The tattooed transfer’s versatility makes him the final piece to Shaka Smart’s NCAA Tournament puzzle.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a comprehensive preview of 2017-18 Texas Basketball. My bullish outlook, centered on personnel changes and the inbound influx of talent, featured forecasts for ten players and the impact they would have in taking the ‘Horns back to the Dance. Dylan Osetkowski did not receive a mention.
However, in just two games, the little-known Tulane transfer has exploded onto the scene with a pair of double-doubles and leads the team in minutes. Yes, both contests were blowouts against inferior competition, but the six-foot-nine forward has clearly earned Shaka Smart’s trust and will be a fixture in the starting five. While the blue-chip recruits received the preseason hype, it’s Osetkowski who’s emerged as the Longhorns’ X-factor–a strong, rangy swiss army knife and glue-guy extraordinaire.
The six-foot-nine, 245-pound junior has 24 rebounds in two games, and there’s no question he’s a beast, but it’s his versatility at that size that makes him so unique. He can do everything at an above average level, including shoot, rebound, defend, and facilitate buckets, making him a snug fit next to every player in UT’s frontcourt. While I referred to Bamba as a unicorn in the preseason, it’s D.O. who’s received that label from his head coach: “Coach Smart always calls me a unicorn, a man of many talents,” Osetkowski said after the Northwestern State game. “I’m just trying to bring a level of hustle, spirit, rebounding.”
His multifaceted game is particularly vital on the offensive end. As previously discussed, Texas’ putrid offense last year was hampered by a complete dearth of shooting and playmaking. This is what makes Osetkowski such a weapon–he injects both shooting and playmaking (at six-foot-nine and 245 pounds) and sacrifices nothing in terms of grit and defense. His pairing next to Bamba in the starting five is deadly–how many Big XII teams feature two players in the frontcourt who are this size and who can both splash threes? And because both have the post game to feast on smaller dudes, opposing defenses have little choice but to guard both players with their bigs, opening the entire floor for dimer Matt Coleman and explosive slasher Andrew Jones.
Lastly, the physicality that Osetkowski brings to the floor can’t be understated. He may be a unicorn but he’s a mean one–he somehow seems to play bigger than his size and cleans the glass like a vacuum. He’s a cement wall on the interior, but also has nimble enough feet to survive on the perimeter. His game is brilliantly well-rounded on both ends of the floor, and he’s been arguably the team’s best player early on. It’s dangerous to make conclusions two games into a 30+ game season, but some things are just too obvious to ignore. Dylan Osetkowski’s jack-off-all-trades game and interior presence make him a crucial engine in Coach Smart’s oiled machine and the X-factor for UT’s NCAA Tourney dreams.