Myck Kabongo

The future was bright for Myck Kabongo when he arrived at the 40 Acres three years ago. Since then he has struggled on and off the court. He now looks to resurrect his career. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Myck Kabongo is still in the place where his once bright career flatlined. 

But he’s trying to get back into a position where he can be recognized for his talents, not his short-comings.

A former Longhorn basketball star, Kabongo is working to find his way onto an NBA roster with the Austin Toros, a subsidiary basketball franchise of the San Antonio Spurs and a member of the NBA’s Developmental League. It’s been nearly a year since Kabongo’s tenure as a Longhorn ended in disappointing fashion, but he hasn’t lost his edge or desire to be great.

Kabongo, like former Longhorns Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson, was a highly touted Canadian-born prospect that turned his eyes to Texas after a successful high school campaign at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.

Stepping onto the 40 Acres, Kabongo had the size, speed, vision and charisma to become one of the best point guards in the country. But, after a rocky freshman season, Kabongo’s upward trajectory was struck by a 23-game NCAA suspension for accepting impermissible benefits from NBA mega-agent Rich Paul. 

“It was just tough sitting down and not being able to play for something. That was unfortunate,” Kabongo said. “My situation was pretty weird, and my whole thing was just pursuing something that I love doing.”

While at Texas, Kabongo turned the ball over 23 percent of the time and connected on only 40 percent of his field goal attempts. Following his sophomore season, Kabongo declared for the NBA draft, only to go undrafted.

Kabongo is now working with the Toros to become the type of point guard coaches covet: a floor general. 

“A great point guard takes care of the ball,” Kabongo said. “They can do it all. They can play defense. They can change the tempo of the game.”

Kabongo appears to be making progress, hitting 44 percent of his shots this season, and turning the ball over just more than two times per game. According to Kabongo, consistency remains the biggest obstacle.

“One game I have a great game, and the next game I have a so-so game,” Kabongo said. “As I’m learning along the way, it’s just finding my niche and, when I find it, just sticking with it.”

Playing so close to where he went to school, Kabongo said he stays in touch with every player on the Longhorns’ roster. But Kabongo sees the Longhorns as a reminder of what he aims to achieve. 

“Right now, I feel like I’m still in college. I feel like I’m in my junior year, and the only thing is I’m not showing up to class and getting paid a little bit on the side,” Kabongo said. 

Kabongo knows he still possesses the traits of hard work and athletic ability that made him a highly touted prospect, and those skills have the opportunity to drive him to the NBA. After a recent practice he tweeted, “Can’t wait for my time to come back around.”

Texas’ 2011 recruiting class started six strong and was expected to return the program to prominence. Instead, only one member of the class, Jonathan Holmes, remains at Texas as the group enters what would have been its junior year. Here is a breakdown of where the highly touted recruiting class ended up, and how it happened.

Myck Kabongo
Class of 2011
PG

Kabongo, a five-star recruit in the 2011 class, never quite gelled at Texas. His freshman year, Barnes was often hard on the first-year point guard, but Kabongo ultimately came back to Texas for his sophomore season. However, in a long, drawn-out saga, the NCAA suspended Kabongo for the team’s first 23 games because he had received improper benefits. After the season ended, Kabongo declared for the NBA draft but was not selected. Kabongo signed a deal to play for the Miami Heat’s summer league team.

 

Sheldon McClellan
Class of 2011
SG

McClellan, the Longhorns’ most potent offensive player while Kabongo served his suspension, also had his issues with Barnes. The shooting guard often found himself benched for long stretches, even during key games, for an apparent lack of effort. After Kabongo returned, Barnes further slashed McClellan’s playing time. After the season, McClellan declared his intention to transfer and will join Miami.

 

Julien Lewis
Class of 2011
SG

Lewis, an unheralded member of the Longhorns’ 2011 class, was often Texas’ best pure shooter in 2012. The 6-foot-3-inch guard averaged 11.2 points and 3.3 rebounds last season, often hitting big shots for Texas. However, like many other members of his class, Lewis elected to transfer after the season and is headed to Fresno State. 

 

Jaylen Bond
Class of 2011
PF

Bond did not hit his stride in 2012. The projected starter at the four spot, Bond missed all but one of the Longhorns’ first 12 games. After he came back, Bond never quite looked in rhythm, averaging 2.8 points and 3.2 rebounds a game. Like four other members of his recruiting class Bond elected to transfer and is headed to Temple after the season.

 

Sterling Gibbs
Class of 2011
PG

Gibbs did not wait until the 2012 season to transfer. Gibbs left UT following his freshman year citing personal reasons and transferred to Seton Hall. 

Myck Kabongo goes undrafted in 2013 NBA Draft

Myck Kabongo declared for the NBA Draft on Friday, leaving Texas in his rear view mirror after two seasons with the Longhorns, the last of which was shortened by a 23-game suspension. Over the course of his career, Kabongo played in 45 games, averaging 10.8 points and 5.3 assists per game, while shooting 40 percent from the floor. Daily Texan file photo. 
Myck Kabongo declared for the NBA Draft on Friday, leaving Texas in his rear view mirror after two seasons with the Longhorns, the last of which was shortened by a 23-game suspension. Over the course of his career, Kabongo played in 45 games, averaging 10.8 points and 5.3 assists per game, while shooting 40 percent from the floor. Daily Texan file photo. 

Sophomore Longhorn point guard Myck Kabongo went undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft Thursday night. Kabongo was passed over by 13 other point guards through 60 total picks in the two-round draft. 

Kabongo only played in 11 games in the 2012-2013 season after receiving a 23-game suspension from the NCAA for receiving impermissible benefits and lying to Texas officials. Last season, he averaged 15 points, 5.5 assists and 5 rebounds in his shortened season. 

Last season, former Longhorn J'Covan Brown went undrafted after forfeiting a year of eligibility, making this the second year in a row that a Longhorn has not been selected in the NBA draft. In 2011, former Longhorns Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph all were drafted in the first round. 

Kabongo's cousin, Christian Kabongo who played for the New Mexico State Aggies, also went undrafted. 

Texas head coach Rick Barnes is trying to change the culture of the Longhorns basketball program, recruiting more players that will play through their senior years, relying less on players that will leave early like Myck Kabongo or transfer like Sheldon McClellan.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Rick Barnes has made a habit of losing players before they graduate. It’s a habit that, with a change to his recruiting philosophy, he’s hoping to break.

Sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo declaring for the NBA draft was not surprising. Fellow sophomores Sheldon McClellan and Jaylen Bond electing to transfer was.

But Barnes is counting on guys like Demarcus Holland, Connor Lammert and Ioannis Papapetro — all freshmen last season — to not pursue a professional career before their senior years and help the Longhorns make a deep NCAA tournament run soon.

For the first time during Barnes’ 15-year tenure at Texas, he didn’t take the Longhorns to the Big Dance. With Kabongo suspended for 23 games, Texas couldn’t produce a NCAA tournament-worthy resume. Instead, the Longhorns finished this year at 16-18 following a CBI first-round loss to Houston.

“Making the change is painful, but the result of the change is going to be stability,” men’s athletics director DeLoss Dodds told The Daily Texan in February. “The one-and-done, if you have a couple on your squad, that’s fine. But I think to build a squad around that is not good. You’ve got to get kids that want to be at Texas. You’ve got to kids that want a degree, kids that want to get better every year.”

Like Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Jordan Hamilton and Avery Bradley, Kabongo was a five-star prospect coming out of high school, according to rivals.com, before leaving Texas early. Kentucky, with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the top two picks in last year’s NBA draft, won a national title before losing all five starters and falling to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT this past season.

“You can be really successful like Kentucky was,” Dodds said. “They had five freshmen. That worked for them … But if I were doing that, I wouldn’t feel good about that. I wouldn’t feel good for the university. I wouldn’t feel good for the kids. I wouldn’t feel good for the fans that just barely get to know them before they’re gone.”

Texas signed Demarcus Croaker, Kendal Yancy and Isaiah Taylor, decent guards but not blue-chip prospects, to play next year while missing on in-state five-star prospects Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison. But if Dodds had his way, Barnes would model his program after another perennial contender.

“I like the way [Michigan State head coach Tom] Izzo does it,” Dodds said. “He builds the team and they’re there and he gets them tough. You do not want to play Michigan State.”

Another change Dodds would like to see is college basketball adopting college baseball’s rule of allowing a player to turn pro right out of high school but, if he decides to go to college, mandating that he stay there for three years.

“I like the baseball rule,” Dodds said. “The players association in the NBA caused the rule to be the way it is now. It’s not the players that want the rule. It’s the agents that want the rule. It’s the agents that tell the players how to do their votes. And the agents want one-and-done. The owners probably prefer the baseball rule but it’s a negotiation between agents and the owners.”

Until then, Barnes, with the support of Dodds, will continue recruiting more guys that aren’t done until they’ve been at Texas four years and do his best to limit the early departures, all in an effort to limit the kinds of seasons like the Longhorns had this year.

Guards Demarcus Croaker, Isaiah Taylor and Kendal Yancy signed letters of intent on Thursday to play at Texas next season. Yancy and Croaker are four-star prospects, according to rivals.com, with Taylor checking in as a three-star prospect.

For the second straight year, the Longhorns failed to sign a big-time, blue-chip prospect like Myck Kabongo in 2011, Tristan Thompson in 2010 and Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton in 2009. The Longhorns were one of four finalists for Plano product and five-star prospect Julius Randle but he committed to Kentucky.

Croaker, who decommitted from Murray State in Feburary, was a Class 4A Player of the Year finalist after averaging 23.9 points per game for Jones (Orlando, Fla.) High School.

“Demarcus is a player who possesses the rare combination of high-level athleticism, ball skills and shooting touch,” Barnes said. “Like most freshmen, the challenge for Demarcus will be adapting to the rigors of our level.” 

Taylor was the first to verbally commit to Texas when he pledged to play for the Longhorns in January. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Houston product averaged 17.6 points, 10.0 assists and 6.0 steals per game while shooting 62.2 percent from the floor as a senior last year.

“Isaiah is a true point guard with excellent court vision and the ability to make other players around him better,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “He has terrific speed and quickness to go with exceptional ball-handling ability. Once he learns our system, he will bring tremendous value to our backcourt.” 

Yancy was released from his letter of intent from USC in February and verbally committed to Texas last month, turning down offers from Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Virginia, among more than a dozen others. He earned 5A all-state honors after averaging 12.2 points, 7.8 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game last season, when he led Berkner High School in Richardson to the state semifinals.

“Kendal is a tough, physical guard who has excellent ball skills and a good basketball IQ,” Barnes said. “He has the versatility to play all three guard positions, and he brings a winning mentality to our program.” 

The Longhorns lost three players from the 16-18 team that fell in the first round of the CBI last month. Sophomores Sheldon McClellan and Jaylen Bond both elected to transfer while sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo announced his decision to declare for the NBA draft last Friday. Fellow sophomore Julien Lewis, who teammates have said isn’t working out with the team full-time, has yet to decide whether he will transfer. 

Myck Kabongo declared for the NBA Draft on Friday, leaving Texas in his rear view mirror after two seasons with the Longhorns, the last of which was shortened by a 23-game suspension. Over the course of his career, Kabongo played in 45 games, averaging 10.8 points and 5.3 assists per game, while shooting 40 percent from the floor. Daily Texan file photo. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Myck Kabongo played 45 games, averaged 10.8 points and 5.3 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the floor during his Texas career. 

But there’s one number that people will remember when looking back on Kabongo’s Longhorns career: 23.

After turning down the NBA to return to Texas for his sophomore season, Kabongo was suspended 23 games by the NCAA for receiving impermissible benefits related to a flight to Cleveland last offseason and lying about it to school officials. When asked if there was anything he would do differently during his two years at Texas, Kabongo was quick with his answer.

“I would not have taken that trip to Cleveland,” Kabongo said.

Kabongo announced Friday that he was foregoing his final two years of eligibility at Texas to declare for the NBA Draft. He becomes the latest in a long line of Longhorns to leave the program early. J’Covan Brown left after his junior year last season while Jordan Hamilton, Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson left early the year before that.

“In life, you have to make tough decisions and this is probably one of the toughest decisions I’ll ever have to make,” Kabongo said. “I talked to God and to my mom, and they were really the only people I needed to talk to about it. I’m just excited for this next stage in life.”

Before the team banquet Thursday night, head coach Rick Barnes admitted that he went into this season expecting it to be Kabongo’s last at Texas. His Longhorns went 10-13 without Kabongo this year and 6-5 with him, the final defeat coming in a first-round loss to Houston in the CBI.

“Our staff wishes Myck and his family success as he moves forward,” Barnes said in a statement Friday. “We are so proud of the way Myck handled the [suspension]. He is a relentless worker in the gym who strives every day to get better in all phases of the game, and we know that will continue in the future.”

Kabongo earned team MVP honors this year despite playing just 11 games. He averaged 14.6 points, 5.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 37.3 minutes per game during his suspension-shortened season.

“It was the darkest stage of my life a couple of months ago,” Kabongo said. “I didn’t think I was breaking any rules. I should have been more truthful with our school’s compliance. That was a mistake. A big mistake. But I corrected myself. I was happy that I was very truthful with the NCAA.”

Kabongo’s decision to forego his final two years of eligibility comes on the heels of the departure of two of his Longhorn teammates. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder from Toronto joins fellow sophomores Sheldon McClellan and Jaylen Bond as those leaving the Texas program after two years.

McClellan, the team’s leading scorer, and Bond both announced their intentions to transfer last month.

Texas point guard Myck Kabongo declares for NBA Draft

Sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo discusses his decision to forego his final two years of eligiblity at Texas and declare for the NBA Draft on Friday.
Sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo discusses his decision to forego his final two years of eligiblity at Texas and declare for the NBA Draft on Friday.

Sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo has declared for the NBA Draft, Texas announced Friday morning.

He started 45 games over two seasons with the Longhorns, averaging 10.8 points, 5.3 assists and 32.2 minutes per game while shooting 40 percent from the floor, 31.1 percent from three-point range and 71.5 percent from the free-throw line during his Texas career.

"In life, you have to make tough decisions and this is probably one of the toughest decisions I'll ever have to make," Kabongo said. "I talked to God and to my mom, and they were really the only people I needed to talk to about it. I'm just excited for this next stage in life."

Before the team banquet Thursday night, head coach Rick Barnes admitted that he went into this season expecting it to be Kabongo's last at Texas.

"Our whole feeling was, in his mind, he wanted this to be his last year," Barnes said. "He might be decided. Who knows? He might have decided a long time ago."

Kabongo was suspended for 23 games by the NCAA this year for accepting impermissible benefits during the offseason, reportedly from an agent for a trip to Cleveland to workout with former Longhorns forward Tristan Thompson, and for lying about it to school officials.

"It was the darkest stage of my life a couple months ago," Kabongo said. "I didn't think I was breaking any rules. I should have been more truthful with our school's compliance. That was a mistake. A big mistake. But I corrected myself. I was happy that I was very truthful with the NCAA."

He earned team MVP honors despite playing just 11 games last season. Kabongo averaged 14.6 points, 5.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 37.3 minutes per game this year.

Texas went 10-13 without Kabongo and 6-5 with him, failing to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years under Rick Barnes. The Longhorns lost to Houston in the first round of the CBI last month.

Kabongo's decision to forego his final two years of eligibility comes on the heels of the departure of two of his Longhorns teammates. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder from Toronto joins fellow sophomores Sheldon McClellan and Jaylen Bond as those leaving the Texas program after two years.

McClellan, the team's leading scorer, and Bond both announced their intentions to transfer last month.

Guard Julien Lewis will likely be the go-to player if he decides to return to Texas to help the team rebuild next season. 

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

For Rick Barnes, the end of the year means putting a 16-18 record behind them and shifting focus to the future. It also means figuring out who’s going to be on his team. 

Thursday night at the Longhorns’ basketball banquet, Barnes addressed the state of flux around the status of Myck Kabongo, who says he hasn’t decided whether to return for his junior season or head to the NBA.

“Our whole feeling was, in [Myck’s] mind, he wanted this to be his last year,” Barnes said before Thursday night’s team banquet. “He might be decided. Who knows, he might have decided a long time ago.”

Barnes will have a lighter load on hand for offseason workouts after Jaylen Bond and Sheldon McClellan both announced plans to transfer. Julien Lewis, a junior in the fall, is still contemplating his future. Should Lewis stay with the Longhorns, rather than transfer or test his game overseas, he’d likely be the top scorer.

“I think I can be that go-to guy and play more of my game,” Lewis said. “I just need to be more aggressive, attack the rim more and not settle for jump shots.”

Teammate Ioannis Papapetrou is counting on Lewis to return.

“Julien is a great guy, and his decision is about what’s best for him and his family,” Papapetrou said. “Right now he’s just thinking and sometimes he’s not with us in practice but I’m confident he will be with us next year.”

If Lewis does not return to Texas for his junior season, the Longhorns are left with seven returning scholarship players. It’s not starting from scratch, but Texas faces another uphill battle in order to finish among the Big 12’s best. Texas finished seventh in the conference this year with a 7-11 record in the Big 12.

“Next year won’t get here soon enough,” Barnes said. “There wasn’t any momentum or consistency this year, but I can tell you there has been a lot more energy surrounding practices and workouts this spring.”

The player who might make a big jump forward is point guard Javan Felix, who logged a healthy amount of minutes as a freshman in place of the suspended Kabongo. Next year he’s expected to get more reps and to produce better results.

“When Javan came in for Myck at the beginning of the year he didn’t know left from right,” Barnes said. “Even though he’s a tough kid, he felt the weight of the world.”

Felix remains firm in his belief that this Texas team can make a return to the NCAA Tournament, which he admitted was a tough event to watch from home rather than competing in.

“We owe it to all the guys that came before us,” Felix said. “Coach Barnes wants me to work on getting my shot up quicker, to play better defense and just be a better point guard. This year there were times when we thought we were working hard, but you look back and realize it wasn’t hard enough. That’s what we’re going to be able to tell the new guys coming in this off-season — work harder than you ever have before.”

The season is over and it's time to look to the future. There is no question that this campaign was a disappointing one for Texas and for its fans. A wide open Big 12 that saw three teams lose in the round of 64 was there for the taking with Texas nowhere. Now the next challenge for head coach Rick Barnes has begun: keeping the current roster together.

Texas saw its first departure last week when sophomore forward Jaylen Bond made the decision to transfer before Texas’ game against Houston in the CBI.

Barnes has to find a way to keep the talent on campus if Texas is going to be more successful next season, which means keeping sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo from going to
the NBA.

When his suspension ended, Kabongo provided an instant spark to a listless team. Suddenly there were lanes to drive in and the outside shooters had more space with easier shots. He could create his own offense off the dribble with the ability to go left or right while attacking the rim. He pulled defenders away from Sheldon McClellan, who had some of his best performances in late-game situations near the end of the season. Losing Kabongo would put Texas in roughly the exact same situation it was in to start this season. It would leave the Longhorns without a primary ball handler who could stay on the court for over 30 minutes without seeing his productivity drop.

Kabongo has a case supporting his jump to the NBA. He was the key spark that allowed Texas to win games against Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor at the end of the season. He is very capable of getting to the rim to either draw a foul, distribute the ball or go for the layup. His is also a savvy presence who brought cohesion to a lost team when he returned from his suspension.

But he also has some aspects to keep developing. He gets his pocket picked too often in college, which will evolve to being mugged on every trip to the lane in the NBA. While he can get to the rim, his finishing still needs work, as was evident in his 0-12 performance against Texas Tech.

Kabongo will have a tough decision to make in the next few weeks. If he declares for the draft there would be a very good chance for him to be picked up by someone. But if he were to return to school he could continue to work on his game and turn a possible second-round selection into a lottery pick.

First Half

Cameron Ridley won the tip for Texas, which missed three shots on its opening possession before Houston’s Joseph Young assisted Danuel House on an alley-oop that put the Cougars on the scoreboard 2-0. Ridley, making his second straight start, left the game after just five minutes with an upper respiratory infection. The Longhorns were held to 32.4 percent shooting and were out-rebounded 34-24 in the first 20 minutes as Young’s game-high 12 points had the Cougars leading, 37-31, at halftime.

Second Half

Texas scored the first seven points of the second half to take a one-point lead and extended it to its largest of the game, 62-56, with six minutes left. An 11-0 run by Houston quickly erased that lead but Julien Lewis helped the Longhorns claw their way back before Myck Kabongo knocked down a pair of free throws with 52 seconds left to put Texas on top, 72-71. House hit a jumper with 17 seconds left to give Houston a 73-72 advantage and Lewis, who scored 19 of his career-high 25 points in the second half, missed a potentially game-winning shot from the foul line in the final seconds.

Stock Up

Prince Ibeh- The 6-foot-10 freshman set career highs in points (12), rebounds (11) and blocks (five). He scored 10 points in his previous six games combined, including three scoreless contests. A 34.4 percent shooter from the free throw line entering Wednesday, Ibeh connected on four of eight tries from the charity stripe — despite airballing one in the first half.

Stock Down

Texas basketball - The Longhorns finished this season with a dismal record of 16-18, by far their worst under longtime head coach Rick Barnes. They could not manage to pick up a win even in the CBI, the third-most prestigious postseason tournament in college basketball. Myck Kabongo will likely declare for the NBA Draft after two seasons at Texas but the Longhorns should return everyone else in what should be a better 2013-14 season.

What’s Next

The Longhorns enter the offseason with a sour taste in their mouth after an early exit from the CBI. They’ll welcome Demarcus Croaker and Isaiah Taylor next year and will probably return everyone except Kabongo, who scored 17 points and had six assists Wednesday in what could be his last game with Texas.