Texas Longhorns Basketball: Can the Big 12 Powerhouse Reload for 2011-12?

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Texas Longhorns Basketball: Can the Big 12 Powerhouse Reload for 2011-12?
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After another disappointing finish to what was a solid year, the Texas Longhorns face another offseason of questions about their personnel for next season.

With one of the top recruiting classes arriving in Austin, the Longhorns' future looks bright. However, will next season be one where they can compete for the league title?

The recruits are led by 5-star point guard Myck Kabongo, another transplanted Canadian who joins fellow Canucks Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson at Texas.

Kabongo is a true point guard and leader whose main area for improvement, according to reports, seem to be developing a mid-range game.

Shooters Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis, both in-state signees, can stretch defenses, but lack some ability to create their own shots on a consistent basis.

Jonathan Holmes is a big body (6’8”, 220 pounds) that has good shooting range, rebounds well and is developing as a back-to-the-basket scorer.

Another potential wild card is 6’7” DeAndre Daniels, a lights-out shooter who has yet to commit, but appears likely to go to one of either Texas, Kansas or Kentucky.

 

Returning

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J’Covan Brown and Cory Joseph, who both played significant minutes this season, will return. Also returning is Alex Wangmene, who averaged around nine minutes per game last year. Leading scorer Jordan Hamilton and freshman Tristan Thompson, the Longhorns' top rebounder and second-leading scorer, are eligible to return as well.

This is where it gets a little dicey.

Hamilton will surely test the NBA waters, and might simply sign with an agent and be gone. This would not be a terrible thing.

Thompson, too, may declare. However, this would be a bad thing, both for him and for Texas.

Not to disparage Hamilton, but he wants to shoot the ball—the more he shoots it, the happier he will be.

While he can light it up at times, his shot selection is poor and his vision is worse. He may be an NBA-level talent but his team play disappoints.

Thompson, on the other hand, plays a solid team game, especially on the defensive end. He scored enough (13 points per game), rebounded well and blocked shots. What's more, he did all of these things within the team framework.

Having said that, his offensive game needs work. His moves with his back to the basket are adequate, as is his face-up game from 10 to 12 feet. However, they are not polished. His foul-shooting is also atrocious, averaging less than 50 percent from the charity stripe.

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It is clear he would benefit in a big way from another year of seasoning, and in doing so, would improve his draft stock and the potential for his current team. 


Gone

The Longhorns will miss the energy and leadership of departing seniors Gary Johnson, Matt Hill and Dogus Balbay.

Sure, they weren’t the flashiest players, but they worked hard and contributed at both ends of the floor.

Balbay was their best on-ball defender and was effective despite often being the smallest player on the floor. Hill was strictly a defensive player, whose minutes increased this year, playing in every game for the one and only time in his career at Texas.

Johnson also developed into a decent mid-range shooter during his time at Texas. He was also a good rebounder, good defensively and good on the offensive glass.

Their experience will be missed. 


Outlook

If Joseph, Brown, Wangmene, Thompson and Hamilton were to return, the Longhorns would have a decent starting five right there.

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Add in top recruits like Kabongo and Holmes and Texas would be able to compete for the Big 12 title.

Brown could be poised for a breakout season. He has been enigmatic in his career to this point, but an expanded role could see him produce some monster games.

If Hamilton leaves, the Longhorns will lose some offense. Yes, he did have seven rebounds per game, too, but scoring was his thing. However, what they might gain is better continuity for offensive sets.

If Thompson leaves, there will be no one to do what he does at both ends of the floor and it would certainly leave a void in the middle of the team. I’m not trying to compare Thompson’s ability to that of Hamilton, but he is more valuable to the Longhorns moving forward.

If three double-digit scorers returned, it would allow Rick Barnes to work in new players without demanding too much initially. 

If only two returned, and if both of them were guards, it would probably make for too steep a hill to climb to get back to the top of the Big 12.

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