Freshmen will have to carry load until a leader emerges for Horns

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J’Covan Brown (14) drives past Texas A&M’s Dash Harris in a game against the Aggies last year. Brown is one of five returning lettermen from last year’s team.

Photo Credit: Andrew Torrey | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas men’s basketball team seems to go from one young team to another just about every season.

The same holds true this year as Texas enters the 2011-2012 season with a corps of six freshmen and only three returning upperclassmen. Because of this, Texas’ 27-7 record last year doesn’t carry much momentum into this season, but don’t think for a minute that head coach Rick Barnes plans on letting off the gas.

“We’ve always set the bar high at Texas,” Barnes said. “We’re not going to change that. And we’ve told those guys that they came to the University of Texas because, you know, where our program has been, and we still want more. There’s no question.”

He’ll be asking for that “more” to come from his three returning players, junior point guard J’Covan Brown, and senior forwards Alexis Wangmene and Clint Chapman.

Brown’s role is expected to expand the most, especially on offense. Recently named as one of the five 2011 preseason all-Big 12 Conference team members, Brown averaged 10 points a contest last season and was the team’s best free-throw shooter in only about 22 minutes of action.

“[Brown] has had a great offseason. He’s got himself in the best shape he’s ever been in,” Barnes said of his starting guard. “He’s emerged as the leader of this team, and we know he can score. We’re going to count on him to score. He’s going to be a marked man wherever we go play.”

Brown won’t be the only guard on the court. Of Texas’ six freshmen, four of them are guards who are expected to get significant amounts of playing time, and though they are raw, Brown thinks they’ve progressed very fast.

“When [the freshmen] got here, they were far from where we wanted them to be,” Brown said of the youngsters. “But they’ve gotten better in practice and learned the speed of the college game. They’ve buckled down and really learned to pay attention to the details."

The four guards ­— Myck Kabongo, Julien Lewis, Sheldon McClellan and Sterling Gibbs — are joined by first-year forwards Jaylen Bond and Jonathan Holmes. Kabongo, the team’s self-proclaimed prankster, was highly recruited out of high school and is expected to make an immediate impact. A native of Canada, Kabongo played with former Texas basketball standouts Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson in his high school days.

The Longhorns will welcome Boston University into the Frank Erwin Center on Sunday for their first game of the year. BU, 21-13 last season, lost John Holland, who averaged 19 points and six rebounds last year. It will try to replace his leadership with senior guard Darryl Partin who averaged 14 points a contest in 2010. 

The Terriers are an early dose of strong competition for the young Longhorns, but Barnes said he likes scheduling tough competition because he thinks Texas can handle it. On Sunday, he’ll know for sure.