In Chris Beard's opening press conference after replacing Shaka Smart as Texas head basketball coach, Beard vowed to make the Longhorns a national title contender as quickly as possible.
It took Beard about three months on the job to make good on that promise. The former Texas Tech head coach landed five of the nation's top transfers — Minnesota point guard Marcus Carr, Utah All-Pac-12 forward Timmy Allen, UMass center Tre Mitchell, Vanderbilt power forward Dylan Disu, and Creighton forward Christian Bishop.
In addition to Carr, Beard also brought in Kentucky sophomore point guard Devin Askew to join returning veteran Texas guards Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey and Jase Febres.
Beard has won big with infusions of transfer talent previously — even before the advent of the transfer portal — at Little Rock and then at Texas Tech. At Tech, he used transfers to help replace four starters from his 2018 Elite Eight team to reach the national title game in 2019, barely losing to Virginia in an overtime thriller.
At a Glance
HEAD COACH: Chris Beard
2020-21 RECORD (BIG 12): 19-8 (11-6)
2020-21 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Abilene Christian 53-52 in the first round
F Greg Brown III (9.3 ppg, 6.2 apg)
G Matt Coleman III (13.2 ppg, 4.0 apg)
F Kai Jones (8.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
F Jericho Sims (9.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg)
Texas lost one of the nation’s most talented frontcourts — sophomore Kai Jones, freshman Greg Brown III and senior Jericho Sims — to the NBA Draft after last season.
But the Longhorns, who won their first Big 12 Tournament last season, might be even more talented this year with the portal arrivals of Allen, Mitchell, Disu and Bishop.
Allen, a relentless, 6'6" junior forward, left Utah after averaging 17.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 2020-21 because he wanted to play for a contender.
Disu, who attended high school in an Austin suburb (Henderickson High in Pflugerville), averaged 15.0 points and 9.2 rebounds as a sophomore at Vanderbilt, finishing last season as the SEC's leading rebounder (in 17 games prior to injury).
Mitchell, who can play center or power forward at 6'9", averaged 18.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks as a sophomore at UMass last season.
Bishop, a 6'7" junior forward, averaged 11.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.0 blocks for Creighton in 2021.
They join scrappy returning redshirt junior small forward Brock Cunningham, who earned Beard's admiration while Beard was still at Texas Tech because of Cunningham's never-ending hustle as a super-sub.
Carr, who averaged 19.4 points per game last season, picked Texas over playing pro basketball in Australia.
Carr's addition to the roster in July gives the Longhorns one of the most experienced backcourts in the country along with Jones (14.6 ppg, 2.3 apg), a senior, and Ramey (12.2 ppg, 3.9 apg), a redshirt junior.
Askew started 20 games at point guard as a freshman for Kentucky last season, averaging 6.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
Texas brings in a key high school signee in 6'6" guard/forward Jaylon Tyson, who was previously committed to Beard at Texas Tech.
With so many new faces arriving via the portal, there is always concern about chemistry. But Beard has done a masterful job of getting transfer talent to play well together in the past. National champion Baylor and even runner-up Gonzaga showed last year that the older you are as a team, the better you are. And Texas will get a chance to face Gonzaga in non-conference play this season.
You can't play for Beard unless you're committed to being a complete player — meaning you've got to play defense and do the dirty work, going after rebounds and loose balls. His transfers seem to fit those criteria.
Beard also has the kind of length he craves at every spot on the floor, so he can switch defenders on a 1-through-5 basis.
Based on the scoring averages of the Longhorns' new additions, putting the ball in the bucket shouldn't be a problem.
With their remade roster, the Longhorns have to be considered a threat to reach the Final Four in Beard's first year as head coach of his alma mater.
Postseason Prediction: NCAA Tournament Final Four
Big 12 Prediction: 2