Dexter Pittman

An SBA All-Star lays the ball up at the Frank Erwin Center Sunday. Former Longhorn and current member of the Miami Heat Dexter Pittman was on the local squad that faced the SBA All-Stars.

Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana | Daily Texan Staff

There hasn’t been an NBA game since the Mavericks finished off the Heat this summer, but Sunday afternoon, fans at the Frank Erwin Center were treated to an exciting game of basketball that could have rivaled any NBA game. The SBA All-Star game was played between a team of 10 of the nation’s top street basketball players and a local team of five players, including former Longhorn Dexter Pittman.

Eleven-time All-Star and former No. 1 overall pick Allen Iverson was originally slated to play in the contest but because of a scheduling conflict, Iverson did not participate in the exhibition.

In the world of street basketball alley-oops and no-look passes reign supreme, but defense and stamina are not lost among the players of the Street Basketball Association. The SBA, founded in 2001, is comprised of 13 teams from cities such as Boston, New York and Chicago, and showcases a style of play much different than most fans of basketball are accustomed to watching.

An emcee was on hand to call the play-by-play while interacting with the referees and fans as he paced from one end of the court to another. (Pittman was given the title “The Bully” by the emcee and was said to be in search of other player’s lunch money.) Music was played over the arena’s speakers for the entirety of the game, and fouls became irrelevant as players decided to “play on” rather than shoot from the charity stripe. Instead, any in-game disputes between players were settled right there on the court. If one player got the better of his counterpart on one possession, you could almost guarantee that the player who just got dunked on or embarrassed was coming right after the guy who did it the first chance he got.

For those that have seen any of the AND 1 Mixtape tour on ESPN in years past, this game followed a similar format. A team of skilled players travels from city to city, taking on a new team every game. The games are frenetic and the SBA’s best are no slouches on the court. Randy “White Chocolate” Gill, billed as the SBA’s best player right now, lit up the scoreboard with several three-pointers, floaters in the lane and stifling defense on the opposite end of the court. Everything else about the atmosphere may feel foreign at a streetball event, but one thing is for certain ­— every player will bring their best on any given day.

Even though this was a street basketball game, there are some nuances within the game that never go away. Enter “White Chocolate,” a lightning-quick point guard with a knack for hitting shots when they matter the most. He surged up the court countless times and hit one clutch shot after another as the game clock wore down. “White Chocolate” must have had over 30 points, but in the end, the All-Stars were victimized by a player dubbed “The Shooter” that had a pair of buzzer beaters, including the game-winning shot. The Austin team won 129-126 after regulation, but the emcee added a five minute overtime after some convincing from the crowd. It was apparent that every player wanted to win, but after the five minutes were up the two teams were tied at 149 points apiece.

With the lockout still in effect in the NBA, more players like Pittman are taking opportunities to play in games like the one held on Sunday. Not only does it keep players in shape, but some could argue that the disparity between the level of play of the NBA and other leagues is no longer a factor. Pittman made seven of his 12 shots, grabbed nine rebounds, had two steals and a block — all while playing against a legitimate seven-footer. Some NBA teams don’t even have a guy that’s seven feet tall. Granted it was an exhibition game, the SBA players were obviously well-conditioned and showed flashes of NBA-caliber play. These guys in the SBA aren’t millionaires with shoe deals or other endorsements; they simply go out there and play the game with passion, something that could continue to attract locked-out NBA players. By now, most people have heard about Kevin Durant’s 66 point barrage at Rucker Park in a game very similar to the one held at the Frank Erwin Center Sunday. The fact is that some guys were born to play basketball, and they will play whenever and wherever.

NBA Draft

Tonight, three Longhorns will be watching for their name in the 2011 NBA Draft. Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Jordan Hamilton have all chosen to forgo the rest of their eligibility at Texas.

Last year, the Longhorns sent three players to the NBA in the 2010 draft.

The first to go last year, Avery Bradley, was selected 19th overall by the Boston Celtics. After spending some time in the developmental league, Bradley was called up to the Celtics in February following Marquis Daniel’s spinal cord injury. Bradley played in 31 games last season for the Celtics and shot 34 percent from the floor.

The Atlanta Hawks selected Damion James with the 24th overall pick last year. His stay with the Hawks was short-lived, however, when James was traded to the New Jersey Nets for more draft picks. James has played in 25 games for the Nets, averaging 44.7 percent from the floor and 64.3 percent from the foul line.

Dexter Pittman was the last Longhorn to go in the draft. He spent his first year in the pros alternating between the bench and the developmental league. In April, Pittman played in two games for the Heat before sustaining an injury. He went in the second round as the number two pick.

Texas’ participation in the draft has increased dramatically over the last 50 years. Since 1957, the Longhorns have sent 37 players to the draft with 22 going in the first two rounds. Over half of those 37 were in the last two decades.
Before 1990, the Longhorns sent one player to the draft every couple of years, but since then, Rick Barnes has sent 13 players to the draft. In the 12 years Barnes has been at Texas, he has sent more players than any other previous Texas coach. In the past few years, Texas has sent more high profile players to the draft, such as T.J. Ford, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant.

Texas squanders lead in overtime, exits in first round of tournament

NEW ORLEANS — The Longhorns’ final loss of the season, an 81-80 overtime heartbreaker to Wake Forest in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday, was indicative of their entire year, complete with missed free throws and missed layups.

Rebounds were an issue as well.

Wake Forest outrebounded Texas 59-34, which was uncharacteristic of a team that prides itself on defense and has the Big 12’s career-leading rebounder, Damion James (350 this season, 1,318 career). James only had six total rebounds in his final game as a Longhorn — zero coming in the first half.

“We just got pounded on the glass,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “I don’t remember us getting outrebounded ever like this. I really don’t.”

The Longhorns came back from an 11-point deficit in the first half to take a 38-37 halftime lead, but in the first five minutes of the second half, the Demon Deacons made a 17-4 run, giving them a 54-42 lead.

After scoring 16 points in the first half, freshman Jordan Hamilton was on the bench as Wake Forest went on their run. Barnes said Wake Forest had adjusted its defense accordingly at halftime, which affected Hamilton emotionally.

“You know, he just broke down a little, mentally,” Barnes said. “We had to get him calmed down before he went back in.”

Hamilton only took three shots in the second half and finished with 19 points.

With about nine minutes remaining in the game, James and Dexter Pittman came up with pivotal free throws to bring Texas within four points, 56-52.

At that point, Texas got into a groove. James responded to every Wake Forest basket with one of his own, J’Covan Brown — who only played three minutes in the first half but led his team in scoring with 20 points — made crucial shots and free throws and Avery Bradley caused Demon Deacon turnovers and made them pay with fast-break layups.

With 49.3 seconds left in regulation, Brown hit a tying trey to make the score 67-all.

At the nine-second mark, Wake Forest was up by one point and James was sent to the free-throw line. He made the first, tying the game at 68, then missed the second — a shot that might have secured a Texas win. Wake got the rebound and sprinted down the court. James hustled back on defense, got the ball back and attempted a half-court shot for the win, but it went wide right.

In overtime, Brown and Hamilton hit huge 3-pointers to give Texas an eight-point lead of 76-68 with three minutes left.

But Wake remained poised. Coach Dino Guadio reminded his players of the four other times this season — against Xavier, Richmond, Maryland and Virginia — where they won in overtime.

“When you watch overtime games, when a team gets down by four or more, they start looking at the clock, feeling sorry for themselves,” Wake Forest guard Ishmael Smith said. “Coach [Guardio] told us to keep getting stops, keep getting stops like we did in overtime games earlier this season. We did and got a big win.”

Ultimately, missed free throws down the stretch were the Longhorns’ demise. Brown missed two that would have given Texas an 80-74 edge with 49.6 seconds left, and Gary Johnson missed two that would have put Texas up 82- 79 with nine seconds left.

“I couldn’t believe that I missed them,” Brown said.

Wake Forest took advantage of the Longhorns’ mistakes by making its free throws during overtime. A huge 3-pointer by Ari Stewart, which put Wake Forest within one point before Johnson missed his free throws, helped too.

That created an ideal situation for Smith, who almost had a triple-double with 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. He got the ball with 1.3 seconds left and made an 18-foot pull-up jumper to win it, 81-80.

“There was no one else I’d rather take that shot,” Guadio said. “If you look at Ishmael’s stats, look at his ACC three-point shooting stats — oh, they’re not very good. When you look at his free throws, not very good. If I took him out there right now, he wouldn’t make three straight 3s if we shot 100 of them. But that kid makes big shots.”

Texas finished the season going 556-of-878 from the foul line — 63.3 percent overall. That marks Texas’ worst year from the line since the 1953-54 season, where it shot 60.4 percent.

James had one of his poorer performances of the season against Wake Forest. He scored just 16 points, going 4-of-14 from the field, 1-of-7 from 3-point range and 7-of-8 from the foul line. Pittman didn’t come up big in his final collegiate game, either. He scored just five points, grabbed eight rebounds and sat on the bench for the entire overtime period with four fouls.

“Everyone is disappointed, but I told them they’ve got to remember this feeling,” Barnes said. “It’s been a tough road lately, but I tell them to never look back. Never take for granted getting into this tournament.”
 

For the third straight game, top-ranked Texas was pushed to its limit by a conference foe — but this time the Longhorns’ luck ran dry, their shots rimmed out, their free throws did not fall and their stars did not step up in a 71-62 loss at No. 10 Kansas State (16-2, 3-1 Big 12).

Texas (17-1, 3-1) dropped its first game of the year, leaving No. 2 Kentucky as the only unbeaten team in Division I.

Freshman Jordan Hamilton tied the game at 51 at the 7:28 mark of the second period. But it was the last time Texas would catch the Wildcats, who sank 12 free throws in the final five minutes to seal the victory.

A late scuffle resulted in two technical fouls, one for Texas’ J’Covan Brown and the other on Dominique Sutton of Kansas State, and the Wildcats’ Rodney McGruder sank the two ensuing free throws to put his team up by 11 with under 20 seconds. Afterwards, Dogus Balbay took the ball full-court and scored an uncontested layup to give the game its final score.

The Longhorns trailed by 14 at one point in the first half, their largest deficit all season.

The team shot 36 percent from the field, only slightly better than their season-low of 35 percent against Texas A&M last Saturday.

Texas turned the ball over 18 times, 11 in the first half, which led to 15 points by Kansas State.

Dexter Pittman, Texas’ second highest scorer, did not reach double digits in scoring for the fourth straight game. He finished with six points and seven rebounds. The Horns’ top offensive threat, Damion James, also struggled Tuesday, hitting just three field goals.

“We had open shots and we missed them,” Barnes said at halftime.

Texas scored eight straight points to begin the second period and finally took a short-lived 44-43 lead off a layup from Avery Bradley. Bradley scored a team-high 11 points, the only Texas player to break into double digits, while Jamar Samuels led the way for Kansas State with 20.

But then eight unanswered points from K-State threatened to tip the momentum in the Wildcats favor. Pittman stopped the bleeding with a fastbreak dunk followed by two quick Longhorn jumpers to make it a two-point game. After that, the Horns’ offense turned anemic — it was almost seven minutes before Texas hit its next field goal.