There’s a familiar theme around the Forty Acres on the University of Texas the past few years when it comes to the men’s basketball program.
Let’s just call it the youth disease.
For the second consecutive season, the Texas Longhorns will field one of the youngest teams in college basketball, with five true freshmen and five sophomores on the roster, and only two juniors (one of which, Tarale Murray, is a walk-on). While expectations are low around Austin for what this team can realistically accomplish given the unexpected departures of the team’s core in Ioannis Papapetrou (decided to play professionally in Greece), Julien Lewis (transferred), Jaylen Bond (transferred), Myck Kabongo (left for the NBA Draft), and Sheldon McClellan (transferred).
It’s a whole new set of Longhorns taking the floor at the Frank Erwin Center this fall, and to be honest, no one knows quite what to expect, but regardless, the heat under Rick Barnes’ backside is as warm as it’s ever been especially with the pending arrival of a new Athletic Director who could be looking for an opportunity to make wholesale changes in the school’s major men’s programs.
Nominally, the Longhorns will be led by junior Jonathan Holmes, who in spite of momentary flashes of brilliance has never quite lived up to the reputation that preceded him a few years ago as a high school star coming out of Antonian College Prep in San Antonio. Sophomore point guard Javan Felix will be expected to take on a greater scoring role in 2013 with the departure of the transfers in particular. Felix up to now has been more of a distributor and floor general than a point guard who looks for his own shot, so his transition into having a scorer’s mentality is one of many questions surrounding the extremely young Texas backcourt as tip-off approaches on November 8th.
If Texas has a demonstrative strength to turn to among its young core it’s in the paint. Sophomores Cam Ridley and Connor Lammert were both very strong at times last season, playing with very different styles. Ridley is a classic back-to-the-basket banger who will look to establish his presence through pure physicality. If Ridley’s skill level eventually catches up to his pure strength, Texas could have something special on their hands, but for now he’s yet another work-in-progress for the Longhorns.
Lammert’s game is more diverse and reminds many of Brian Boddicker, Brad Beckman and Jason Klotz, all Texas big guys with the ability to post-up when necessary, but also with a solid outside touch if left unguarded. Lammert will be expected to provide an additional scoring punch this season, as will everyone who takes the floor in the Burnt Orange.
The freshman class is comprised of three three-star recruits and only one nationally recognized recruit, Richardson Berkner’s Kendal Yancey-Harris who was rated by most services as a four-star. Shooting guards DeMarcus Croaker and Martez Walker are intriguing athletic guys who could make an impact, but they’re largely unknown quantities who were last-second commits given the attrition following the 2012 season. Point guard Isaiah Taylor is a Texas native whose game is more of a known quantity, but how he’ll fit in with Felix is yet to be seen.
To make a long story short, it’s another season of the uncertainty of youth on the Forty Acres. This Texas team could make the post-season, maybe, but expecting much more than an appearance is probably short-sighted.
Unfortunately for Rick Barnes a simple NCAA appearance won’t be enough. He needs to find a palpable cure for the youth disease.
Kris Hughes is a Senior Writer, Business Analyst and College Content Coordinator for Rant Sports.