With three departures already this offseason, Texas has gone from a young but more experienced team back to a young team with almost no experience. A five-man 2011 recruiting class has dwindled down to two players, which could get even smaller if one them transfers.
Julien Lewis was expected to become a major piece of the team as a sophomore. Instead, he joined fellow guard Sheldon McClellan in Rick Barnes’ doghouse, conveniently located on the bench, for much of the season. McClellan has already made the decision to transfer, along with forward Jaylen Bond, and there is a chance that Lewis may not be far behind. So the only acceptable question regarding Lewis’ future is this: is he better off sticking it out, or should he move on to a fresh start?
Despite losing a starting spot to a bunch of freshmen midway through the season, Lewis was still counted on by Barnes and the rest of the team to make big contributions. Late in games against Iowa State and Oklahoma, Lewis came off the bench to make crucial three-pointers. Some of Texas’ late-season wins would not have come if Lewis doesn’t hit important shots down the stretch. But the fact remains that he was relegated to a supporting role, and the question over what his role will be heading into next season is looming over his head.
There were times this past season when he and McClellan lacked the effort and conviction that Barnes wanted from them and they seemed disconnected from the offense. Both seemed to settle for shots far from the basket, rather than taking the ball to the rim.
If he has a chance to become a starter and primary contributor on another roster, then he may have to consider a change. A change in location could reenergize him and drive him to do what he needs to do to be successful.
Or he could stick it out in Austin and use this demotion as motivation for next season. On a roster devoid of experience, Lewis and rising junior Jonathan Holmes could become leaders on the team.
Lewis came to Texas for a reason. Out of all the other offers he had and places he could have gone, he chose to come to Texas and to play for Barnes. Is that still a good enough reason to suit up for the Longhorns? Does he still want to play for Texas? For Barnes?
Lewis has to decide if the same thing that drew him to Austin two years ago is still driving him now. If it isn’t, then he may join McClellan and Bond in their exodus out of Texas. But if there is still something there that brought him here originally, then staying and beating this situation may be the best answer. Only he can decide.