Texas Basketball: 7 Reasons to Be Optimistic for Next Season

Eric HampfordContributor IIIFebruary 29, 2012

Texas Basketball: 7 Reasons to Be Optimistic for Next Season

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    If you are a fan of Texas basketball, there are several reasons to be optimistic about next year's team, regardless of how the current season plays out.

    While many people may argue that the Longhorns are having a rough season in Austin, that is not the case. They are on the NCAA tournament bubble with a record of 18-11. They have quality wins over Temple, Iowa State and Kansas State. 

    What is most impressive about this team is the personnel they are winning with. Junior J'Covan Brown is the lone upperclassman playing considerably well, and six freshman are having big seasons for the Longhorns.

    The 2011 freshman class arrived on campus as the eighth-best recruiting haul in the country, according to Rivals. As a whole, they are playing better than almost any other group of frosh in America, except for the Kentucky Wildcats' star-studded crop.

    As long as their star junior and all of the freshmen decide to stick around for next season, Texas could enter the 2012-2013 college basketball season as one of the top 10 teams in the country.

    Here are the seven reasons why Longhorn fans should be excited for next season.

7. Sterling Gibbs

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    The least heralded of the freshmen on the Texas Longhorn roster this season is Sterling Gibbs. The 6'1", 185-pound point guard has the basketball IQ and defensive skills to become a key cog and backup point guard as a sophomore next season.

    He is getting good experience in his freshman season, seeing almost eight minutes each game for head coach Rick Barnes. In his time on the floor, he has proven that he is a capable scorer who knows when to make the right play, as well as the right pass. He will be a valuable backup floor general to Myck Kabongo next season.

6. Jaylen Bond

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    A surprise for the Texas Longhorns this season has been freshman power forward Jaylen Bond. The 6'7", 225-pound Pennsylvania native flew under the radar after switching his commitment from the Pittsburgh Panthers before the season, but he made an impact early on for his team.

    When he has gotten the opportunity to play big minutes, he has shown just how effective he can be on the floor.

    In a 93-40 trouncing of Nicholls State on December 13th, he scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 24 minutes of action. He followed that game with an even more impressive showing against Temple. In the Longhorns' upset victory, he scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 22 minutes of action.

    Look for him to play an even bigger role next season with the losses of Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene. 

5. Jonathan Holmes

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    A mirror of Jaylen Bond, Jonathan Holmes also has the ability to play either the small forward position or power forward. The 6'7", 240-pounder has seemed more comfortable playing the post this season, and Texas will need him to do the same next year.

    He is having a highly productive year for a freshman, averaging 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in just over 20 minutes of action each game.

    His best outing this season came against one of the best teams in America in late December, the North Carolina Tar Heels. In the Longhorns' 82-63 blowout loss, he filled the stat sheet with 16 points, six rebounds, three blocks and two assists. That game serves as a preview of just how good he can become with hard work this offseason.

4. Julien Lewis

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    Julien Lewis came to Texas as a highly publicized shooting guard prospect out of the Lone Star State. The 6'3" combo guard is showing off his scoring prowess in his first season in Austin.

    He is playing 25 minutes per game, and he is getting better as he gains more and more experience.

    He is averaging 7.6 points and 3.7 rebounds each night out and has had some very impressive games in conference play. His best game came three days ago in a 71-67 overtime victory against Texas Tech. He scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Longhorns.

    By the time his career is over at the University of Texas, he could be one of the best shooting guards the program has ever seen.

3. Sheldon McClellan

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    Sheldon McClellan has the versatility to play either the shooting guard or small forward position, which benefits the Texas team with its surplus of talented backcourt players.

    The 6'4", 200-pound swingman is second on the team in scoring as a true freshman, which is a testament to just how talented the youngster is. He is averaging 11.2 points and 3.4 rebounds for the Longhorns and has had a season full of big games.

    He scored 19 points in a game against Kansas State, 13 against Baylor and 11 against the Kansas Jayhawks. As a sophomore, he could be contending for all-conference honors in the Big 12.

2. Myck Kabongo

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    The star of the Texas Longhorns freshman class is without a doubt Myck Kabongo. The 2011 McDonald's and Jordan All-American came to campus with a load of pressure to perform.

    He has done very well in his first season of college basketball. The 6'1" jet-quick point guard is filling the stat sheet for his team, averaging 10.4 points, 5.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals per contest. Although his turnover numbers are a bit high, he should cut down on those mistakes significantly next season.

    NBA scouts love the potential he possesses, and many UT fans have compared him to former Longhorns star T.J. Ford. If he sticks around for his sophomore season, he could be headed for a big breakout.

1. J'Covan Brown

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    One of the biggest breakout stars of the 2011-2012 college basketball season has been junior shooting guard J'Covan Brown, who has improved tremendously over the past year.

    He is undersized for a shooting guard at only 6'1", but he can score as well as anyone in the country. He is leading the Big 12 in scoring at 19.5 points per game, while also chipping in 3.8 assists and 3.0 rebounds each game.

    He is an explosive shooter when he's hot and has had outbursts against many of the best teams in the country. He has scored 34 points against Missouri, 32 against Baylor and 24 on the Kansas Jayhawks.

    He is a shoo-in for 2012 first-team All-Big 12 honors, and if he decides to stick around for his senior season, he could have Texas headed for a very special season.