Despite a rocky start to the 2011-12 season, Texas’ push to make the NCAA Tournament showed that the Longhorns have plenty to build on. This summer, though, is the time for their talented core of returning players to raise their games and make good on the promise they’ve already shown.
One of last year’s standout freshmen who especially needs a strong offseason is forward Jonathan Holmes. Already a terrific rebounder, the 6’7” Holmes needs to show that he can be more effective away from the rim if he wants to compete for playing time with the Longhorns’ crop of gargantuan recruits.
Read on for more on Holmes and the other returning Longhorns, roughly ordered by how important they ought to be to Texas’ success in 2012-13.
Goal: Improve mentoring skills
These two former walk-ons—both players received scholarships starting last season—are listed together because of their similar career paths.
Between them, Dean Melchionni (pictured, right) and Andrew Dick have combined to play a total of 57 minutes over their three seasons with the Longhorns, and that pattern isn’t likely to change in their respective senior years.
Just because you won’t see them on the court much, though, doesn’t mean they don’t have a part to play in Texas’ success next season.
On a team otherwise composed entirely of freshmen and sophomores, having two hard-working, level-headed seniors in practice—or in a tense timeout huddle—will provide terrific role models for the precocious youngsters who will be carrying the Longhorns.
Goal: Find a free-throw stroke
Despite playing a mere 15.4 minutes per game, Jaylen Bond proved he had something to contribute as a Longhorn.
The 6’7” Bond averaged 4.6 rebounds a night as a freshman, even scoring on the occasional put-back (.510 field-goal shooting, though he went for just 3.5 points per game).
However, Bond also shot .367 from the free-throw line (11-for-30), a figure bad enough to make Shaquille O’Neal cringe.
A player with Bond’s power game inside is going to get to the foul line even in limited action, but he’s never going to work his way into a bigger role if he keeps missing at that rate.
Goal: Learn when not to shoot
Julien Lewis was the primary backcourt option off the Longhorns’ bench as a freshman, and the 6’3” guard showed some obvious potential. He averaged 7.5 points and 1.0 steals per game, both tops among Texas reserves.
What Lewis didn’t do was pass, ever; he totaled just 27 assists against 263 shot attempts on the season. Even as a shooting guard, Lewis would do well to keep the ball moving occasionally—it might improve his disappointing .361 accuracy from the field, too.
Goal: Improve face-up game on offense
As a freshman, Jonathan Holmes was tasked with spelling bruising seniors Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene in the post.
Holmes did an admirable job learning from the physical upperclassmen, averaging 4.8 rebounds a game despite his lack of top-tier length (6’7”) and the competition for playing time.
However, size is the order of the day for Texas’ 2012 recruiting class, a group headlined by 6’10” Cameron Ridley.
With the bigger freshmen likely to get the lion’s share of post-up opportunities, Holmes will need to show he can get his points in other ways, and adding a more reliable mid-range jumper would be a huge step in that direction.
Goal: Extend shooting range
Sheldon McClellan—Texas’ leading returning scorer at 11.3 points per game—will need to pick up a large share of the slack left by J’Covan Brown’s departure.
No one player is going to replace Brown’s 20.1 points a night, but the 6’4” McClellan has already shown that he’ll benefit from getting a few extra shots.
McClellan hasn’t, however, shown a consistent three-point stroke as yet, having hit just 35 of his 113 attempts (.310) from long range.
Even if one offseason’s development isn’t enough for him to become a reliable threat from beyond the arc, he needs to take his range out as far as he can in order to spread the floor for Texas’ incoming big men and the post scoring they’ll bring.
Goal: Add muscle for better finishing ability
As a distributor, Myck Kabongo has already shown that he can compete at an elite level, dishing out 5.2 assists per game as a freshman. As a scorer, though, Kabongo didn't impress, averaging 9.6 points a night on shaky .391 shooting from the field.
One quick way to boost that shooting percentage would be to get to the rim more often, something the 169 lbs. Kabongo didn’t always have an easy time doing.
Hitting the weight room over the summer will help Kabongo finish through contact and become more of a scoring threat in his own right.