Last week, guard Tyrese Hunter joined several of his teammates on the Texas men’s basketball team at their practice court in Cooley Pavilion to chat with the media. Hunter sat in a folding chair near midcourt, discussing the Longhorns’ chances to build on last year’s 29-9 record and make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament with a rebuilt roster.
That revamped team includes veteran guard Max Abmas, a senior graduate transfer from Oral Roberts who has earned a reputation as one of his era’s premiere marksmen. When asked about Abmas’ legendary shooting range, Hunter just smiled and motioned to the Longhorn logo that stretches across midcourt.
“About from here,” Hunter said. “I've seen a lot of shooters around, but it's just his consistency. He can shoot, and then, just knowing that you got to play up close to him, he can get past you. It’s amazing, really.”
Hunter will get no arguments from Brock Cunningham, the 24-year-old graduate student now in his sixth season of chasing down loose balls and banging for boards.
“He’s the best shooter I've played with at Texas,” said Cunningham, who’s taken the court alongside snipers such as Andrew Jones, Jase Febres and Marcus Carr. “I've played with a bunch of really elite guys, elite shooters, and, respectfully, Max Abmas is the best.”
Max Abmas: ‘My No. 1 goal is just to win’
Abmas, a gregarious 6-footer from the Dallas area who earned his bachelor’s degree in biomedical chemistry, shrugs off the compliments as he does an off-balance defender. The Longhorns will officially open practice Monday, and they have about six weeks to smooth out some wrinkles before the season opener Nov. 6 against Incarnate Word. Abmas got a taste of tournament success when he helped 15th-seeded Oral Roberts make a surprising run to the Sweet 16 in 2021. Making a similar impact in his lone season with Texas matters more than buckets.
“I just want to be a part of something where your expectation is to win,” he said. “My No. 1 goal is just to win games, and I’ll do whatever I need to do to make that happen.”
Abmas’ shooting turned him from a lightly recruited guard at Dallas Jesuit — he said he fielded offers from only the service academies and Marist College in New York before committing to Oral Roberts — into a scoring machine. The three-time honorable mention All-American will enter the season as the NCAA Division I active leader in both career scoring (2,562 points) and career scoring average (20.8 points per game). He made 420 3-point shots while starting 123 games at Oral Roberts.
While Abmas realizes that the Longhorns must replace their top two scorers from a year ago after the graduation of Carr and Jabari Rice, he also understands that Texas boasts more balance than any of his teams at Oral Roberts.
“I don't think there’s any pressure,” Abmas said. “I'll just play whatever role I need to play for us to win games. I know there's a lot of other really good players on the team. You know, I've made a name for myself in college basketball. Now I'm just here to do whatever it takes to win.”
Leading the team, on and off the court
Depending on the game, that could mean dropping 30 points or racking up more assists than baskets, Texas coach Rodney Terry said.
“Max is a guy on any given night that can explode and make eight or nine 3s in the game, you know?” Terry said. “And there'll be times where he'll be a guy that plays really well without the ball, and he's a really good passer as well.
“We recruited Max because we want the same Max we all saw at Oral Roberts. But he doesn’t have to be that volume guy, where he's the main focal point all the time. We want Max to be Max. If he gets an open look, Max will shoot. If he has the pass, he’ll make the pass. I think his career is not about points anymore. It's about playing on this stage, playing at Texas, trying to win a Big 12 championship, trying to win a national championship.”
Abmas brings a lot more to the team than his deadly jumper, said forward Dillon Mitchell. His academic record provides a benchmark for the program in the classroom, and he’s not shy about taking on a vocal role even though he’s been in Austin for only a few months.
“I think one of the biggest things with Max is that he’s a leader," said Mitchell, who’s back after withdrawing his name from NBA draft consideration. “Him being one of the smallest guys in the court, he holds his ground, too. He leads, and he communicates. And I think just the relationship we have off the court really helps on the court. You know, Max is a fun guy to be around. He's real smart. And he's just really cool to be around.”
But Terry does admit to one concern about Abmas.
“We only have him for one year,” the coach said with a big laugh. “I wish I had him for two or three years. But he’s the ultimate pro. He’s going to be a fantastic player for us this year.”
Key upcoming dates
Monday: First day of practice
Oct. 17: Orange-White scrimmage, Gregory Gymnasium
Oct. 30: Free exhibition game against St. Edward’s, Moody Center
Nov. 6: Season opener vs. Incarnate Word, Moody Center
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Texas basketball player Max Abmas ready for lone year with Longhorns