University of Texas

UT Arlington men’s basketball goal: Spread the wealth

If UT Arlington coach Scott Cross needed a sign to tell him his new offense has a chance to be special, getting goose bumps while cutting up practice film at home opened his eyes.

“I was so fired up I was almost cursing at the screen,” he said. “And my wife’s like ‘What’s going on?’ So I took it to my wife, hit play and said ‘What does this look like to you?’ ”

“After a minute or two, she said ‘the Spurs.’”

He did remind himself that those clips were highlights, but it was a strong indication that this year’s UTA team will use a lot more ball movement and player movement than it has in a long time.

While watching San Antonio dismantle the star-laden Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, Cross saw the changing of the guard when it came to winning basketball. Instead of being one-on-one driven — which the Mavericks ran a lot of with Reger Dowell last season — the Spurs won by passing, cutting and getting open shots.

Because of that, the Mavericks don’t expect a 20-point shooter every night. Instead, they’re built on working the ball to all five guys to spread the wealth. The primary facilitator will be Johnny Hill, a redshirt junior who envisions running an offense that passes up good shots in favor the open man with a great shot.

“It’s tough to defend someone who’s constantly moving,” he said. “In practice, guys have been surprised at how wide open they are. We’re excited about this system.”

As they should be. On Friday, the young Mavericks blew past Bradley 86-75 behind a barrage of three-pointers that put the home team away by halftime. Of the six Mavericks who scored at least nine points, only one — Jamel Outler — is a senior.

It’s an ideal year for Cross to put in a new system that should carry over into next season. And in order for the system to fire on all cylinders, it takes a good point guard and power forward to make it all work.

Hill leads a surplus of UTA guards, but the development of 6-foot-7 freshman Kevin Hervey (Arlington Bowie) holds a lot of promise. After opening his career with a 13-point, seven-rebound game on Friday, he’s off to a great start in that power forward spot.

“We’ve got to get him used to the physicality of the game, but from a skill standpoint, he’s really good,” Cross said.

With an offense built to mimic the NBA champions, the Mavericks hope the learning curve isn’t too steep. And judging from Cross’ late night film session, there’s a lot to be excited about.

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