Texas Basketball: Chris Beard brings balance to the transfer portal

One year after Chris Beard stocked up his roster with transfers, the Texas Basketball coach is taking a more measured approach.

For all the hype that accompanied Chris Beard’s first season in Austin, things didn’t go as planned for Texas Basketball after an offseason of building through the transfer portal.

When Shaka Smart left for Marquette, plenty of Longhorns went with him. Greg Brown and Kai Jones left early for the NBA. Matt Coleman III and Jericho Sims also went pro. Heck, two players transferred to the same school, UNLV (Royce Hamm Jr. and Donovan Williams).

So Beard got to work on refilling the coffers, hitting the transfer trail hard. Timmy Allen. Marcus Carr. Dylan Disu. Devin Askew. Tre Mitchell. It felt like Beard was assembling his version of the Avengers to take the college basketball world by storm in 2021-22.

How did it go? After taking a couple of understandable losses in non-conference play, Texas looked merely pedestrian when it came to the Big 12. The Longhorns managed to snag a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament but were done before the first weekend came to a close.

Perhaps trying to right the wrongs of last year (or avoid the specter of overinflated expectations), Beard hasn’t approached the transfer portal with the same zeal this offseason. Instead, he has targeted a couple of players and let his returners and recruiting class do the rest of the work.

Beard did score one of the top transfers in the nation last week in former Iowa State guard Tyrese Hunter. The point guard was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2021-22, averaging 11.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He should be able to keep up the strong play in Austin.

Otherwise, it’s been relatively quiet on the transfer end. The only other player Texas has brought in is guard Sir’Jabari Rice, from New Mexico State. He averaged 11.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, but doesn’t have the same pedigree as Hunter or many of last year’s transfers.

Texas does have a big recruiting class on the way, led by forward Dillon Mitchell. There are two five-star recruits and one four-star recruits as part of the class, ranked between a top 10 and top 15 class in the nation, depending on where you look. Players like Mitchell will be expected to make an impact quickly.

For the most part, however, Texas will be leaning on its returning players, including many of the transfers who couldn’t live up to the hype last year. Allen, Carr, and Disu are all back for another go-around. Courtney Ramey announced his transfer almost two months ago, but still hasn’t found a landing spot, perhaps creating an opening for him to return.

Hunter, Carr, Allen, and Mitchell appear poised to start for the Longhorns. A fellow five-star freshman, Arterio Morris, may also start for the team, though much depends on whether or not Disu stays in the NBA Draft.

There’s a chance some much-needed continuity for the Longhorns in Year 2 of the Beard Era will lead to better results. Many of the returning players will be more accustomed to playing in his system and won’t need as large a learning curve.

There are still some obvious issues with the team, though. The team doesn’t have any traditional big men to bang around inside in the rugged Big 12. If Disu doesn’t return, the tallest player will be 6-foot-7 forward, Christian Bishop.

Texas also has a dearth of shooters. The team shot only 32.3 percent from three-point range last season. Brock Cunningham (with a small sample size of 23 attempts) is the only returning player or incoming transfer to hit more than 35 percent of their attempts last season.

Still, Beard appears ready to rely more on development this season than last year, going back to the strategy that made him such a success at Little Rock. The Longhorns are a top 15 team in the country and should be able to push into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in 2023.

Chris Beard’s less intense focus on the transfer portal could be a key for the Texas Longhorns next season.