Texas Basketball: 5 Under-the-Radar Longhorns Who Will Be Key to Team's Success
Myck Kabongo’s decision to stay in Austin for his sophomore year—along with a superlative recruiting class—immediately made Texas a contender for 2012-13. However, Kabongo and center Cameron Ridley (ESPNU’s No. 8 recruit in the nation) are far from the only factors that will determine where the Longhorns finish next season.
One of the less-heralded players who will need to step up next year is Kabongo’s backcourt mate (and classmate), Julien Lewis. Lewis has the potential to be a key scorer on a team that needs perimeter weapons…provided that he can pick up his accuracy after a scattershot freshman campaign.
Here is a closer look at Lewis and four more crucial Longhorns who aren’t getting their fair share of the offseason spotlight, but who will have a lot to say about Texas’ prospects in 2012-13.
5. Jonathan Holmes
With appreciably bigger big men arriving in this year’s recruiting class, Jonathan Holmes is no longer the obvious heir apparent at power forward.
However, last year’s most valuable bench player has the mobility to contribute at small forward, a position where Texas needs help.
Holmes’ biggest asset is his rebounding ability (4.8 boards a night, second-best on the roster last year), and he’ll be able to contribute in that category even while moving outside.
As long as he puts some offseason time into improving his face-up game, Holmes will fill a serious hole in the Longhorns depth chart.
4. Julien Lewis
One of the biggest obstacles Texas faces this offseason is replacing the enormous point production of J’Covan Brown. Julien Lewis is one of the few shooting guards available to fill that hole, but he’ll need to improve his shot selection to do it.
Lewis, who passed up shots so rarely that he managed just 27 assists for the entire season, did score 7.8 points per game as a freshman reserve.
However, he also shot a disappointing .324 from beyond the arc, a figure he’ll need to raise appreciably if he wants to give Texas its best chance to win in 2012-13.
3. Javan Felix
One of the most overlooked members of Rick Barnes’ recruiting class, Javan Felix gives Myck Kabongo a bona fide point guard to back him up. Unlike Kabongo, Felix is more of a distributor than a scorer, but he’ll certainly get his own points, too.
The biggest advantage Felix provides for the Longhorns is the opportunity to rest Kabongo without a major dropoff on offense.
Combo guard J’Covan Brown filled that role a year ago, but with him gone, Felix’s ability to keep the offense clicking will be crucial—especially when the wear and tear of the conference schedule begins to take its toll on this young roster.
2. Sheldon McClellan
It’s an unusual state of affairs when the leading returning scorer on the roster is getting overlooked, but that’s just where Sheldon McClellan finds himself.
Myck Kabongo is getting all the attention in the backcourt, the freshmen up front are the big news in town, and McClellan’s 11.3 points per game are little more than an afterthought.
Still, in the quest to replace J’Covan Brown’s scoring punch, McClellan will have to shoulder a major share of the load.
The big question for the Longhorns is whether he can do more of his scoring from three-point range—which would be a huge boost to the team—after shooting a lackluster .310 from that distance as a freshman.
1. Connor Lammert
There’s no shame in being the third-best big man in a recruiting class as strong as Texas’. Standing at 6'10", Connor Lammert is a stretch 4 who can force opposing big men to guard him out to the three-point line then take advantage of the defense with an impressive passing touch.
Lammert isn’t likely to start ahead of fellow freshmen Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh, but having a weapon like him coming off the bench will be huge for head coach Rick Barnes.
Few teams will have the height in their starting lineups to match up with the Longhorns’ 6'10" forwards, let alone be able to bring in a frontcourt backup who can match Lammert’s size and skill.