After three years, it could have been the end of the road. A dejected Texas Longhorn squad walked through the tunnel at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, clutching onto a shattering overtime loss to Nevada in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Shooting guard Kerwin Roach II left career numbers of 26 points and five rebounds on college basketball’s biggest stage. As a member of Rick Barnes’ final recruiting class and head coach Shaka Smart’s inaugural freshmen class, Roach had been through it all — from last place finishes in the Big 12 to falling short in March Madness thrillers.
Many anticipated the next step for the two-way swingman was to declare for the NBA Draft, and that’s exactly what Roach announced on March 27.
But two months later, things changed. Roach withdrew his name from consideration, and since he did not hire an agent, he was allowed to return to Texas. After hearing from NBA scouts and team personnel, Roach determined remaining in Austin to develop his game was in the best interest of his basketball career.
“It was very informational,” Roach said on the draft experience. “They really give it to you cold-blooded. It makes you better. It’s a business, and you just got to get better. I was telling the guys, it’s a numbers game. Most of the things they want to see is just wins. Just get wins, and if we win, everything else will take care of itself.”
When asked about what missing element from his game was in highest demand, Roach didn’t hesitate.
“Shooting, just being more consistent,” Roach said. “I’ve been working on this offseason shooting from NBA range, college range, putting up a lot of threes, shooting a lot of free throws. Hopefully it just translates to the game this season.”
Roach is primarily renowned for his perimeter defense. He opened the 2017–18 season by declaring his goal was to be the national Defensive Player of the Year. Roach also frequently attacks the rim with aggressiveness as a ferocious dunker, a staple in college basketball highlight reels.
Smart thinks overall, Roach is trending in the right direction toward his eventual goal.
“He’s at times been spectacular on defense for us,” Smart said. “He’s done a phenomenal job on guys that ended up being NBA first-round picks, lottery picks. But he needs to gain a level of consistency there. Offensively, near the end of the year last year, he really took a jump. He started making more outside shots, he was making better decisions, using pick-and-roll became a strength of his.”
Through five games in 2018–19, Roach leads the Longhorns in points (18.6), assists (4.6) and steals (2.6). He recorded a career-high 32 points against then-No. 7 North Carolina and earned a double-double against Arkansas, complete with a bizarre 3-point buzzer-beater to send the game into overtime. It’s safe to say the senior’s game has taken a leap with NBA teams fixated on him as a candidate in this year’s draft.
“If I work for it, have the right mindset and approach it right, I feel like I can (develop consistency),” Roach said. “When stuff gets good, people tend to get relaxed and complacent, and that’s one thing I have to fight this year.”
But the NBA Draft isn’t exactly a senior’s game. In 2018, the highest selected senior was Grayson Allen, who landed on the Utah Jazz with the 21st pick. Only two seniors were first round selections, with nine hearing their name in the second round — primarily falling in the final quarter of the draft. Roach can use his perimeter defense as a springboard into the league, but his development in other areas can secure a draft selection.
“I try to get him feedback from the scouts that come into practice now,” Smart said. “I’ll text those guys after and say, ‘Hey, what did you think of Snoop, and what can you give me to give him?’ Now, we want him to be a playmaker for our team, not just for himself, but for the other guys around him.”