While Texas’ 2009 season was one marred by inconsistency and extreme highs and lows, one thing remained constant — Rick Barnes sent three more Longhorns to the NBA.
In his 12 years in Austin, Barnes has coached 13 players who have been drafted by NBA clubs including eight in the last five years and seven first-round picks.
It’s a delicate balance between bringing in so called “one-and-done” talent, the term for players who plan to jump to the pros after a year in the college ranks, and building a cohesive team to contend for a national championship.
Avery Bradley, drafted 19th overall by the Boston Celtics in June, was Barnes’ latest one-and-done player — the first being NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant. Damion James and Dexter Pittman were also drafted in June but both were four-year players at Texas. There are 10 former Longhorns who played under Barnes on NBA rosters this season — but only three have spent the full four years in a Texas uniform.
But Barnes maintains that none of his recruits come in expecting to be gone after just one season of his tutelage.
“I don’t think we’ve had any kid that has come here with the agenda that they are one-and-done,” Barnes said. “If the time is right and it lines up for them after a year, if that’s what they feel needs to be done and if that’s what their family needs done, we can only do our part and encourage it.”
Instead, Barnes sees the success of his former players at the next level as an integral part of the Texas program; no matter how many semesters they walked the 40 Acres.
“I love what our former players are doing, how they have continued to stay engaged with our program,” Barnes said. “I love that when those guys in the NBA go to each other’s towns they have dinner together the night before the game and the fact that they’re all willing to give back to our program.”
It’s that sense of connection with Texas and the appreciation of Barnes’ talents. He’s one of the best in the business, in terms of getting players to the next level, that keeps the NBA stars coming back year after year to pass along their knowledge to the next crop of Longhorns.
“They came back a couple of times over the summer. It’s good to see the lifestyle change—now they’re coming with cars,” Redshirt freshman Shawn Williams said. “It’s good also to have somebody that you can talk to and see what they did to get to that level. It’s a good reference point.”
Senior Gary Johnson said the Texas greats who have made it in the NBA have paved the way for today’s Longhorns and Barnes knows what it takes to prepare his players for the jump.
“You take pride in trying to use this program as a stepping stone,” Johnson said. “Coach Barnes goes out to every camp he can before the season to take things from the NBA level and try to put it in our game to make us successful at that level.”
Johnson doesn’t see the prospect of recruits sticking around for one year as a deterrent to Texas’ success.
“It’s good knowing that you may only have a guy for one year or two years. That says a lot about a coach that he’s not just recruiting, he’s recruiting the best players with the notion that they might not be here three or four years.”
Johnson will play with perhaps another one-and-done talent this year in freshman forward Tristan Thompson, a top-10 recruit, who is following in Bradley’s footsteps — Barnes brought both to Texas from Findlay Prep in Nevada.
“Knowing that Coach Barnes is doing the right thing helping players get to the NBA shows the type of coach he is in developing players,”Thompson said. “Personally, I felt that I had a lot of room to improve under my game, I trusted that Coach Barnes is the type of coach that can help me do that.”