Horns Loaded as Basketball Workouts Open Soon Texas Longhorns Preview
By Bo Carter
College Correspondent, sportsandoutdoors.guru
AUSTIN — While some have noted that Texas football head coach Charlie Strong is rekindling Bear Bryant’s 1954 Junction Boys experience — in slow motion — basketball is just around the corner. Formal Division I workouts beginning Oct. 17.
People also have learned through the years that you cannot keep down Texas Longhorns’ men’s basketball or head coach Rick Barnes for long.
Naysayers were proclaiming a major dip again after the youthful horns fell to 16-18 overall and 7-11 in the Big 12 in 2012-13 after some attrition and numerous early NBA signings during the previous 10 years. The Horns were coming off a nationally-prominent run under Barnes of 14 consecutive seasons with 19 wins or more and 14 straight berths in the NCAA.
Add in the fact that the 2013-14 UT squad did not have a plethora of outside shooters but was blessed with some abundant talents and “athletes” at every position, and doomsday predictions came at every turn.
Well, the Ol’ Basketball Coach proved them wrong again with a 24-11 mark, a tie for third in Big 12 standings at 11-7 and a 15th NCAA appearance in 16 seasons.
It is easy to see how optimism reigns for the 2014-15 Longhorns, who return a whopping 13 lettermen and 6-5 transfer from UTSA Ryan McClung.
Five standouts who played at least 776 minutes last winter and started a composite 157 games all are back in the fold, and there is scoring potential as well as Barnes-like defense, which has been a trademark in Austin for five years.
Guard Isaiah Taylor of Hayward, Calif., leads he balanced pack with 12.7 points per game to top the 2013-14 Longhorns starting five along with four assists and 3.3 rebounds each contest. Big 6-9 junior center Cam Ridley of Houston returns with 11.7 ppg and a squad-high 8.2 rebounding average while 6-2 guard Demarcus Holland of Garland averaged 7.1 points. 4.4 rebounds and just under three assists. That trio started all 35 games for the 24-11 contingent a season ago,
Thirty-one game starter 6-8 forward Jonathan Holmes of San Antonio topped all UT scorers with 12.8 points per tilt last winter while 5-11 guard Javan Felix of New Orleans racked up 891 minutes of playing time and a 11.6 average.
Steadying bench presence 6-9 forward Connor Lambert of San Antonio and 6-4 swingman Martez Walker of Detroit Mich., chipped in key points and minutes in 2013-14 and proved to be the difference down the stretch in several outings when the regulars needed a breather. 6-10 center Prince Ibeh joins 6-11 freshman center Myles Turner of Bedford to provide even more size for a large UT frontcourt.
“This is a bit of a unique situation to have all five starters and 13 lettermen back,” Barnes said during the offseason, “but from an experience standpoint, it really gives you a great base to start the season.”
Barnes’ proven track record, which includes a 382–166 overall record 24 wins per season and 166–76 worksheet in the rugged Big 12 since 1998-99, again demonstrates how he is able to take the superstars such as quick-leaving Kevin Durant, Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Avery Bradley, and others in the NBA draft and mold a solid cast around these aces.
Though he won’t be eligible for the coming season, Barnes already has a Top 50 nationally commitment as a freshman for the following season from famed high school shooting guard Eric Davis of Arthur Hills, Mich.
And here’s a promising note: the world website Wikipedia.com mistakenly already has the 2014-15 Longhorns playing in the post-2015 NCAA tournament — even though a ball has not been tipped. A natural typo, it simply assumes that coach Rick Barnes and Co. will be back for the 17th time in 18 years en route his 600th career coaching win.
Then again, with all that returning talent, maybe it’s more of a prediction than a typo.
Bo Carter is former sports information director of the Southwest Conference and Big 12. In addition to his duties with sportsandoutdoors.guru, he currently serves as secretary of the College Baseball Writers. Follow Bo on Twitter at #bcarter52 and Facebook at Bo Carter (Carrollton, Texas).