Rick Barnes Leads the Longhorns
The 2009-2010 college basketball season saw a surprise team at No. 1 in the preseason rankings—the Texas Longhorns.
Last year's team quickly lived up to its reputation with key wins against Michigan State and North Carolina and looked to be on the way toward seriously competing for a national championship. The rest of the season was mired in inconsistent play and turmoil within the team as it stumbled into the NCAA tournament, only to exit in the first round.
The 2010-2011 version of the Longhorns will not contend with these same high expectations.
After losing Avery Bradley, Dexter Pittman and Damion James to the NBA, the team will rely on highly-touted incoming freshmen and a cast of veteran role players to be competitive.
Will the 2010 Longhorns finally fly high or will it be another season of mediocrity and missed opportunity?
Let's look at a player-by-player breakdown of this year's squad.
Sophomore guard/forward Jordan Hamilton entered the 2009-2010 campaign with a reputation as an explosive scorer and playmaker during his time at Dominguez High in Compton, California.
Hamilton showed moments of brilliance last season with huge-scoring games both in conference and non-conference play.
Hamilton, however, also exhibited very poor shot selection and a tendency to take plays off during big games.
After developing a reputation as being uncoachable, Hamilton has reportedly devoted himself to doing the right things this season and being a leader for the 2010 Longhorns. For the team to be successful, he must be a consistent and quality contributor on both ends of the floor.
J'Covan Brown was undoubtedly the most unpredictable player on last year's Longhorn basketball team.
Brown showed moments of brilliance, especially with his great court vision and ability to score in traffic and from the three-point line.
At other times, he seemed completely disconnected from what was happening during games, often turning the ball over by forcing passes into tight spots or trying to make a spectacular play when an easy play was available.
Brown's ability to make his teammates better will be essential for the Longhorns to play the fast-paced style which has led to success in the past few seasons. With plenty of guards available for coach Rick Barnes, Brown will have to perform at a high level to maintain his position as the team's primary guard.
Presumed to be the next in the line of great Longhorn point guards, Cory Joseph will be the quarterback of this year's offense.
Joseph showed an unlimited skill set during his time at Findlay Prep in Nevada, teaming up with another freshman Longhorn, Tristan Thompson, to lead the team to several high school championships.
Joseph's ability to make his teammates better will be an essential element of the offense's ability to take control of games and establish pace. If Joseph can reach a level of play close to the greats before him, including T.J. Ford and D.J. Augustin, and his game translates to the college level, things could get exciting this fall in Austin.
Tristan Thompson arrives on the University of Texas campus as one of the most heralded big guys of the 2010 recruiting class. Thompson's AAU exploits were legendary, as he often dominated the major recruiting tournaments, both on the boards and running the court for highlight-reel dunks.
The Texas staff is already raving about Thompson's maturity and composure on the court. With the lack of scoring punch on the Longhorns' frontline, and the recent departure of Shawn Williams, Thompson will be expected to be an instant, and consistent, contributor both in rebounding and scoring for the 2010 Longhorns.
If he can be this consistent contributor, Thompson could emerge as a young leader for the team and carry them on his shoulders.
Gary Johnson will be called upon to be a vocal leader for this year's Longhorn team.
Johnson has consistently developed his game over the past three years in Austin and now features a deadly mid-range shooting game. And he has also proved to be a strong defender in the paint.
While Johnson rarely is flashy, he is definitely a blue-collar hard worker. This type of work ethic and leadership by example will be essential for the chemistry of the 2010 Longhorns.
Dogus Balbay has established a role over the past few years as being the Longhorns' defensive stopper, often at the expense of his offensive game.
Balbay's offensive skills are limited, often causing him to be a liability on the court and keeping Rick Barnes from being able to keep him in the action for extended minutes.
While Balbay can finish in the open court, he has great difficulty with his jumper and at the free-throw line. He will certainly be called upon when a stop is needed and, in some cases, to guard a player who the other guards cannot handle. But he will not likely see the minutes in the 2010 season he has over the past two years.
The role players for the 2010 Texas Longhorns, who will likely not see many minutes, include guard Jai Lucas, forward Alexis Wangmene, center Matt Hill and forward/center Clint Chapman.
Since Jai Lucas arrived on the Texas campus as a transfer from the University of Florida, his play has been sporadic and unpredictable. Lucas occasionally shows the flashes of brilliance, which made him a highly sought-after prepster several years ago. His tendency for unforced turnovers and poor decisions, however, will likely limit his minutes.
Alexis Wangmene, Matt Hill and Clint Chapman have experienced very similar careers at Texas. Each of these three big guys has yet to live up to their billing as high school superstars. Their game has just not translated well to the collegiate level.
Wangmene is a great athlete who hasn't developed the basketball skill necessary to play big minutes. Hill, at times, looks disinterested and uninvolved. Champman has essentially been a non-entity and is firmly planted at the end of the Longhorn bench.
If it becomes necessary for any of these four to become serious contributors, it could mean trouble for the 2010 Longhorns.