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Grant McCasland coaches the North Texas men during a win over Florida International during the Conference USA tournament in Frisco last season.

Summertime has arrived when it comes to North Texas athletics.

The spring sports season has wrapped up, spring football practice is over and not much is going on until August.

And that means it's a perfect time to stop and reflect on where UNT is at, both as a program overall and in terms of some of its individual teams.

The school's athletic department is in great shape, but there are always issues to consider.

We'll look at a few of them over the course of the next few weeks in preparation for the 2019-20 school year.

First up today -- Will the UNT men's basketball team's junior college heavy recruiting strategy pay off in Grant McCasland's third season?

There is no questioning the job McCasland has done in his two years leading the Mean Green. He took over a dumpster fire from Tony Benford after UNT's former coach ran a team that had averaged more than 20 wins per season over the course of six seasons straight into the toilet.

UNT won just eight games the season before McCasland arrived. The Mean Green finished 20-18 and won the College Basketball Invitational in his debut campaign and came back to post a 21-12 record last season.

The question now is if UNT can take another step forward after back-to-back 8-10 finishes in Conference USA.

If UNT is going to close the gap on Western Kentucky, Old Dominion and the other elite teams in the league, it's going to have to improve its talent level.

McCasland and his staff took what they feel is an important step toward that goal by signing a recruiting class of five players, including four in the spring period.

Three of those four spring signees are coming to UNT from junior colleges. UNT went all the way to Northwest Florida State College to grab point guard Javion Hamlet.

Forward Thomas Bell III spent last season at Kaskaskia College in Illinois, while shooting guard James Reese arrives from Odessa College.

The trio joined graduate transfer Deng Geu and San Antonio Wagner guard Jalen Jackson, the lone high school player in UNT's signing class.

Guard Larry Wise and forward Abdul Mohamed, another junior college player, spent last season as redshirts at UNT and will be eligible this fall.

The Mean Green added four junior college products for next season.

The move makes sense when one looks at the background of McCasland and his staff. McCasland was a junior college head coach, as were his assistants before progressing to the Division I level.

“We have great relationships with junior college coaches and appreciate the underdog,” McCasland said when he put the class in place. “A lot of these guys have ridden buses for 12 hours to play a game, have eaten fast food and stayed in some tough hotels. They can appreciate the life at North Texas now.”

Hamlet and Reese are ranked Nos. 17 and 32, respectively, on JUCOrecruiting.com's Top 100 list for the class of 2019.

Transfers are a hit-and-miss proposition in any sport. Mid-major programs like UNT often live and die with their success in landing transfers and having them pan out. 

UNT's success will be tied largely to its junior college prospects. 

Jordan Duffy, Roosevelt Smart and Michael Miller were all key players for UNT last season after arriving from junior colleges. Tope Arikawe, another junior college product, also contributed.

They helped UNT's program grow in two seasons. They just couldn't elevate the Mean Green to the top of C-USA.

Will UNT's next batch of junior college players help UNT make a dramatic step forward and show that its recruiting strategy is paying off?

That question is the first in a series we will offer up for UNT fans to ponder this summer.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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