Top 68 Team Previews: #34 Texas Longhorns
The Texas Longhorns have high expectations for freshman Myck Kabongo. (Icon SMI)
By Keith Levinsky
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Last Season: 28-8 (13-3)
Key Losses: Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton, Cory Joseph, Gary Johnson, Dogus Balbay
Head Coach: Rick Barnes
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Myck Kabongo 6-2 Fr.
SG: J'Covan Brown 6-1 Jr.
SF: Sheldon McClellan 6-5 Fr.
PF: Jonathan Holmes 6-7 Fr.
C: Alexis Wangmene 6-7 Jr.
Key Reserves: Julien Lewis 6-3 Fr. SG, Jaylen Bond 6-7 Fr. PF, Sterling Gibbs 6-1 Fr. PG, Clint Chapman 6-10 Sr. C
There are very few teams that lost as much as the Texas Longhorns in the 2011 NBA Draft. Longhorn fans had to be proud but also disheartened hearing the names Thompson, Hamilton and Joseph called back in June. The three players were three of Texas's top four scorers and three players with tremendous potential.
The Longhorns also lost two crucial seniors, Gary Johnson and Dogus Balbay, to graduation. This exodus of talent leaves Texas with only one of its top seven scorers from last year. The one player that does return is J'Covan Brown, who was fourth on the team in scoring last year. Brown averaged 10.4 points per game and also was effective on defense, leading the Longhorns with 37 steals, even though he only played 21.5 minutes per game.
Even with the losses to graduation and the NBA, Texas should be able to reload, because of Brown and the nation's fourth best recruiting class. The prospect at the top of this class is Myck Kabongo, the 11th overall recruit and the second-best point guard in ESPNU's Top 100. Kabongo appears as if he is ready to step right in as an effective collegiate player. ESPN.com says, "Kabongo is arguably the best pure point guard in the 2011 class. He is an intelligent player with great leadership skills and a coach's feel for running a team."
Two other ESPNU Top 100 recruits should be able to start under Rick Barnes their first year in Austin. As the 47th overall prospect, Sheldon McLellan is a very athletic and tall guard that should start at small forward. Freshman Jonathan Holmes should be pivotal in the frontcourt where the Longhorns are certainly missing experience and size. Only one player, Clint Chapman, on Texas's roster is above 6-foot-7. Chapman was an ESPNU 100 recruit but has not averaged over 2.0 points in his three-year Texas career. Chapman will have to play a significant role this year in a frontcourt with so little depth.
Alexis Wangmene will most likely start in the post even though he was not a major contributor last year. The 6-foot-7 senior from Cameroon played in 34 games and averaged 9.6 minutes per game and 2.3 points per game. Freshman Jaylen Bond, a three-star power forward, should have a shot at starting as well.
The Longhorns will have some terrific guard play this season with the combination of Kabongo, Brown, McClellan, Lewis and Gibbs. But size and frontcourt play will be a major issue they will have to overcome. There's no doubt they will win a lot of games based on talent, but in order to compete for a Big 12 title the freshmen will have to quickly mature.
This year's Longhorns may not be as strong as last year's fourth-seeded squad, but that has to be expected after such a massive losses. There is still hope for a NCAA tournament run, though, if this year's high-powered freshman class is up to the task.