Texas Longhorns Basketball: Ranking & Breaking Down the Freshman Class

Ryan ReschContributor IIIJanuary 8, 2012

Texas Longhorns Basketball: Ranking & Breaking Down the Freshman Class

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    The University of Texas Longhorns basketball squad had one of the most successful offseason recruiting attempts in the history of the program.

    Coming in at No. 4 on the ESPN class rankings list, this squad boasted seven top 35 ranked recruits, three with four stars and even one five star player.

    However, UT was only picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 and currently posts an 11-4 record and a sixth place spot in the conference.

    How have these freshman fared thus far for the youthful burnt orange?

    By breaking down and analyzing each player, the following will rank each active rookie Longhorn based on his play this season. 

No. 6 Sterling Gibbs

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    Average Minutes Played: 10.4

    Field Goal Percentage: 50%

    Points per Game: 3.9

    Miscellaneous: 47.6% on three-pointers

    Sterling Gibbs came to the Longhorns with a reputation for being a tough defender. However, his defense so far is nothing to boast about.

    He posts only four steals over the season and zero blocks.

    This can, of course, be attributed to his lack of playing time, because Texas is so deep at the guard position.

    However, he cannot currently rank among the best of UT’s freshman with his performance.

    He needs to step it up in the quarter of each game he plays, so that he can continue to get a feel for the college game and convince Rick Barnes to increase his playing time.

No. 5 Jaylen Bond

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    Average Minutes Played: 15.8

    Field Goal Percentage: 60.4%

    Points per Game: 4.8

    Miscellaneous: 6 steals and 7.3 rebounds over last six games

    From the looks of it, Jaylen Bond is going to be one of those players that will only get better with age.

    He is not excelling in any category at the moment, but it is reassuring for Texas that when he is on the court he sinks 60% of his shots.

    With the ball in his hands and more experience, Bond could become a serious threat at the post.

    His progress on the defensive side of the game is something worth noting as well. He has six steals and 44 rebounds in his last six games, showing that he can put his team in position to score even though he is not receiving quality time.

    It seems reasonable that his defensive skills will only increase as the season continues.

No. 4 Julien Lewis

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    Average Minutes Played: 23.9

    Field Goal Percentage: 34.4%

    Points per Game: 8.3

    Miscellaneous: 62.5% free throw success

    Julien Lewis is the first freshman to spend at least half of his time off the bench.

    It is safe to bet that this team would like to see some improvement from Lewis’ field goal percentage overall, as he is the second-highest field goal shooter on the team per attempts.

    That being said, he has posted double-digit point totals in six games earlier this season, which shows he has potential.

    However, his play over the last month has fallen off. 

    Defensively, Lewis could work to improve his aggressiveness on the ball. He is pulling in only 1.3 steals per game and not living up to the versatile defensive player that UT thought they were getting. 

No. 3 Jonathan Holmes

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    Average Minutes Played: 22.4

    Field Goal Percentage: 50.7%

    Points per Game: 9.1

    Miscellaneous: 5.6 rebounds per game

    Holmes came to UT as a strictly offensive player. Described as being able to “compete immediately” for court time, Holmes has been able to pair with McClellan and Kabongo to help lead this team to victory.

    Clearly, this man is talented from a shooting standpoint and should only increase his success as the season progresses.

    On the other hand, he has barely made a mark in the Longhorns’ defense and has shown that he has trouble guarding those who are smaller and more agile than he is.

    In order for Holmes to move up in the rankings and improve as a player, he needs to focus on rounding out his entire game. 

No. 2 Myck Kabongo

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    Average Minutes Played: 28.1

    Field Goal Percentage: 40.4%

    Points per Game: 9.7

    Miscellaneous: 5.4 assists 

    The Longhorns were extremely excited about this pickup in the offseason.

    Kabongo possesses an elite level of speed, a high basketball IQ and a great set of ball-handling skills, which he has shown in his games this season.

    Yet his weakness is in his shot. For all of his abilities described previously, he also has a knack for ill-timed or sloppy shots.

    On that note, though, his game has picked up with a double-digit gain of 15 points against Oklahoma State in UT’s last game.

    Look for this talent to stick around for quite some time and improve every facet of his game.

    As anyone who watches Longhorns basketball can tell, Kabongo has a bright future ahead of him. 

No. 1 Sheldon McClellan

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    Average Minutes Played: 26.1

    Field Goal Percentage: 48.3%

    Points per Game: 12.5

    Miscellaneous: 74.6% free throw success 

    Hands down, McClellan is the best overall freshman taking the court for the University of Texas.

    His pairing with Kabongo and Holmes has already been discussed, but it is evident that he is the leader of the three.

    His play is undoubtedly aiding in the victories for the Longhorns and should continue as conference play progresses.

    On the other hand, though, his youth is his downfall this season. He can sometimes be seen taking risky shots, most especially from the arc.

    I, for one, would certainly put my money on this young player to grow into one of, if not the, best player in the Big 12 come his junior or senior season.