Hollis has decommited from UNT, considering options

Mansfield Summit small forward Curtis Hollis has backed out of his commitment to North Texas and plans to attend a prep school in 2017 while trying to improve his academic standing and expand his college options.  (The Dallas Morning News/G.J. McCarthy)

Mansfield Summit small forward Curtis Hollis has backed out of his commitment to North Texas and plans to attend a prep school in 2017 while trying to improve his academic standing and expand his college options. (The Dallas Morning News/G.J. McCarthy)

Curtis Hollis, a highly regarded small forward from Mansfield Summit, has decommitted from North Texas and plans to spend the upcoming season at a prep school.

Hollis recently reclassified  and will now be a part of the Class of 2017.

“I reopened my recruitment to check on some other options,” Hollis said. “I decommitted about three weeks ago but didn’t tell anybody.”

Hollis said his father still talks to UNT head coach Tony Benford and his staff on a regular basis. The Mean Green are still in the running to land Hollis, but will now have to compete with other schools that have started to show interest.

St. Louis has been in contact with Hollis and SMU had begun to show interest. Hollis, who is 6-5, originally committed to UNT in October.

Hollis said he expects recruiting attention to pick up over the next few weeks as schools learn that he is back on the market after backing out of his commitment to UNT.

“I’m hoping to see some high majors come in,” Hollis said. “Some showed interest, but didn’t offer because of my grades.”

Hollis decided to go to prep school to improve his academic standing. He will get another chance to show colleges what he has to offer as a result.

Hollis was already a highly regarded player when he committed to UNT. TexasHoops.com rates Hollis at No. 40 on its list of the top players in the state in the Class of 2016.

“I’m going to play in the summer and see what happens in July,” Hollis said. “I am hoping to catch some teams’ attention over the summer.”

Hollis will then head to prep school and could end up playing for one of the top prep basketball programs in the country. He is considering IMG Academy, Hargrave Military Academy and New Hampton Academy. All three are prep school powers that have produced players who have signed with nationally prominent programs.

Hollis was a top college football prospect in addition to being a standout basketball player. He plans to stick with basketball during his year in prep school, but could play football as well, if he lands at IMG.

Hollis plans to keep in contact with the staff at UNT over the next few months.

“North Texas will be in the mix,” Hollis said. “My brother goes there, it’s close and my parents like it a lot.”

Losing Hollis is a key blow for UNT. The Mean Green were expected to sign two players in the midterm period before Hollis backed out.

The Mean Green were left with one signee in Bryan combo guard A.J. Lawson. Texashoops.com ranks Lawson 18th in the Class of 2016.

UNT also added Keith Frazier, who will be eligible at the semester break next season after transferring from SMU.

UNT is 8-14 on the season after snapping a five-game losing streak with a win over Southern Miss last night.

The Mean Green have a young roster this season with just three seniors. Forward Eric Katenda is the only key contributor among those players.

UNT has a core of veterans who are scheduled to return in the 2016-17 season that includes sophomore forward Jeremy Combs and junior guard J-Mychal Reese.

UNT had hoped to add Hollis to that core, but will now have re-recruit him and try to add him to its 2017 class.

Late night hoops rewind: UNT 70, Southern Miss 54

North Texas freshman center Rickey Brice Jr. (23) has the ball tipped away by Southern Mississippi freshman forward Tim Rowe during the Mean Green's win over the Golden Eagles on Thursday at the Super Pit. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas freshman center Rickey Brice Jr. (23) has the ball tipped away by Southern Mississippi freshman forward Tim Rowe during the Mean Green’s win over the Golden Eagles on Thursday at the Super Pit. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

Final: North Texas 70, Southern Miss 54

Where UNT stands: UNT improved to 8-14 overall and 3-6 in Conference USA play after snapping a five-game losing streak

Now what?: The Mean Green will see the level of competition increase in the second half of a two-game homestand when they face Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

Brice

Brice

Star of the day: Rickey Brice Jr. returned to the lineup after missing three games with a concussion he suffered in practice and had an immediate impact while scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds. The freshman was a presence on the defensive end while blocking three shots. J-Mychal Reese also had a great game while scoring 19 points and handing out four assists. Jeremy Combs added 14 points, while Ja’ Michael Brown scored 12 while hitting three 3s.

Say what?:

“I am really pleased with the effort of my guys. This has been a tough two weeks, but the guys continue to work hard in practice. It really carried over tonight. We worked on the defensive end and got stops in our man and zone defenses.”

– Tony Benford, UNT coach on the Mean Green’s overall effort and performance on the defensive end

Our take: UNT pulled out of a late-season dive by knocking off Southern Miss in a game the Mean Green really needed to win at home. The return of Brice was huge and bolstered a bench that had pretty much gone MIA in the last few weeks.

Brice scored 11 of the 16 points UNT’s reserved scored on the night.

If UNT is going to get anything going late in the season, it’s going to need all the help it can get, and Brice seems like one of the few players the Mean Green have on their bench capable of providing anything in the way of tangible production.

The other big story line was UNT’s play defensively. Granted, Southern Miss did a lot of missing, but the Mean Green were solid on that end of the floor all night. UNT finished with 10 steals and six blocks.The Golden Eagles shot just 36.7 percent (18 of 49) from the field.

Combs’ double-double streak finally came to an end at seven games when he finished with only nine rebounds to go along with 14 points. But that was just a side note.

The big story now is that UNT has won consecutive games just twice this season against the less than powerful  pairings of Nicholls and Mississippi Valley and Jarvis Christian and Texas College.

If UNT can pick up a win over Louisiana Tech after beating Southern Miss, it can easily claim that it is in the midst of its best run of the season.

 

UNT-Southern Miss running blog

North Texas and Southern Miss will face off here at the Super Pit in a rare 8 p.m. start.

UNT is going down the tubes at a frighteningly rapid rate and has lost its last five games to plummet toward the Conference USA basement.

UNT (7-14, 2-6) has problems all across the board from a mediocre bench to struggling to stop anyone. The Mean Green gave up 97 points in a loss to Marshall to start their slide and coughed up 95 in a loss to Rice in their last outing.

The hope is that UNT can turn the corner late in the season. UNT will get backup center Rickey Brice back tonight, which could help a bit with the Mean Green’s depth issues.

UNT has leaned heavily on its starters of late, particularly Jeremy Combs and J-Mychal Reese. Combs is averaging 20.0 points a game in conference play, while Reese is averaging 16.0 points a night.

Deckie Johnson has also been playing well. Ja’Michael Brown and Eric Katenda are also contributing.

UNT needs someone — anyone — else to show up.

It’s a late start tonight and this place is pretty empty.

Stay tuned. I will update the blog all night.

Starters — J-Mychal Reese, Jeremy Combs, Eric Katenda, Ja’Michael Brown, Deckie Johnson

15:44 — UNT is off to a good start and leads 9-4 at the first media timeout. Ja’Michael Brown hit a corner 3 to get the Mean Green off to a good start. Southern Miss has hit just one shot from the field so far.

12:33 — UNT is really rolling now. J-Mychal Reese just pumped in back-to-back 3s to put the Mean Green up 17-6.

11:35 — UNT is up 17-8 at the second media timeout of the first half. Southern Miss is jiust 2-for-10 from the field. J-Mychal Reese has eight points for UNT. The Mean Green have hit six of their first 10 shots from the field.

7:26 — Southern Miss is on a 9-0 run has pulled to within 17-15 a little past the midway point of the first half. UNT has missed its last six shots from the field and just turned the ball over on an offensive foul on Rickey Brice Jr. J-Mychal Reese has eight points for UNT.

3:48 — UNT is up 25-19 late in the first half. Southern Miss pulled within two points at 17-15 before Ja’Michael Brown hit back-to-back 3s. Brown has nine points for UNT.

Halftime — UNT has a 29-26 lead at halftime here at the Super Pit. Ja’Michael Brown has nine points for UNT. Southern Miss shot just 36 percent from the field in the first half.

16:34 — Southern Miss has come back to tie the score at 31-31 early in the second half. UNT just took timeout.

15:24 — This game is still tied up at 31-31 at the first media timeout of the second half. Ja’Michael Brown has nine points for UNT. The Mean Green have gone cold offensively over the last few minutes.

11:24 — UNT is back up 39-34 after falling behind 33-31 early in the second half. UNT is on an 8-1 run with the last four points coming from Rickey Brice Jr. Jeremy Combs had the first four points in the run. Combs has 10 points.

10:19 — UNT has extended its run to 13-1 and is up 44-34 in the second half here at the Super Pit. Rickey Brice Jr. has eight points.

7:25 — UNT is up 50-39. Southern Miss is headed to the line to try to complete a three-point play. Rickey Brice Jr. just picked up his fourth foul. Brice has 11 points, just two behind Jeremy Combs, who has a team-high 13.

3:32 — UNT is up 61-47 late here at the Super Pit and is about to snap a five-game losing streak. J-Mychal Reese has 15 points and Jeremy Combs 14 for UNT.

Final — UNT 70-54. UNT snaps its five-game losing streak.

Augie DeBiase will reclassify to 2017

North Texas recruiting target Auguie DeBiase has elected to reclassify and join the Class of 2017.

DeBiase said Thursday that he is likely headed to prep school for a year.

UNT recruited the Florida quarterback after Seth Littrell took over as the Mean Green’s coach and hosted him on an official visit.

UNT’s 2016 football schedule is out, and it’s tough

New North Texas coach Seth Littrell will face a tough schedule in his first season that includes a game at Florida and showdown with Conference USA East Division powers Marshall, Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

New North Texas coach Seth Littrell will face a tough schedule in his first season that includes a game at Florida and showdown with Conference USA East Division powers Marshall, Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas 2016 schedule

Date Opponent
Sept. 3 SMU
Sept. 10 Bethune-Cookman
Sept. 17 at Florida
Sept. 24 at Rice
Oct. 1 Middle Tennessee
Oct. 8 Marshall
Oct. 22 at Army
Oct. 29 at Texas-San Antonio
Nov. 5 Louisiana Tech
Nov. 12 at Western Kentucky
Nov. 19 Southern Miss
Nov. 26 at UTEP

Conference USA released its full 2016 football schedule today, which gives us a chance to look at North Texas slate.

The big question in the last few weeks was what the Mean Green’s crossover games against teams from C-USA’s East Division would be. UNT was dealt the tough hand of having to play Marshall, Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee last season.

All three of those teams played in bowl games in 2015. Marshall and WKU both won, knocking off UConn and South Florida, respectively. MTSU lost to Western Michigan.

UNT is in the same boat this year with games against those same teams. The sites just flipped.

UNT lost to all three of those teams last year by a combined score of 126-48.

The good news is that UNT has six home games after having just five last season.

UNT also stuck with the format it has followed for scheduling in nonconference play. The games have been in place for a long time and are — the Mean Green’s annual showdown with rival SMU, a body bag/opportunity game at Florida, an FCS team for what should be a sure home win against Bethune-Cookman and a game against another lower level team in the FBS ranks in Army.

All and all, it’s not a terrible schedule.

Here are a few thoughts …

1. UNT had better make some hay early

UNT will open against SMU at home. The Mean Green beat the Mustangs 43-6 the last time the teams met at Apogee Stadium back in 2014. There were plenty of games UNT could point to last season as the juncture at which things really started to go south in a 1-11 season. Being beaten soundly by the Mustangs 31-13 in Dallas is among them. UNT could really do itself a favor by opening with a win over the Mustangs and then going 2-0 with a win over Bethune-Cookman. It’s an attainable goal.

2. The end of the season will be tough

UNT will face Louisiana Tech, travel to WKU, host Southern Miss and then travel to UTEP to close the season. LA Tech is coming off a 9-4 season and win over Arkansas State in the New Orleans Bowl. The Hilltoppers and Golden Eagles are expected to be two of the top teams in C-USA this season and road games are never easy, especially not to El Paso at the end of the year. That is a tough stretch for the Mean Green.

3. At least UNT’s bye is well timed

UNT had a bye in the opening week of the season and then played 12 straight games last year. That brutal schedule caught up with the Mean Green late in the year when UNT seemed to run out of gas. UNT will get a break after tough home games against MTSU and Marshall before a trip to Army on Oct. 22. UNT will need the break at that point, especially considering the Mean Green must travel to rival Texas-San Antonio the week after their game against the Black Knights.

Chalk talk: Southern Miss at UNT

North Texas guard J-Mychal Reese and the Mean Green will host Southern Miss tonight at the Super Pit. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas guard J-Mychal Reese and the Mean Green will host Southern Miss tonight at the Super Pit. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

Southern Miss at UNT

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Super Pit, Denton

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3, KNTU-FM 88.1

TV: American Sports Network

Records: North Texas 7-14, 2-6 C-USA; Southern Miss 7-12, 4-4

Last game: Rice 95, UNT 87; Southern Miss 86, Texas-San Antonio 70

Projected UNT starting lineup:

PG: J-Mychal Reese, 6-2, Jr. — Reesse finished just two points off his season high when he scored 23 in UNT’s loss to Rice. The junior is averaging 15.0 points a game and has been one of the Mean Green’s most consistent players all season.

SG: Ja’Michael Brown, 6-1, Fr. — Brown bounced back from a tough game in UNT’s loss to UAB on Jan. 23 that saw him go scoreless by tallying 10 points in the Mean Green’s loss to Rice. Brown hit a pair of 3s and is now averaging 8.3 points a game.

SF: Deckie Johnson, 6-4 Jr. — Johnson scored in double figures for the fifth straight time when he posted 10 points in UNT’s loss to Rice, but struggled from 3-point range. Johnson went just 2-for-9 from behind the arc against the Owls. He is averaging 14.1 points and 4.3 rebounds a game.

F: Jeremy Combs, 6-7, So. — Combs posted a monster game in UNT’s loss to Rice, finishing with 25 points and 13 rebounds for his seventh straight double-double.  The sophomore is averaging 15.6 points and 10.7 rebounds a game

F: Eric Katenda, 6-9 Sr. — Katenda scored 16 points and grabbed five rebounds in UNT’s loss to Rice in one of his better games of the season. He has started six straight games and is averaging 6.3 points and 3.2 rebounds a game.

Scouting Southern Miss:

Southern Miss is on a roll after beating UTEP and UTSA in its last two games. The Golden Eagles are led by the guard tandem of Kourtlin Jackson and Khari Price, who are averaging 12.0 and 10.3 points a game, respectively. Southern Miss is shooting 42.6 percent (26 of 61) from 3-point range in its last two games.

Who’s hot:

Combs is playing as well as just about anyone in Conference USA at this point in the season. He is receiving a lot of attention defensively, but is still scoring at a high rate.

What you need to know:

UNT’s season is heading downhill fast. The Mean Green have lost five straight and are just a half game out of last place in the C-USA standings at 2-6. Only UTSA is sitting below UNT at 2-7.

The Mean Green need to get something going quickly if they hope to avoid a brutal first-round matchup in the conference tournament.  Fortunately for UNT every team in the league qualifies for the event this year.

UNT is expected to get a boost today with the return of  Rickey Brice Jr. from a concussion he suffered in practice. The freshman center has been a key part of UNT’s bench that has been MIA for the last few weeks. UNT’s reserves have scored just 18 points in the Mean Green’s last four games combined.

Combs will have a favorable matchup today against a smaller Southern Miss front line that features 6-7 forwards Raheem Watts and Quinton Campbell. When Combs struggles, it’s usually against bigger players.

The key for UNT will be to get someone other than Combs and Reese contributing on the offensive end.

UNT prides itself on playing solid defense, but hasn’t been able to stop anyone of late. The Mean Green have allowed an average of 87.4 points a game during their five-game losing streak.

A look at five potential impact newcomers for UNT

Former Alabama quarterback Alec Morris is one of the key players in North Texas' 2016 recruiting class (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

Former Alabama quarterback Alec Morris is one of the key players in North Texas’ 2016 recruiting class (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

National signing day is in the books for North Texas. New coach Seth Littrell had to work quickly after arriving at UNT in late December and ended up landing a recruiting class that ranked 10th in Conference USA.

Here is last night’s blog wrap-up, yesterday’s lead story on UNT landing a group of transfers who will be vital to next season’s team, yesterday’s notebook that leads with a look at UNT’s quarterback situation and a link to the bios of each member of the class.

But just who are the players who have the best chance of making an impact next season? The following is a look:

Alec Morris, Allen/Alabama, QB, 6-3, 235

Morris will be given every opportunity to win the starting quarterback job at UNT as a fifth-year senior transfer after spending four seasons as a backup at Alabama. The former Allen standout is a good fit for new head coach Seth Littrell’s passing offense. Morris will be the next in a growing line of players to try to fill the void at quarterback that has existed ever since Derek Thompson graduated after leading UNT to a win over UNLV in the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl. Morris has barely played since leaving Allen and will need to knock the rust off and show that he can run the Mean Green’s offense in spring practice.

William Johnson, Arizona Western, LB, 6-3, 220

UNT struggled at linebacker last season and turned to Johnson in the hope that he can upgrade the Mean Green’s production at the position. Johnson is the highest rated player in UNT’s class and was committed to Nebraska and then UAB earlier in the recruiting cycle. He should be a Day 1 starter, even though he won’t arrive at UNT until this fall.

Cody Hayes, Navarro College, OL, 6-5, 300

Hayes was a highly recruited player who visited both Houston and Louisiana Tech before signing with UNT. He began his career at Texas Tech before transferring to Navarro. UNT lost two starters on its offensive line to graduation. Hayes seems like a good bet to move into the lineup.

T.J. Henson, Trinity Valley CC, OL, 6-5, 305

Henson is another player who could move into one of the open spots on UNT’s offensive line. The former Plano East standout enjoyed a tremendous two-year career at Trinity Valley and is a midterm transfer. Henson will have the benefit of going through spring practice.

Joshua Wheeler, Tyler JC, DE, 6-3, 255

Wheeler finished third nationally among junior college players with 16 sacks last season. Jarrian Roberts led UNT with 6.5 sacks in 2015, but was the only Mean Green player who finished with more than 3.0. Wheeler will give UNT another option at defensive end and hopefully help the Mean Green improve.

Signing day wrap-up

Another signing day is in the books for North Texas.

This year was a wild ride from the beginning under one staff to the end under another directed by Seth Littrell.

Bottom line — UNT has to be pretty happy with the way it came out considering all the obstacles that stood in the Mean Green’s way. To review …

– Littrell rolled into town in early December and had essentially two months to put an entire class together after starting nearly from scratch.

– UNT lost one of the better recruiters on staff right in the thick of things in defensive line coach Kevin Patrick, who Littrell retained for a short time before Patrick pulled a “Jeffersons” on UNT and moved on up to Texas Tech.

– Oh, and Littrell had to deal with the albatross that is 10 losing seasons in the last 11 and a 1-11 finish last year while trying to sell recruits on coming to UNT.

UNT’s staff did a great job of selling hope. That was the overriding theme of my lead story in tomorrow’s paper.

Don’t think that recruits didn’t notice that Littrell posted on his Twitter account that he believes UNT will be a consistent bowl team from here on out. They did. Defensive tackle Bryce English said so.

UNT had some pretty big wins this year, including landing linebackers William Johnson and La’Darius Hamilton, running back Nic Smith, defensive end Joshua Wheeler and offensive lineman Cody Hayes.

The Mean Green lost a few prospects along the way as well.

When it all shook out, UNT ended up 10th in 247 Sports’ Conference USA rankings and 108th nationally.

That’s better than anyone could have reasonably hoped for.

UNT pushed a lot of chips to the middle of the table on short-term players, which was an interesting move. New coaches often spend nearly all of their time and effort on long-term high school players.

UNT grabbed a one-year quarterback in Alabama transfer Alec Morris, two junior college offensive linemen and five junior college players on defense.

The Mean Green really need to hit on a high percentage of those players. Miss on too many and there won’t be a whole lot of long-term developmental prospects behind them to fall back on.

The bottom line is UNT just needs to win.

That’s true with any new staff.

It’s easy to sell hope and something new starting out. The sledding gets a whole lot tougher if the loses start to pile up.

As far as Conference USA goes, the big winners were Marshall, UAB and Louisiana Tech. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that UAB would have the best class because it was going to be a huge class.

UAB has close to 40 players arriving and finished second only to surprise winner Marshall, which hit a home run when it landed Jaquan Yulee, the ninth rated inside linebacker in the class and a one-time Alabama commitment.

Louisiana Tech also made out like a bandit and finished with the league’s third-rated class.

The Bulldogs have been a consistent winner over the last several years.

Keenen Johnson follows through, signs with Tulsa

North Texas’ on-again, off-again pursuit of Alto athlete Keenen Johnson officially came to an end today when he signed with Tulsa.

Johnson was committed to Tulsa, backed out, visited both schools and then signed with the Golden Hurricane.

Johnson was one of the top players committed to UNT for a while before he changed his mind.

Teams win some and lose some in recruiting.

UNT ended up losing out on Johnson to a key regional rival.

UNT lands linebacker La’Darius Hamilton

North Texas has landed linebacker La’Darius Hamilton of Corrigan-Camden.

Hamilton originally committed to Texas State, but backed out of that pledge. He continued to consider Texas State, McNeese State and UNT.

The Mean Green landed Hamilton at the end in what was UNT’s second big-win on national signing day.

Hamilton is a three-star prospect. He could end up playing linebacker or defensive end on the college level.

UNT picked up a signing day commitment from Navarro JC offensive lineman Cody Hayes earlier in the day.