Tristan Thompson is a gazelle. The 6'8" freshman for Rick Barnes' Longhorns can do a little bit of everything. He blocks shots ,leaping with ease. He can hit the turnaround eight to 10-foot jumper (his bread-and-butter shot). And he can knock down free throws.
N-no, no he can't shoot free throws, but he's got a smooth stroke. Let's just say the kid has great potential.
In Texas' two games at Madison Square Garden for the 2K Sports Classic, it was all Thompson and sophomore-scoring machine Jordan Hamilton. The two combined for 45 of the Longhorns' 90 points in their impressive victory over Illinois.
Hamilton and Thompson came back the next night against fourth-ranked Pittsburgh and combined for 39 points. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough; Texas lost 68-66.
Let me first say their win over Illinois was extremely impressive given the talent on the Illini team. Dogus Balbay kept Illini G Demetri McCamey in check during the overtime. The rest of the team did a good job as well in the OT, not giving Illinois' sharpshooters many good looks.
Unfortunately, I think this year will be a repeat of last year for the Longhorns—a great start to the season, followed by a below-average finish and a one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament.
Have you watched Jordan Hamilton play? He can definitely shoot the three with incredible accuracy, but he's also an incredible ballhog. Thursday night, Hamilton was doing his best Corey Maggette impression, taking every god-awful shot possible.
Eventually, Rick Barnes had seen enough. He benched Hamilton for a few minutes until the last minute in regulation against the Illini.
My opinion? I think Jordan Hamilton is playing for his future. He saw how Kevin Durant earned himself the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. He saw that a player doesn't necessarily have to be on a Final Four team in order to garner attention.
KD did take his share of shots, but they weren't the kind of shots Hamilton is taking.
Not these rebound, try-to-square-to-the-basket, and muscle-one-up-that-is-lucky-to-hit-the-rim shots. No. Durant was an intelligent player, and that is why he was so good.
I'm not saying Hamilton has no basketball IQ—I'm not saying that at all—I'm trying to say that he doesn't have the kind of instinct, the kind of intelligence that Durant had/has.
What does Hamilton's play have to do with the Longhorns? What would you rather have—a possession in which Hamilton throws up three consecutive shots (and gets his rebound each time) but none go in, or give Tristan Thompson a post touch, maybe for one of those silky, turnaround jumpers of his? I would much rather see the latter.
Thompson lit Illinois up with that shot. Mike Tisdale? Meyers Leonard? Any other Illinois centers? They couldn't stop it. Feed the man...it'll pay off.
The other reason I think this team will underachieve again this year is because of their lack of skill at the guard position. Dogus Balbay is an excellent defender, as I stated before, but I don't even think he looks at the basket when he touches the ball. It's like Texas is four vs. five when they're on offense. Balbay is just simply not a scoring threat.
Texas' other guard, Corey Joseph, is more of a threat than Balbay—but nothing special. In Texas' loss to Pitt, his inexperience showed. With less than 10 seconds left, the freshman drove to the basket and threw up a shot as he was falling to the ground. The ball sailed 20 feet high and was nowhere near the hoop. That was Texas' attempt to tie the game at the buzzer. Rick Barnes may have killed someone last night.
Joseph can play. We saw him hit a clutch 16-footer against Illinois to take a two point lead with 20 seconds left.
But, the kid has got to be more consistent. He's got to be a threat to score. Dick Vitale described the kid as being "too unselfish."
You'll notice most teams that make runs the NCAA Tournament have quality guards. I don't see quality guards with this Texas team. I do think the Longhorns will make the Tournament again this year; they just won't make it very far.
Thanks for reading.