The basketball celebration is done and it is time to move on to the building of next years team. What has been mostly uncertain up until this point is whether Grant McCasland would be the one leading the building efforts. He was mentioned for both the Texas Tech and Oklahoma jobs.
McCasland was never really a candidate for the Tech job. They had two serious candidates that they thought were better options than McCasland went with one of those options when they chose Mark Adams. McCasland was much closer to landing at OU. Word on the street was that it came down to Loyola-Chicago head coach Porter Moser and McCasland. The Sooners chose to go with Moser. Its quite possible that McCasland may end up being mentioned with other jobs but for the most part the chatter has calmed down.
That means it is not time to focus on building next year’s team. North Texas is set to lose three program stars in Javion Hamlet, Zach Simmons, and James Reese. It will be extremely hard to replace their on-court production and leadership. North Texas has been working the transfer portal hard but hasn’t been able to land anyone yet. The two positions they’ve been looking at most are the PG and F/C. Here are a few names to watch, some of whom they’ve already contacted.
- Rayj Dennis Boise St G
- Darius McNeill SMU G
- Wendell Green Jr EKU G
- Shahada Wells UTA G
- Matt Nuga Kent St G
- Jaheam Cornwall Gardner Webb G
- Tyree Ihenacho North Dakota G
- Ayo Akinwole Nebraska Omaha G
- Terry Roberts Florida Southwestern (JUCO) G
- Elyjah Williams Fairleigh Dickinson F
- Xavier Cork Western Carolina C/F
- Melik Martin Monmouth F/C
There are probably many more names that you could add to this list — the portal has over 1000 names right now. I would imagine that North Texas has been recruiting the JUCO level hard as well (something they’ve done with success to this point), but that information is hard to come by. The above list points to North Texas trying to fill their two biggest holes.
Potential North Texas Basketball Depth 2021-22 Depth Chart
- PG 1 – ? / Rubin Jones / Da’Kquan Davis
- SG 2 – Mardrez McBride / JJ Murray / Matthew Stone
- SF 3 – Rubin Jones / Aaron Scott or Matthew Stone
- PF 4 – Thomas Bell / Mykell Robinson / Jahmiah Simmons
- C 5 – ? / Abou Ousmane / Chrisdon Morgan
James Reese primary played the SF-3 and it makes the most sense to slide Rubin Jones into that role. Rubin was having a fantastic freshman year until his injury sidelined him for the post season run. If North Texas cant land a PG Jones could slide into that role which would allow one of their highly touted freshman Aaron Scott or Matthew Stone to slide into that SF-3 role. Jones was the secondary ball handler for most of the year. He’s very capable of running the show for North Texas. Some fans may even argue that Jones should be the running the point. I believe that having Jones as your SF-3 allows the North Texas lineup to be more versatile. It would provide North Texas with 3 potential guys who could attack the basket assuming NT lands a capable PG via transfer or JUCO.
Finding someone to replace Zach Simmons will be extremely difficult. Zach has been the foundation of this North Texas program for a long time. Abou Ousmane is the most likely replacement. Ousmane flashed some of his potential down the stretch for North Texas. He provided valuable minutes in many big-time games. His game is still raw and needs developing, but the potential is there. He can score in the post and became a much better defender as the season went on. The incoming freshman Chrisdon Morgan is also raw and well take some time to develop. So North Texas will probably want to find some front court depth. Its not as big of a need as the point guard position is so if North Texas cant find a prominent transfer big guy they will be able to look towards the JUCO market.
Getting Thomas Bell and JJ Murray to return huge. They were the glue guys to last years team and will now have even more prominent roles next year. How much will North Texas ask Thomas Bell to do? Will he be the primary focus of the offense or will his role be similar? Can JJ Murray develop into a better three-point shooter? Will Drez McBride build off his epic post season? How much can Mykell Robinson improve on offense? All of these are important questions to answer when thinking about how the 2021-22 North Texas basketball team will be built.