacking and power. On the glass, the way he attacks the rim. He just needs to continue to build his game in order to be more productive in other areas. But he’s a straight 4-man.
HN: What kind of chance does Texas have to land Randle? He has visited the campus a few times already and is expected to take an official visit at some point.
Rankin: I think they have a shot. He narrowed his schools down to six schools and has legendary programs he’s considering. But again, he is a state kid that [Texas] has put a lot of time into. Their connection with him seems to be as good as anyone else’s. I think they have a legit shot. But when you are dealing with legendary programs and the elite of college basketball…”
(Randle trimmed his list of contenders to six on Oct. 2 and Texas made the cut along with Kentucky, North Carolina State, Florida, Kansas and Oklahoma. He’s already taken official visits to Kentucky and Florida.)
HN: Texas is used to getting who it wants in football, especially in the state. But as we’ve already seen with the Harrison twins (Richmond, Texas/Travis) picking Kentucky, that isn’t so much the case in basketball. Why is that?
Rankin: The powers in football and basketball are two different types of programs, and in basketball a lot of the national powers are outside the state of Texas. People don’t understand that in basketball you are recruiting small numbers. In football you are recruiting huge numbers. So your margin for error in basketball is so much smaller so it’s even more important to identify the best kids and be most successful in your system and in your school. Recruiting mistakes in basketball are a lot more identified than football. You can’t hide five guys.
HN: Still, you wouldn’t be concerned with Texas being commitment-less right now?
Rankin: It would be different if they had a bunch of seniors and juniors and didn’t have any commitments. But when you have a young team and young talent that’s a factor. There isn’t a cookie-cutter formula with this stuff. It’s about fit, fill, timing, location. Texas is such a tremendous state for high school athletics. But you can only bring in 13 guys. You can only bring in 13.
HN: Who are some other names that Texas is looking at right now?
Rankin: JaJuan Johnson is a name that has come up. Demarcus Croaker has come up. I’ll tell you this: Don’t count out Keith Frazier. There is a lot of water that has to go over the dam before that is over with. Keith’s recruiting is just at a slower place. You can never count out the marquee school of the state. People can say whatever they want but the marquee school in the state that everybody identifies with is the Longhorns.
HN: The biggest recruiting victory for Texas last season was getting Cameron Ridley to sign. He should be able to contribute right away on the defensive end, but what can he do offensively as a freshman?
Rankin: Without me talking to the coaches and seeing him practice, and going on what I saw in high school, I believe that with his size and his touch I’m sure he will be able to provide them with some type of scoring down low. How much? I think it varies and I think it will increase as the year progresses. Most of the time big guys develop at a slower pace, but when the light comes on, it comes on bright. They will work with him on his back-to-the-basket moves. He is probably not going to see double teams right away and he’ll be bigger than 90 percent of the guys guarding him. So he should be able to get his shot off. It’s just a matter of perfecting his shot and his conditioning, all things that Texas can bring out of a guy.
HN: Kind of like Texas developed Dexter Pittman?
Rankin: I saw Dexter in high school and he could make it up the court twice and he’d have to come out. For that kid to be an NBA player is [a tribute to Texas’ coaches]. Cam is already ahead of that. They will develop his back-to-the-basket game and he’ll have to be in good shape. He’ll be able to give them some low-post presence and it will get better as the year goes on.