Just as Mack Brown accelerated the football recruiting process around the country, so too is Rick Barnes. Already with two commitments for 2010 (Tristan Thompson and Daniel Bejarano), Barnes and his staff secured their first commitment for 2011 ($), when St. Benedict's Prep sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo, No. 15 in ESPNU's Terrific 25, elected to join his high school and AAU teammate Thompson in burnt orange. Like Thompson, the 6-1 (Orangebloods lists him at 6-2), 165-pound Kabongo hails from Toronto, Canada, clearly establishing the Longhorns as the premier landing point for the burgeoning Canuck basketball scene. Sorry, Canada, had to bust out the sarcasm a little bit there. But, hey, in all seriousness, Kabongo and Thompson are reppin' for the Great White North.
And that's something Rick Barnes can apparently connect with, as Kabongo cited his relationship with Barnes as the prevailing factor in his decision. Todd Wright entered into the equation as well, with Kabongo reportedly impressed with his work sculpting doughy Longhorns into NBA-ready bodies.
As mentioned above, the relationship formed by Rick Barnes and his staff "fast-tracking" the process. Instead of watching players as sophomores, forming relationships as they are juniors and offering as seniors, Texas is treating each player like a senior, establishing relationships and offering early. And that process connects with players to the extent that the Longhorns don't have to bring each blue-chips' entourage into the program and create basketball administrative jobs for them. Amazing.
Back to Kabongo. Want to know what makes Kabongo a perfect player for Rick Barnes' "offense"? Take it away Reggie Rankin:
Kabongo understands time and score situations well for a young player and is great at making a scoring play after the original play breaks down (emphasis mine). He will be great at end of clock situations in college.
Hallelujah! Can the kid enroll in time to play this year? With Rick Barnes, the onus rests on the player to make plays because the offensive coaching provides little more than a lose framework in which to operate. Which recruits love, by the way. Kabongo chose Texas because of its history developing point guards (see Ford, TJ, and Augustin, DJ) and the freedom it provides for making plays, as well as the emphasis on pushing tempo and running the pick and roll. In fact, it was that history of development, unrivaled recently by the other programs Kabongo considered, that led him to chose Texas over Wake Forest, Villanova, Florida, and Kansas.
Kabongo shines as a pure point guard, finding his teammates when open, but also displaying the ability to finish around the basket. He pushes the ball with ease and incredible quickness in transition, handling the ball like he was born dribbling it and showing off developed crossover, between the legs, and hesitation moves. Playing with a suddenness born of being naturally explosive, Kabongo puts extreme pressure on the defense in transition, but does sometimes over penetrate and turn the ball over.
Known as a player with a high basketball IQ, Kabongo, as only a sophomore, leads an experienced and talented St. Benedict's squad, setting the tone with his competitiveness and defensive intensity, which he plays with a technically sound approach that includes harassing ball pressure and quick hands and feet. Kabongo isn't a high scorer yet, averaging 11 points per game, but dishes out six assists per contest -- evidence of his playmaking abilities.
Want even more good news? Kabongo currently stands at 6-2, but since he's only a sophomore, he may add some height to become a point guard with truly elite size.
In terms of weaknesses, Kabongo needs to add strength to his wiry frame, which he has nearly three years to accomplish. His current frame, with relatively narrow shoulders, won't allow him to add a great deal of strength, although his shoulders may widen as he matures. His jumper lacks consistency as well in catch and shoot and pull up situations, causing a streakiness to Kabongo's stroke that needs improvement. Once again, he will have plenty of time to do so.
Kabongo's commitment and the announcement that Jai Lucas will transfer to Texas means that the Longhorns will be set for years at the point guard position. And if there is one thing that Longhorn basketball fans know deep in their hearts and minds right now, it's that point guard play is absolutely essential to effectively run a Rick Barnes offense. With Lucas and Kabongo pushing the tempo in the coming years and talented wings finishing on the break, get ready for more editions of tempo-pushin', high-flyin', rim-rattlin' Texas basketball.
I just got chills writing that.
Myck Kabongo says, "Hook 'Em!"
Thanks for throwing your Horns up, kid. See ya in a few.