Tristan Thompson

Frehman point guard Isaiah Taylor is averaging 11.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game this season, marks that compare well to many former Texas PG greats. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

After nearly three years, the Longhorns men’s basketball team is ranked again. Texas enters a pivotal week ranked No. 25 in the latest AP poll, a number that will improve if they are able to slay Goliath and defeat No. 6 Kansas on Saturday. With this monstrous matchup looming, the two names every Texas fan needs to know are Cameron Ridley and Isaiah Taylor.

The 6-foot-9-inch, 285-pound Ridley is the first to draw attention. The sophomore center leads the team in rebounding and blocks and is quickly emerging as one of the most dominant centers to ever play for Rick Barnes.

Due to his gargantuan proportions, Ridley often draws comparisons with former Longhorn center Dexter Pittman. But, when it comes to games, there’s no comparison. Ridley averages 11.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while also leading the team with 48 blocks — already surpassing his total from last year, when he led the team with 47 — Pittman never averaged 11 points or six rebounds per game.

Ridley’s numbers are far closer to what Tristan Thompson, the fourth-overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, posted during his freshman year at Texas. Thompson put up 13.1 points, grabbed 7.8 rebounds and rejected 2.4 shots per game. Ridley is averaging 2.4 blocks-per-game this season, which — along with Thompson — is the highest for any Longhorn player in 14 years.

Freshman point guard Taylor has been equally impressive. He has been a revelation, quickly putting himself in the exclusive company of past elite Texas point guards. This list includes T.J. Ford, Daniel Gibson, D.J. Augustin, Avery Bradley and Cory Joseph, all of whom played in the NBA.

Taylor has been an offensive spark plug, averaging 11.7 points and 3.7 assists per game. Last Saturday’s win over Baylor was his best performance of the season, in which he had a career-high 27 points. Although he has attempted only 11 three pointers all year, Taylor has had plenty of success attacking the rim — his 6.15 free-throw attempts per game are more than Ford, Gibson, Augustin, Bradley or Joseph ever averaged.

Taylor is averaging more points than Joseph and Ford did their freshman seasons and Taylor has more assists per game than Joseph and Bradley did. He also has a better assist-turnover ratio than Gibson, Joseph and Bradley.

Before Ridley and Taylor burst onto the scene, Texas basketball was at rock bottom. But, with new life and new leadership, this team looks like the real deal. We’ll know for sure if they are after they take on Kansas this weekend. 

Many NBA teams played their first regular season game Wednesday night. The results were pretty mixed with all-star-like and poor showings. It’s just the first game of the year, but here are how some former Texas Longhorns opened their seasons.

Avery Bradley – Boston Celtics point guard

He will get a ton of playing time over the next few weeks, as star point guard Rajon Rondo patiently recovers from a torn ACL from last season. So don’t put too much stock into his relatively average offensive display against the Toronto Raptors. In 31 minutes against Toronto, Bradley recorded eight points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals on 4 for 13 shooting.

Bradley has always been a defense-first guard, even at Texas. He can score but anything too much more than his career average of 6.9 points per game is an added bonus. Bradley did a nice job of limiting explosive, all-around-scoring guard Kyle Lowry. Expect his defensive efforts to be a constant for Boston all season long, even when Rondo returns.

D.J. Augustin — Toronto Raptors point guard

The total opposite of Bradley, Augustin won’t be seeing too much court time anytime soon, simply because starter Kyle Lowry is just a better, more proven NBA point guard right now. Augustin wasn’t too efficient with his 13 minutes Wednesday night. He needed seven shots to score five points, and he only added two dimes to his stat sheet. Much more efficient, distributive play is required to be a starting point guard in the NBA.

The best news about Augustin’s performance Wednesday night? His Raptors are 1-0.

Tristan Thompson — Cleveland Cavaliers power forward

Thompson turned in the first stud performance by a Longhorn so far in this infant season. He is the Cavs’ best player by far, and led his team to an impressive win against the newly-powerful Brooklyn Nets. In 35 minutes, Thompson put up 18 points and 9 rebounds on an efficient 8 for 13 shooting performance. He made Kevin Garnett work on the defensive end, and the expended energy took a bit out of Garnett — who was really a non-factor Wednesday — on offense.

If Thompson puts up these numbers consistently, this upstart Cleveland squad just might make a return to the playoffs.

LaMarcus Alrdridge — Portland Trail Blazers power forward

I’m saving the best for last here. After all, it’s indisputable that Aldridge is the best former Longhorn in the league right now. He didn’t really need last night’s all-star performance to prove or even reinforce that status. He played huge minutes, but as the face of the Blazers’ franchise, he is expected to carry this burden. He poured in 28 points on 12 for 22 shooting, along with four rebounds and two assists in 39 minutes.

Aldridge will need to be a more consistent rebounding machine if Portland wants to sneak into the west’s top eight in April. But the scoring will always be there, and he has plenty of mates to help him on that front all season long.

Top 5 fleeting memories of Myck Kabongo

He only played roughly 1,500 minutes as a Longhorn, and he will most likely be remembered more for a suspension than any one moment during his two years at Texas.

Myck Kabongo came to Austin after wooing every college in the nation with his exciting style of play at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev. Findlay helped produce three other former Longhorns in Avery Bradley, Cory Joseph and Tristan Thomspon. Both Joseph and Thompson are originally from Ontario, Canada, as is Kabongo, and the connection seemed to be as strong as ever when Kabongo picked Texas over schools like Syracuse, Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina.

Two years later there are still some lasting memories from Kabongo’s time as a Longhorn. Here’s a rundown of his top five memorable moments at Texas:

1. Kabongo’s freshman year was filled with hype surrounding his frenetic pace on the court and his elite ability to pass teammates open. In his first three games at Texas, Kabongo dropped 37 points and dished out 19 assists, all while leading the Longhorns to a 2-1 record.

2. Later in his freshman year, Kabongo recorded his first collegiate double-double, a 12-point, 10-assist, showing in a loss at No. 9 Missouri. He would follow-up with a consecutive double-double in his next game with 14 points and 10 assists in another loss at Kansas State.

3. In one of Kabongo’s more forgettable games as a freshman, he failed to make a field goal and scored just two points in the Longhorns’ loss to Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Kabongo missed all of his field goal attempts six times his freshman year, with three of the occurrences coming in the final five games of the season. Maybe he was thinking about the NBA Draft a little bit too soon.

4. It was no secret Kabongo had plans to make the leap to the NBA at some point and this past summer, Kabongo was caught in the middle of an NCAA investigation surrounding a trip he took to Cleveland to workout with former Longhorn Tristan Thompson. The NCAA alleges Kabongo received impermissible benefits in taking the trip as well as receiving direction from trainer Jerry Powell. Following the NCAA’s investigation it was decided that Kabongo would miss the first 23 games of his sophomore season and his return was set for Feb. 13 against Iowa State.

5. His secondary debut came in the form of a riveting double-overtime win at home over the Cyclones, but it was in another overtime win two weeks later that Kabongo defined his sophomore season. Kabongo would score 31 of the Longhorns’ 92 points in their win over Oklahoma. Texas was down two points with seconds left on the clock, and as time ran out Kabongo made a shot that he could not duplicate if he tried it 100 more times. His shot from the hip as he was getting fouled made no sense and probably should have never happened, much like the entire season for Texas. His final mark on the program were 11 games as a sophomore in which he averaged 14.6 points per game and handed out an average of 5.5 assists.

Kabongo could have served as the kingpin for a still youthful Texas team had he chose to stay for his junior year, but a season marred by suspension was a far cry from the lucrative allure of becoming a professional athlete. He served his required time in college, and he now joins his Canadian cohorts as the latest player to reach the NBA under the guidance of Rick Barnes.

Damarcus Holland attempts a basket during the Longhorns’s 72-59 loss against Oklahoma State on Feb. 9.  Myck Kabongo and Jonathan Holmes will both return to the court as Texas faces Iowa State Wednesday.  

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

There may never be a clear explanation as to what exactly happened in the offseason with Myck Kabongo, Tristan Thompson and an infamous workout that caused more trouble than it could ever be worth.

“When I went to Cleveland last summer, I did not intend to break any rules and did not believe I had broken any,” Kabongo said in a statement released Monday.

One thing is certain — it’s in the past, and now Kabongo has been relinquished of his suspension so he can lead Texas to the promised land.

Or something like that.

All allegories aside, Kabongo gives Texas something it has sorely needed all year: leadership. Sheldon McClellan has not answered the call, Jonathan Holmes, who will return from a broken right hand that kept him out for the last three weeks, is more of a soft-spoken individual and Julien Lewis hasn’t made enough of an impact for his teammates to get behind anything he might have to say. Of all the members of the Longhorns’ vaunted sophomore class, Kabongo is the one that has the “it” factor. He won’t lead the team in scoring on most nights, and he isn’t going to pull down more than a few stray rebounds, but what he offers goes beyond statistics and delves into the emotional side of the game.

“Myck plays really hard,” freshman forward Ioannis Papapetrou said. “He has a year of experience and he is really going to help our guys.”

He’s a leader, plain and simple.

“He’ll make mistakes,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “But the one thing I know he’s going to do is play with effort, he’s going to be fearless and where he’s improved is he really wants to be coached.”

No disrespect to Javan Felix, but he was thrown into a situation he could only make worse. And for the lack of a better explanation, that’s pretty much what he accomplished through 23 games as a true freshman. The Longhorns’ 10-13 record is evidence enough. No one expected Felix to play nearly every minute of every game this year, and although he has been productive in spurts, for the most part he has failed to lead this Texas team.

Texas will need all the leadership it can corral when it faces Iowa State tonight. After being on the wrong end of an 82-62 blowout Jan. 12 in Ames, Iowa, the Longhorns will attempt to even the season series with the Cyclones at one game apiece.

Easier said than done.

In its 20-point shellacking of Texas at Hilton Coliseum back in January, Iowa State shot more than 40 percent from three-point range and controlled the game from buzzer to buzzer. Former Michigan State point guard Korie Lucious flirted with a double-double, dishing out nine assists to go with his 10 points. Freshman forward Georges Niang led all scorers with 18 points, and guards Will Clyburn and Tyrus McGee added 16 and 15 points, respectively.

The Longhorns outrebounded the Cyclones on the offensive glass, but the game’s biggest disparity came from Texas’ bench. McClellan, Texas’ leading scorer, performed his first disappearing act of the year, playing a single, scoreless minute. McClellan may be relegated to the pine once again to start the game against the Cyclones, but if the Longhorns are to get back on track he’s going to be called upon to score some buckets in crunch time.

“We need Sheldon to score,” Barnes said. “That’s what he does.”

Published on February 13, 2013 as "Holmes, Kabongo return". 

Sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo has been suspended for the entire season by the NCAA, Yahoo! Sports reported Wednesday night.

Kabongo has already missed the Longhorns' first 11 games of the year while he was being investigated for allegations that he received impermissible benefits during the offseason. Kabongo flew to Cleveland in May to work out with Cavailers forward and former Longhorn Tristan Thompson, a childhood friend of Kabongo's.

Head coach Rick Barnes would not confirm or deny the report after his team's 85-67 win over No. 23 North Carolina on Wednesday.

"There's a process that every athlete goes through and I can only tell you that process is not done," Barnes said. "They're in the middle of that process and when it's done, we'll go from there. I can't say it any better than I just said it. Every student-athlete is entitled to a process if something comes up. That process is still ongoing."

Thompson's agent, Rich Paul, who also represents Miami Heat superstar LeBron James, allegedly paid for Kabongo's flight, which would constitute a NCAA violation.

NCAA Bylaw 12.3.1.2 states that a student-athlete would be deemed ineligible if they accepted "transportation or other benefits from... any person who represents any individual in the marketing of his or her athletics ability [or]... an agent, even if the agent has indicated that he or she has no interest in representing the student-athlete."

According to Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports, the reason for Kabongo's season-long suspension was that he lied while being interviewed by NCAA investigators.

Kabongo decided to put his professional career on hold, returning for his sophomore season after averaging 9.6 points and 5.2 assists per game as a freshman last year. The 22nd-ranked prospect by ESPN, which projects him to be a mid-first round pick, Kabongo is projected to be an early second round pick by CBSSports.com and draftexpress.com.

Texas takes on No. 20 Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday in what will likely be the 12th straight game Kabongo misses this season. 

Barnes deserves credit, not criticism for three first-round picks

Rick Barnes sent three players to the NBA Draft this season, all of whom were first-round picks.
Rick Barnes sent three players to the NBA Draft this season, all of whom were first-round picks.

Normally a program producing three first-round picks would be cause for celebration, but it’s cause for concern for some fans who believe Texas should have had a better postseason.

Rick Barnes took a lot of heat for not making it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament in March despite having two projected lottery picks and several other respectable players. The fact that three Longhorns — Tristan Thompson (No. 4), Jordan Hamilton (No. 26) and Cory Joseph (No. 29) — heard their names called during the NBA Draft’s first round was a stark reminder for Barnes’ critics that he should have gotten more out of his team last season.

With that trio of early selections, Texas had more players selected in the first round than any other team (Kansas and Duke each had two). Since 2006, the Longhorns have seen eight of their players picked in the first round, also more than anyone in the country. During that same time span, Barnes’ boys have gotten past the second round twice and gone 9-6 (.600) in the NCAA Tournament.

This plethora of first-rounders should not be a reason for throwing Barnes under the bus though. That would ignore the fact that Texas had a stellar regular season. Before they lost three of their last five regular-season games, the Longhorns rose as high as No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches poll, won their first 11 conference contests and beat Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse for the first time in school history.

Any disapproving remarks about Barnes would also fail to recall the gauntlet Texas faced in the NCAA Tournament. After hopes of a No. 1 seed were squashed by a February skid that saw them fall to three unranked teams in 10 days, the Longhorns found themselves in a No. 4 slot many felt was an error on the Selection Committee’s part. Some experts also felt Texas’ first-round opponent, 13th-seeded Oakland, was also disrespected by its spot in the bracket and even picked the Grizzlies to pull the upset. When the Longhorns squeaked by with an 85-81 win, they were faced with the daunting task of facing Arizona’s Derrick Williams, the eventual No. 2 pick. Had Texas beaten the Wildcats, they would have gone up against the defending champion Duke Blue Devils, who featured the eventual No. 1 pick, Kyrie Irving, and two more heralded future selections — seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.

Any claim Barnes is a mastermind of squandering superior talent would also forget the fact that Barnes has talented teams for a reason — he’s a top-notch recruiter and an awesome developer of talent. Thompson, who will join former Longhorn Daniel “Boobie” Gibson on the Cleveland Cavaliers, was the highest-ranked member of the high school class of 2010 when he committed after his sophomore season. But by the time he graduated, he had slipped to No. 10 (No. 17 on Rivals.com). During his short time at Texas, Thompson more than made up for it. He drastically improved on both ends of the floor, becoming a feared offensive threat and an incredible rebounder and shot-blocker.

Joseph, who played alongside Thompson at Findlay Prep, also made significant strides during his freshman season. He scored 10.4 points per game — fourth on the team — but displayed his ability to come through in the clutch when he hit a game-winning jumper to beat North Carolina in December. Most draft experts thought the San Antonio Spurs reached to make Joseph their first-round selection. But when you consider that the Spurs are a franchise with a heavy emphasis on defense, it’s not much of a surprise they went with a guy that would be a defensive asset.

Hamilton likely best illustrates Barnes ability to shape elite college basketball players. In his freshman year, the 6-foot-7 swingman showed flashes of brilliance but also displayed horrendous shot selection and proved to be a defensive liability. Hamilton’s sophomore season went much better. He embraced his role as the go-to guy on offense without taking 25 to 30 shots and routinely guarded the other team’s best player. Hamilton also improved as a rebounder and a defender and was rewarded by landing in Denver after Dallas traded him.

Barnes gets both the blame for falling short in the NCAA tournament with his gifted team without getting any of the credit for having a gifted team in the first place. How else would Thompson have gone from top-20 prospect to top-five draft pick? How else would Hamilton have gone from someone who never met a shot he didn’t like to a pro prospect that a bunch of scouts liked? The answer is short and simple — Rick Barnes.

Breaking Down the Draft

Kyrie Irving, a former Duke basketball player, gestures to the crowd after being selected with the No. 1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers during the NBA basketball draft Thursday in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Kyrie Irving, a former Duke basketball player, gestures to the crowd after being selected with the No. 1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers during the NBA basketball draft Thursday in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

A tried-and-true practice, The 2011 NBA Draft Lottery (retro) Diary, with thoughts on the first 14 selections:

?First Round
1. Cleveland (from L.A. Clippers), Kyrie Irving, g, Duke.

*This is the pick the Cavaliers got in the Baron Davis-Mo Williams trade, and it’s just the Clippers’ luck that it becomes the No. 1 pick in the lottery.

After a few days of speculation, no surprise here that the Cavaliers take Irving, who was great in his freshman season at Duke, albeit if he only played 11 games because of injury. He’s not as dynamic as recent No. 1 point guards like John Wall and Derrick Rose, but his playmaking abilities have led some to compare him to Chris Paul.

I’m not sure if Irving will ever be that good, but I don’t think there’s any way he doesn’t become one of the top-10 point guards in the league. This is a step in the right direction for Cleveland, a franchise that desperately needs some hope after last season’s LeBron James hangover.

Just a side note, this puts the Cavs in position to trade one of the other PGs on the roster — whether it be Baron Davis, Ramon Sessions or former Longhorn Boobie Gibson.

2. Minnesota, Derrick Williams, f, Arizona.

It’s really hard not to fall in love with Williams when you watch him play, because he’s so dynamic. If there’s one player in this draft who could become a true superstar, it might be him. Only thing to complain about here is that he’s sort of in a basketball dark hole in Minnesota now — by all accounts, the worst franchise in basketball. And he lands on a roster that already has a glut of talented forwards: Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph. There’s also Wesley Johnson, the fourth pick last year. One of those guys will need to be traded to make room for Williams, who projects as a four but could also play the three.

3. Utah (from New Jersey), Enes Kanter, c, Kentucky/Fenerbahce Ulker (Turkey).

Great pickup for the Jazz. Kanter was set to star at Kentucky before the NCAA ruled him ineligible for all of last season, but he showed some glimpses of his talent at the 2010 Nike Hoops Summit, when he scored 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Kanter’s skill set — polished low-post game, soft hands, mobile, good jumper — should complement Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson down low. This gives Utah one of the more formidable frontcourts in the league.

4. Cleveland, Tristan Thompson, f, Texas.

Wow. There were some rumblings of this happening in recent mock drafts, but it’s still pretty unbelievable to think about how much Thompson has improved his stock since he officially declared for the draft, when he was a fringe lotto prospect. He might never be a star, but his hustle on both ends of the floor will make him a reliable big man. At Texas, he became known for his defense and his rebounding, but never really got much of a chance to show what he could do offensively, other than put-back dunks and oops. In a NBA offense, and with a really good point guard in Irving, Thompson will have a chance to improve that end of his game in Cleveland.

5. Toronto, Jonas Valanciunas, c, Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania).

Valanciunas could have gone to Cleveland at No. 4, but there were some worries that his expensive buyout could keep him overseas a bit longer. In any case, he’ll be a really good compliment to Andrea Bargnani whenever he comes to Toronto. Haven’t seen much of the guy (completely forgot to check him out on my most recent trip to Lithuania) but if he’s as solid in the post as the experts say he is, Toronto should have a versatile frontcourt attack.

6. Washington, Jan Vesely, f, Partizan Belgrade (Serbia).

This is going to be fun to watch. Vesely plays differently than any European player you have ever seen, with incredible athleticism and the ability to dunk just about anything. YouTube this guy. Then imagine John Wall lobbing oops to him. Vesely won’t be the second or third best guy on a playoff-contending team, but he could make up an exciting piece of the puzzle in D.C.

7. Sacramento (traded to Charlotte), Bismack Biyombo, f, Fuenlabrada (Spain).

Two really fun picks back-to-back. Biyombo really won’t be good for anything more than shot-blocking and interior defense, but he’s good enough at both of them to make up for offensive incompetence. He and DeMarcus Cousins would have been scary in Sacramento, but Biyombo was traded shortly afterwards to Charlotte.

8. Detroit, Brandon Knight, g, Kentucky.

Knight is an intriguing combo guard who fits well with Detroit, assuming Rodney Stuckey is on his way out. Ideally, he’s a point guard. This is a steal, Knight could have gone in the top five.

9. Charlotte, Kemba Walker, g, Connecticut.

I’m a fan of Kemba, but just not on this team. Charlotte got big contributions last year from former Longhorn D.J. Augustin, who scored 14 points and dished out six assists a game. Walker, like Augustin, is a smaller point guard, and a scorer who needs the ball in his hands to be most successful. Not sure what this means for Augustin’s tenure in Charlotte, because the fans (all 200 of them) might favor Walker, the national champion who has developed a cult-like following. Interesting to note that both he and Augustin were picked No. 9 in the draft.

10. Milwaukee (traded to Sacramento), Jimmer Fredette, g, BYU.

In the name of Joseph Smith, we couldn’t have gotten Jimmer in a bigger media market? I need to see this guy either in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, Miami, Denver or Chicago. The only consolation in this is that the Kings should become one of the more polarizing teams to watch, what with Cousins’ temper tantrums and Tyreke Evans’ style of play — equal parts exciting and selfish. Jimmer will most likely play off the ball in Sacramento, so, assuming Evans ever passes to anybody, he’ll do his damage around the three-point line.

11. Golden State, Klay Thompson, g, Washington State.

Thompson led the Pac-10 in scoring this past season, with 21.6 points a game, so it only makes no sense that he’s going to the Warriors, who already have Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry.

12. Utah, Alec Burks, g, Colorado.

Another good get for the Jazz. Burks was one of the premier scorers in the Big 12 this season, and he’ll bring some punch to a backcourt that features — yikes — Devin Harris, Gordon Hayward, C.J. Miles and Raja Bell. Burks should start from day one.

13. Phoenix, Markieff Morris, f, Kansas.

Big, mean, reasonably talented, tough, experienced, with a good motor.

14. Houston, Marcus Morris, f, Kansas.

Twins?! All the above, plus a jump shot.

Some Local Notes:

What a wild night for Jordan Hamilton, who was drafted by Dallas then traded to Portland then traded to Denver. The Nuggets got a steal here. He’s no Carmelo (though, with his shot selection, he might think he is) but he’ll pour in anywhere from 10 to 25 points any given night. If you’re wondering why Hamilton, who was projected to be a lottery pick, slipped all the way to No. 26, it’s because Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes apparently told inquiring NBA front offices that Hamilton was “uncoachable.”

Cory Joseph was not only drafted by the nearby Spurs, but he also served this whole city a whopping plate of crow. Blasted by many when he came out, including myself, Joseph must have put together some really strong workouts for a diligent-scouting team like the Spurs to want him. With George Hill being traded to Indiana tonight, Joseph should be Tony Parker’s backup this season. Good for Cory.

The Spurs also get SDSU’s Kawhi Leonard, who was picked No. 15 and then traded from Indiana in the Hill trade. Nicknamed "The Human Avatar” by his college teammates because of his huge hands, Leonard will give San Antonio the perimeter defense presence it hasn’t had since Bruce Bowen.

Who is your steal of the draft? Who might be the biggest bust? 
 

One-and-Dones hurting Texas

Jordan Hamilton is gone. Tristan Thompson is gone. Cory Joseph is gone. 

What, you expected otherwise?

The one-and-done been the norm for Texas the past few years. And that’s not going to change, so long as Rick Barnes is still inking five-star after five-star and the Longhorns bow out early year after year.

Granted, it’s never really a bad thing to be signing prep All-Americans. And it’s a testament to how far the Texas program has come in the past decade and a half that it can get the best players in the nation to come play in Austin. But when multiple top-five recruiting classes don’t translate to final finishes in the top four, or top eight, or top 16…or top 32 (you get the picture), then what’s the point? The supreme talent Barnes brings to Austin every August just ends up leaving in April and May, with nothing to show for it but the skid marks of a once-promising season coming to a screeching halt.

It wasn’t always like this, because Texas didn’t start recruiting and signing “superstars” until a little over ten years ago. T.J. Ford took Texas to the Final Four in 2003, then left with two seasons of eligibility remaining. A few years later, LaMarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson and P.J. Tucker all declared for the draft after an Elite Eight appearance. Aldridge has flourished in the league, Gibson has settled into a nice role as a spot-up shooter in Cleveland (though his ceiling seemed to be much higher when he first came to Texas) and Tucker was a complete disappointment professionaly, now coming to an Italian arena game near you. Kevin Durant left after his freshman year (no arguing that), D.J. Augustin left after his sophomore year — a good, not great, point guard now with the Bobcats — and last year, Avery Bradley left after a relatively unremarkable individual year.

Bradley, if you remember, came to Texas billed as the No. 1 high school player in the nation. Ahead of DeMarcus Cousins. Ahead of Derrick Favors. Ahead of, yes, John Wall. So all Bradley did was put up around 12 points a game, wildly underachieving any expectations the Longhorns’ fan base might have set for him. Bradley spurned the opportunity to get better and realize his potential in college, jumped to the draft, missed out on the lottery, was picked up by the Boston Celtics at No. 19, played a large chunk of the season in the Developmental League and, as I sit in front of my TV watching Boston play Miami in the Eastern Conference Semifinals,  is nowhere to be found on the court. In fact, Bradley hasn’t played in a game since April 17.

A classmate of Bradley’s in 2009, Jordan Hamilton returned for his sophomore year and greatly improved his game. That Hamilton is now moving on the NBA — where he should be selected in the lottery and should also be a top scorer on any team in the league — should not upset any orange blood.

Neither should the departure of Tristan Thompson. Thompson was a five-star recruit and still managed to exceed expectations this past season for Texas. Sure, his game could benefit from another year or so in college, but he has been guaranteed first-round money. To argue that Thompson is dumb for not returning for another year here at Texas would just be selfish, because Thompson is ready.

But Cory Joseph, sadly, is not. In fact, Joseph declaring for the draft a few days ago is incredibly similar to Bradley’s mishap. Like Bradley, Joseph was a five-star recruit. Like Bradley, Joseph looks to be a bit of a point guard/two-guard tweener. Like Bradley, Joseph can play good defense and has a plus jump shot. But also like Bradley, Joseph didn’t meet freshman expectations (11 points a game), and could greatly benefit from another year in school, working on his skills and his body. ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted last week that he thought Joseph “could be on the D-League All-Rookie team this year.”

As I sit here on my couch, I understand that I would seem not a good judge to offer my insight on any decision dealing with millions of dollars. No, there are no New York Timeses or Boston Globes calling to offer me lucrative contracts. I know what it’s like to be a college student, yes, but I do not know how hard it may be to say “no” to six or seven figures. I also know I often wake up and wish I didn’t have to go to class (about every day.) So there is no blaming, on my part, of any student-athlete who elects to follow their dream, earn some money, ditch the textbooks, and enter the NBA draft. It’s their call, and if they flame out in the league, it will be completely their fault (looking at you, P.J. Tucker.)

With that said, I just don't understand why Barnes keep taking these ready-to-go kids. It’s not like they’re helping bring his program to the Promised Land — four out of five years without even a Sweet 16 appearance. And it accounts to some seriously scary roster turnover, unless you believe that a frontline of Clint Chapman and Alexi Wangmene will in fact be a formidable one.

If Barnes wants to really earn that $200,000 pay raise he just received, he’d be smart to re-evaluate his recruiting practices. He shouldn’t completely stop going after the super recruit, the nearly-inevitable one-and-done, because most national champions usually have one or two great players on their team, and you never know when some of the best players in the country will elect to return to school (Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, Baylor’s Perrry Jones — all highly regarded by NBA minds, all returning for their sophomore season this fall.) Nationally recognized players also bring their schools national attention. Whatever Kevin Durant did for Texas in his time here and whatever his legacy will do for Texas in the hereafter has extraordinary significance.

But Barnes should start placing more value on the high-character role players, guys he knows will stick around for at least a couple of seasons, improve every year, buy into the program, and develop as leaders. Gary Johnson was that player last year. Texas needs more guys like that if it ever hopes to develop as a yearly national championship contender.

So as soon as the one-and-dones stop using Austin as an eight-month long layover on their way to the NBA, the Longhorns will be able to field a consistent, synergized roster. That should equal more success.

Until then? Don’t expect much, other than disappointing finales, fleeting memories, and awkward goodbyes.

Head coach Rick Barnes will bid farewell to another group of players leaving for the NBA Draft. Since 2006, eight Longhorns have been selected in teh first round under Barnes

Photo Credit: Derek Stout | Daily Texan Staff

The three Longhorns drafted into the NBA last week spent about as much time on the draft board as they did playing college ball. Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph were all taken in the first round of the draft, and it is a point of both contention and celebration for Longhorn fans.

Perhaps the disappointment can only be erased by taking solace in the fact that, for the first time in school history, three players were selected in the first round. Weak draft class or not, no one expected that.

The biggest shocker of the night was when Cleveland selected Tristan Thompson with the fourth overall pick. Let’s be nice and at least count this early selection as a victory for Thompson. The extra “W” will come in handy for him since he is now on the worst team in the league, which did itself no favors by drafting so terribly.

Thompson, along with the Cavaliers’ No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving, will head into the home of the Rust Belt with equally as much rust in their games. Irving played a grand total of 11 games his sophomore year because of injuries, and Thompson played one solid year of beginner ball with Texas. Now he is expected to make an immediate impact on the league’s laughter squad. The problem is the Cavaliers are already stacked with raw forwards.

Thompson would have been better off falling into the upper teens before being selected. He would have fit well into the second team of a squad such as Phoenix or New York; high-scoring teams with an emphasis on speed.

Thompson’s impact is not going to be as a scorer. He is the guy you want to come in for 15-20 minutes, cause defensive chaos, snag big rebounds and drop a respectable nine or 10 points a night. Cleveland may expect too much too early from the big man, and it could have a negative impact on his career moving forward.

If Thompson was drafted into an unfortunate situation, Jordan Hamilton was dealt the exact opposite hand of cards.

Landing in Denver was perfect for Hamilton, because the Nuggets know a thing or two about explosive scorers. Hamilton is being ushered into a situation tailor-made for his game. He will get to spend a year or so on the bench, learning from guys such as Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, while simultaneously being allowed to unleash his hyperactive shot for 10-15 minutes a game. His progress will be slow, but he is set up for the most success of any of the former UT players drafted.

As far as the Cory Joseph pick is concerned, I’m still shaking my head at why he even chose to enter the draft.

He was essentially going to have the keys to Texas backcourt handed to him had he stayed another year. He would have had a chance to retool his game and up his draft stock. Instead he went 29th to the Spurs, where he could battle Tony Parker for the starting job — a job Joseph will compete for but won’t get.

To be frank, how is anyone supposed to know how these things will turn out? Draft selections often surprise fans. And if anyone knows about draft steals, it is the San Antonio Spurs. In 1999, an Argentinian by the name of Manu Ginobili was selected 57th overall in the second round, and no one aside from the Spurs had high hopes for him. Turns out everyone else was wrong. Ginobili has won three championships with the Spurs and was an All-Star in 2005.

During the 2007-08 season, he received the Sixth Man of the Year Award and was named to the All-NBA Third Team. One can only hope Joseph will be so fortunate.

As for Longhorn basketball fans, you’re free to be either unhappy at the loss of your team’s cornerstone players or happy for their progress. I’m just jealous they have jobs already.

NBA Draft

Tristan Thompson, left, and Kyrie Irving hold up Cleveland Cavaliers jerseys, Friday, June 24, 2011, in Independence, Ohio. Irving was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA basketball draft and Thompson was the No. 4 overall pick.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Tristan Thompson was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. This selection makes Thompson the third highest selection to come from Texas behind LaMarcus Aldridge in 2006 and Kevin Durant in 2007, who were both chosen second overall.

“We’re very excited for Tristan,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. “I’m not sure we’ve seen a player improve so quickly once he came to campus. Tristan is a wonderful person and Cleveland is getting a special individual who will work hard every day.”

The Cavaliers finished second-to-last in the 2010-11 season with a final record of 19-63.

Thompson will join former high school teammate Samardo Samuels on the Cavalier roster. Samuels and Thomson played together in New Jersey at Saint Benedict’s Prep for a year.

“It’s great, especially having a big brother in the situation that I am in right now,” Thompson said. “Having him be almost like a mentor to me that’s had a year under his belt with the NBA — it’ll just help me a lot.”

The Cleveland basketball community has continually expressed their excitement with Thompson’s constant energy on the court and his ability to make game-changing plays. Thompson, who considered staying at Texas another year, is equally pleased with his future with the Cavs.

“Everyone here is upbeat and likes when we run,” Thompson said. “Look at me on the court — I’m like a relentless bulldog. I think we are going to go hand-in-hand like a perfect marriage.”