The Longhorns have no reason to speculate about an NCAA tournament appearance. Barring an incredible run in the Big 12 tournament, Texas will be watching March Madness from home after a disappointing season.
But there is plenty of reason to speculate about the future of freshman Jarrett Allen. The forward has largely lived up to his billing as a five-star recruit and will be faced with the tough decision of whether or not he is ready to declare for the NBA draft.
Allen has been noncommittal towards the topic so far.
“I’m just going to leave when the time is right,” Allen said per CBS.
Is the time right?
According to DraftExpress.com, Allen is the No. 2 center prospect in college and the No. 18 NBA prospect overall.
He has seen his play steadily improve as the season has progressed.
After timid play early in the year, Allen has embraced his role as the motor that moves this Texas squad. In the month of February, Allen has averaged nearly a double-double, notching over 17 points and eight rebounds per game.
With the way Allen has performed as of late, he has every reason to contemplate a jump to the pros. But head coach Shaka Smart said Allen doesn’t think about distractions off the court.
“His mindset is one of I want to grow and I want to get better,” Smart said. “He doesn’t get caught up in anyone’s outside perceptions of him. That allows him to be much less weighted down than other guys at that age and that talent.”
If Allen’s mindset is to grow, then he should consider staying another year at Texas. While the freshman has flashed brilliance this season, he still has areas he can improve in.
Listed at 6’11 and 235 pounds, Allen possess a lighter frame than the typical NBA center. Another year of putting on strength could help him make an immediate impact at the professional level.
He would also have the opportunity to further refine his offensive game. Allen’s progress has been hindered this season by a stagnant Texas offense that is hurt by its lack of a playmaking point-guard.
Opposing teams have keyed on the forward all season, at times taking him out of games.
“It’s frustrating for anybody to get double-teamed,” Allen said.
With the addition of incoming four-star recruit Matt Coleman, Allen’s frustrations could be a thing of the past. Coleman is a true-point guard and the number five guard prospect in the nation per the ESPN 100.
Coleman will help the Longhorns with their ball movement, something that could generate more shots for Allen. With more touches, Allen could conceivably average 20 points next season and improve his draft stock.
The addition of Coleman also makes Texas a much better basketball team by addressing its biggest need. If winning at the college level is something that matters to Allen, he’ll have a much better chance to do so next year.
At this point, draft talk about Allen is all speculation. But as the season winds down, expect talks to ramp up and for Allen to be the center of Texas’ attention.