Longhorns continue to prepare with month left until season begins

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Head coach Shaka Smart addresses the media following Tuesday’s practice. Smart was hired from Virginia Commonwealth University last year following the departure of former head coach Rick Barnes. In his tenure at VCU, Smart went 163-56 while leading the Rams to one Final Four appearance.

Photo Credit: Charlotte Carpenter | Daily Texan Staff

Head coach Shaka Smart stood at the center of the practice gym at Cooley Pavilion.

In front of and behind him, the guards worked on quick passing and outside shooting. On a side court, the centers worked on their low-post moves.

Everything about it was intense. Players zipped around in their drills. They competed with each other.

“We want to be aggressive,” Smart said. “We want to be connected. We want to be enthusiastic.”

Tuesday marked one month before the Longhorns open their regular season against Washington in Shanghai, China. While Smart said the team has a ways to go before the game, he’s pleased with the team’s current skills.

“We might not have as much in as we would have, but that’s okay,” Smart said. “I think it’s about doing the things you want to do well, rather than having everything in.”

Six months ago, Texas hired Smart to replace longtime head coach Rick Barnes. Since arriving in Austin from Virginia Commonwealth University, Smart has worked to mold the Longhorns to fit his uptempo system.

One key to the Longhorns’ training this offseason: the Navy Seal training Smart led in late September. The training is a tactic he also used during his time at VCU.

Smart said he even had some issues going through the workout.

“They fill up a boat with a bunch of water, and you’ve got to dive in there and make it through,” Smart said. “I think between me and Demarcus Holland, we probably struggled the most.”

The amped-up training greets a Longhorn lineup largely identical to the team that competed in the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament two years ago.

Junior guard Isaiah Taylor returns after declining to enter the NBA draft. Taylor was a pivotal part of Texas’ offense last year, averaging 13 points and 4.6 assists.

Down low, Texas boasts two seniors in centers Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh. Each helped the Longhorns lead the Big 12 in field-goal percentage defense last year.

Smart said those two players will carry the defense.

“We want to protect the rim and support our defense from the back,” Smart said.

While the end of Tuesday’s practice was only open to the media, students and fans can see Smart and the Longhorns in action next Wednesday at an intrasquad scrimmage at Gregory Gym.

Smart said those who attend the 6 p.m. game will see a different Texas team.

“It’s going to be the 2015–16 version of Texas,” Smart said.