With the news that Myck Kabongo has elected to enter the NBA draft, Texas’ roster continues to shrink. The Longhorns, who now only have two rising juniors, have lost three players off of a team that had no upperclassmen.
Texas suffered this past season without the kind of leadership, direction and experience that comes with having upperclassmen on the roster. It was primed to have a significantly more experienced team next season with seven juniors, five sophomores and an incoming class of three freshman guards. With a more seasoned roster and a wide open Big 12 lacking in dominating talent, Texas was sure to improve on its poor 16-18 record this season.
Now head coach Rick Barnes has to adjust once again. Without Kabongo operating as the primary ball-handler earlier this season, the Texas offense was stagnant with little movement and was ultimately ineffective. When Kabongo returned to the lineup, Texas played some of its best games of the season. Wins over Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor all came in the final 11 games that Kabongo was a part of.
Now Texas is without three potential upperclassmen, leaving just Julien Lewis and Jonathan Holmes on the roster. Having only two upperclassman is better than having none, but there is a larger issue at hand: why can’t Barnes and Texas keep players on campus for four years?
Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson both declared for the NBA draft after their freshman seasons. They would have been juniors for the Longhorns this past season. Thompson made the right decision as he was the fourth pick in the NBA draft and is playing 30 minutes a game for the Cleveland Cavaliers while averaging 12 points and nine rebounds per game. Joseph, meanwhile, has only appeared in 25 games this season and is averaging 13 minutes per game for the San Antonio Spurs.
The class of 2009, which would have been seniors this season, featured Avery Bradley, J’Covan Brown, Jordan Hamilton and Shawn Williams. Bradley declared for the NBA after one season and Hamilton after two. Williams transferred to SMU after one season. Brown stuck around and was a major player for Texas for three seasons before deciding to play professionally. He is now playing in Greece.
Departures from Texas are nothing new; Kabongo’s entrance into the NBA is just the most recent one. Texas has been relying on a flawed system. It is the same system that saw Kentucky go from national champ to being eliminated in the first round of the NIT. To his credit, Barnes is trying to break away from it. With Kabongo gone, there is really no one on the roster who is expected to jump to the NBA. But the transfers are still an issue too.
Barnes has shown that he can get talented players to Texas. Now he just has to keep them here.