Men’s basketball trio carrying North Texas into next season

Men’s basketball trio carrying North Texas into next season

Men’s basketball trio carrying North Texas into next season
March 10
00:57 2016

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

@ReeceWaddell15

Sitting around a table like a family at Thanksgiving, sophomore forward Jeremy Combs and junior guards J-Mychal Reese and Deckie Johnson began to quarrel about topics only friends or brothers argue over.

Who is the best NBA 2K player, who would win in a game of horse and who has the best Snapchat?

Each has their own opinion on every subject, but eventually the trio, known to themselves as the “Mean Three,” came to a consensus. Reese is the superior 2K player, Johnson is the proclaimed “Snapchat king” and unless dunks are allowed, Combs would stand no chance in a game of horse.

While the group is able to have a good time off the court, their accomplishments on it are what set them apart from other big threes. Combs, Reese and Johnson combined to score 45 points per game this season – a product of their seamless chemistry.

“We all have that bond,” Reese said. “We can play around with each other but get serious when it’s time to get serious. We all have that brotherhood, that family-type atmosphere.”

Before the start of the 2015 season, the Mean Three had never set foot on the court together in an NCAA basketball game. Fast-forward four months to the end of their first season together, and some would say it’s hard to tell.

North Texas big three Deckie Johnson (left), J-Mychal Reese (center) and Jeremy Combs (right) all average over 30 minutes a game. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

North Texas big three Deckie Johnson (left), J-Mychal Reese (center) and Jeremy Combs (right) all average over 30 minutes a game. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

The trio led North Texas to the eighth best scoring offense in Conference USA, averaging 74.5 points per game. Each member of the Mean Three also ranked in the top 16 or better in individual scoring.

“It’s been like this since day one,” Combs said. “We all spend a lot of time together on and off the court. I have a lot of confidence in my teammates.”

The makeup of a basketball big three is fairly standard: a point guard, a wing and a post player. The Mean Three meet those standards, with Reese managing the offense, Johnson shooting from the perimeter and Combs manning the middle.

The group even went as far as likening themselves to a particular big three in the NBA that has gained prominence over the past year and boasts the league’s reigning MVP.

“Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green,” Johnson said. “I’m Steph. [Reese] is Klay and [Jeremy] is Draymond.”

Reese had no problem with the lofty comparison.

“It’s exciting,” Reese said. “Because we’ve got [Combs] doing the dunks and Deckie going off for 15 points. I like it. I’ve never really been on a team like that where we have a great shooter and someone who is going to get a double-double every game. I like playing with them.”

Sophomore forward Jeremy Combs (1) is averaging a double double with 15.4 points per game and 10.8 rebounds per game. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Sophomore forward Jeremy Combs (1) is averaging a double double with 15.4 points per game and 10.8 rebounds per game. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

The Mean Three brought excitement to North Texas fans as well,  as the group was at the center of numerous comebacks and nearly every victory this season. From Johnson’s three-point barrage to down Florida International University to Combs’ team-leading 14 double-doubles, the statistics support the trio’s worth to the Mean Green.

Numbers, however, are not the only thing Combs, Reese and Johnson provided this year.

Head coach Tony Benford knew coming into the season his team would be relatively inexperienced. Sporting five freshmen, Benford’s squad lacked the maturity other teams in C-USA had – an issue the Mean Three has done their best to remedy.

“Jeremy has been a great leader,” Benford said. “He’s led by example. He’s been vocal. I’m really pleased with his progress. Reese, we knew starting out he was a quality player. He’s come around and been a really good leader. He has a high IQ, like a coach on the floor. And Deckie, well, I think he’s proven he can shoot. I thought he did an admirable job stepping in and replacing Jordan Williams.”

Unlike other big threes around the country or in the NBA, one player does not typically have stats that are marginally greater or worse than the other. In fact, Combs, Reese and Johnson are separated by less than one point in their respective scoring averages – a testament Combs said is to the selflessness of the group.

“I’ve never been worried about the spotlight or anything like that,” Combs said. “I have no problem sharing it with my teammates. I know what they’re capable of.”

With each member of the Mean Three returning next season, potential and expectations are high. Combs was selected to the All-Conference Second Team Monday and continues to improve different areas of his game.

Junior guard Deckie Johnson (10) is shooting 33.7 percent from beyond the arc with 68 total threes. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Junior guard Deckie Johnson (10) is shooting 33.7 percent from beyond the arc with 68 total threes. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Reese and Johnson will also return next year as seniors looking to build on their first season in a Mean Green uniform.

“All three of them are potential all-conference players,” Benford said. “Jeremy Combs could go down as arguably one of the best to ever play here. He works harder than any kid I’ve coached since I’ve been here. Those three have meant a lot to our team.”

While accolades and achievements on the court are nice to the Mean Three, they have something that will last long after each of them decide to hang up their jerseys.

“[They’re my] brothers,” Johnson said. “Forever.”

Featured Image: Junior guard J-Mychal Reese (52) is 41.4 percent from the field while averaging 14.8 points per game. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer 

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