Coach congratulates former Longhorn, hopes for all-star bid

AddThis

Rick Barnes, coming off one of the biggest regular-season wins of his career at Texas, reached out to one of his former players.

The Texas coach gave his praise for former Longhorn LaMarcus Aldridge and hopes that he is named to the Western Conference all-star team.

Aldridge is currently not in the top 10 amongst Western Conference forwards in the ballot returns released on Jan. 13. Online voting concluded Jan. 23 with lineups to be announced Jan. 27.

“One thing I wish could happen more than anything is that the fans could really vote for him and get him on that all-star team because he’s having a great year,” Barnes said.

Aldridge was named the league’s Western Conference player of the week on Monday after averaging 28.3 points and 10.3 rebounds for the Portland Trail Blazers over a 4-0 streak. Overall he’s averaging 21.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game this season. The No. 2 overall pick in 2006 is now the top offensive threat on a team that seems playoff bound.

Aldridge’s mother, Georgia, was diagnosed with cancer in the offseason and the Dallas native has said her strength in fighting the disease is added motivation for him to earn an all-star spot.

“I know it’s been a really tough year on him,” Barnes said. “The fact that he got some recognition today is a really good thing for him and we’re happy for him.”

At Texas, Aldridge averaged nearly a double-double for his entire sophomore season. He became the highest draft pick in Longhorn history when he went second overall in the 2006 NBA draft, a record matched by Kevin Durant a year later.

Now Aldridge is having the best run of his professional career and is averaging more than 20 points per outing for the first time since joining the league.

“I don’t think they are going to pick me,” Aldridge told Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears over the weekend. “I think this will be the first year they take guys with losing records.”

<strong>Defensive satisfaction</strong>

Texas’ defensive prowess was on display when the Longhorns held Kansas, the nation’s best field-goal converting team, to 26.7 percent shooting in the second half of Saturday’s win at Allen Fieldhouse.

“Our defense really set the tone,” said senior Matt Hill. “We got a lot of stops, which led to our offense.”

But the team’s defense has been a crucial ingredient to success all season, especially in conference play, where not a single Big 12 opponent has shot better than 41.5 percent from the field. The Longhorns have also held Big 12 opponents to a combined 13-of-59 from beyond the arc.

Freshman Tristan Thompson also leads the conference in blocks with 2.21 per game. That isn’t always a good thing, as the rest of the team must rotate when Thompson leaves his man to stop a shot, but luckily guards Cory Joseph and Dogus Balbay are playing lockdown on individual defense.

“I’m just trying to make him feel me,” Balbay said about his defensive strategy. “I don’t want anybody to get the ball comfortably and bring the ball down and see the court well.”

<strong>Parting shots</strong>

Texas swept the weekly conference awards announced on Monday. Jordan Hamilton averaged 22 points per game last week in wins over No. 13 Texas A&M and No. 6 Kansas to be named conference player of the week, while Tristan Thompson was named conference rookie of the week for his 15 points and 4.5 blocks per game.

Texas jumped to No. 7 in the most recent Associated Press poll. It’s the highest the team has been ranked all season after starting the 2010-11 campaign outside of the Top 25. The Longhorns are the highest ranked three-loss team.