Usually, we have to wait until March for our favorite mid-major players to shine on the national stage. They come from places like Davidson. Lehigh. Weber State. You know the names by now of Stephen Curry, CJ McCollum, and Damian Lillard, and what they’ve accomplished rising from relative obscurity. The next in line might be UT Arlington's Kevin Hervey. Here’s why: 18 points and seven rebounds against Ohio State. 22 and 11 against Memphis. 27 and 15 against Rice. 15 and 15 against Texas.
Shall I go on?
Leading UT Arlington to road wins against the Buckeyes, Tigers, Owls, and a near-upset against the Longhorns, Hervey’s performances sparked the Mavericks’ 14-3 start to the 2015-16 season. Hervey tweaked his left knee in pre-game warmups before a game against Arkansas State on Jan. 21. Tests showed a torn ACL, ending Hervey's season. At the time, UT Arlington was neck-and-neck with Arkansas-Little Rock in the Sun Belt.
The Mavericks dropped their next four conference games, but finished the season 24-11 after losing to NJIT 63-60 in the second round of the CIT. A promising season lies ahead for the Mavericks in 2016-17, with a rising coach in Scott Cross at the helm and a healthy Hervey leading the charge.
Standing at 6’8, 210 pounds, Hervey’s long arms make him a menace on the defensive end. A key facilitator in the Mavericks offense, Hervey displays fine court vision and can find the cutters to the basket that UT-Arlington loves running within the offense.
Hervey is also active on the glass and not shy from contact around the paint. He posted double-digit rebounds in half of his 16 games played, and produced a standout performance in a win against Memphis, with seven offensive rebounds against a Shaq Goodwin-led frontcourt.
Hervey’s versatility on the offensive end has already drawn the attention of NBA personnel. Being able to stretch the floor, Hervey in his last four games before his injury shot 43 percent (12-28) from distance after a slow start from beyond the arc. Hervey’s athleticism helps him flourish out in the open court and finish strong in transition.
The Mavericks will not be a one-man band in 2016-17 either, as they return the bulk of their roster from a year ago. An experienced and deep backcourt in Kaelon Wilson, Drew Charles, Jalen Jones, and Erick Neal to go along with Jorge Bilbao in the frontcourt highlight a strong core group around Hervey. Promising U18 Turkish forward Erkam Kiris comes in as a freshman, along with 7’1 former TCU center Link Kabadyundi from the JUCO ranks.
UT Arlington fans will have plenty of reasons to be optimistic heading into the fall. On paper, the Mavericks likely will be the consensus pick to take the Sun Belt in the preseason. A huge test will lie ahead on Nov. 29 in Austin as the Mavericks will try to avenge a tough 80-73 overtime loss to Texas a year ago. Cross likes to schedule aggressively, likely setting up opportunities for big wins heading into Sun Belt play.