Snapshot: DJ Augustin. Unfortunately for Texas fans wanting to watch former basketball players in the NBA, Kevin Durant and DJ Augustin both play for teams with virtually no national television exposure. So when the Bobcats came to San Antonio for a game against the Spurs televised on FSN, it was time to take a look at the former Longhorn point guard in his new NBA digs.
Acquiring Raja Bell and Boris Diaw deepened the Charlotte roster, but cut deeply into the minutes of Augustin, who had played with frequency in the backcourt with Raymond Felton before the trade.
Augustin's in great shape, but seeing him on the court in the NBA is a stark illustration of just how short he is. Though Augustin is certainly athletic, he lacks the explosiveness and leaping ability of most NBA players his size and those realities certainly present challenges for his offensive game, but the bigger challenge comes defensively, as he struggles with his lateral quickness, going under one screen when guarding Tony Parker and still failing to beat the Frenchman to the rim.
In fact, playing screens seems to be a problem for Augustin, as Roger Mason absolutely destroyed him for nine straight points shortly after Augustin checked into the game late in the first quarter. Whether the screen was on ball or off the ball, Augustin spent most of the time trailing the play. Frankly, I was surprised that Larry Brown didn't promptly call a timeout after Mason's final baset in the stretch and sit Augustin down. Maybe I've been watching Rick Barnes coach for too long.
Offensively, Augustin looked extremely careful with his ball-handling, not looking to get to the rim offensively, but rather working hard to get hi teammates the ball in the right places. For a short period of time that is, until Mason started abusing him, a run Augustin aided by missing two long jumpers coming off screens -- not bad shots, but shots that need to be made.
Besides generally getting the ball to his teammates in rhythm and in good positions for them to score, Augustin showed a veteran's wile in picking up a foul on an aggressively hedging Kurt Thomas to get to the free throw line. When things weren't going well for Augustin, he showed nice resilience in manufacturing points for for his team when the opportunity presented itself.
Breaking into the film room: Ross Apo. At last! A week and a half after his commitment to Texas, someone finally managed to dig up some film ($) on Apo. Unsurprisingly, Apo is fully capable of running past TAPPS defenders on go routes -- it might make sense for opposing defensive coordinators to give Apo the same 10+ yard cushion opponents afford John Harris. Or they could just let him continue to run past their defenders.
The reported 40 time isn't impressive (4.6), but Apo shows explosiveness in short bursts on the field, evidence of his 4.32 shuttle. John Harris impressed on film with his ability to make the first defender miss in the open field and Apo shows a similar quality, except with more explosion. There's some shake in those hips.
There's also an element to his stride that's hard to describe. Apo has a long stride, but he almost seems to have the ability to pause and re-direct himself in the middle of a stride, yet still maintain a great deal of his speed -- the type of things that leads most observers to rave about his raw athleticism. He changes direction remarkably well for a receiver his size, almost looking like he can shorten his stride in tight spaces.
Like Darius Terrell, Apo goes up and catches the ball well in traffic, using his body to shield the defender, a skill he will be asked use in the Texas offense.
Just for a taste of the quality of opponent Apo faces -- in one highlight Apo runs past a player who cannot be more than 5-5. And that might be generous. And not even a fast 5-5, either. Just let that think in for a second. As poor as the competition is that Apo faces and as raw as he is as a receiver, he certainly doesn't look like a reach and will probably vault up the next LSR 100 as more of his film becomes available.
Breaking into the film room: Taylor Bible. Wow. Taylor Bible ($). There's not as much hype surrounding Bible as the players with outstanding Texas offers, but the Denton Guyer product is every bit the blue chip as guys like Lache Seastrunk and Reggie Wilson. To that end, Inside Texas ranks Bible as the fifth-best player in the state, behind only the aforementioned two, Darius White, and Jackson Jeffcoat. He's the top defensive tackle in the state and could be the best in the country. Rivals only lists one defensive tackle ahead of Bible, South Carolina's Kelcy Quarles, a 250 pounder who must be some kinda fast to be ranked so highly at such a light weight.
It's hard to even find words to describe the way that Bible plays. Explosive fits. So does violent. Most high school defensive tackles struggle to consistently use their hands violently and play with good pad level. Bible appears to do both of those things with consistency, utilizing a combination of explosion, leverage, and violent hands to destroy opposing lineman and finishing tackles with the same force that he uses to push guards and centers into their own backfield. You get the sense after watching a few of the highlights that opposing players just want to quite, go home, and cry after lining up against Bible for about five plays.
Bible explodes at the snap with rare ability, but also moves in space like a good defensive end, changing direction and pursuing plays with a serious motor. He's definitely a three technique in college, perhaps best compared to Lamarr Houston. Since Bible is so aggressive in his pass rushing, some teams try to use work the screen game against him, with Bible showing incredible awareness and reading the play as if he heard the call.
Discarding lineman isn't a problem, but Bible often lets them get into his body on running plays, standing them up before discarded them. It works well in high school, but Bible will have to learn to keep lineman off of his body in college. With another year in the weight room to get stronger, Bible should come into college as the most talented and most ready to contribute defensive tackle to show up in Austin for a long time.
- The entry passing is much improved for the Longhorns in the last several games, aided by AJ Abrams running off screens not to get open, but running to the 45-degree angle which is optimal for making entry passes. If that pass isn't available, Rick Barnes has added the high-low game, with the other big flashing to the top of the key and looking to make the lob pass as Pittman seals his man. Much better than what Longhorns fans have seen for most of the season.
- Damion James continues to inexplicably miss easy layups.
- Varez Ward has buried himself on the bench with his propensity to take long jump shots.
- Gary Johnson looks like he is lacking his normal explosiveness and may have been set back with the re-aggravation of his high ankle sprain at the end of the game against Colorado.
- Justin Mason has looked much more explosive in the last three games than he did for most of the second half of the conference season. His ankle looks healed and this team desperately needs his aggressiveness going to the basket.
- Alexis Wangmene was dressed for the Colorado game -- no word though on whether he might play again this season. He's probably eligible for a medical redshirt, but would endanger that by playing. That being said, he's probably the best one-on-one post defender on the team and could provide a major lift in that department.
Favors still on the radar. Forth Worth Dunbar safety/linebacker Rashod Favors seemed like a good bet to receive an offer early in the recruiting process, with the coaching staff inviting him to Austin for both Junior Days. The explanation provided recently ($) was that he had a death in the family, which might account for the first Junior Day, but the word on the second Junior Day was that Favors decided to attend the Oklahoma State Junior Day that weekend instead.
Though the exact details remain murky, the Longhorns did invite Favors down for the spring game, indicating an offer may be on the way. Long expected to take four linebackers in the class, Texas will probably offer another player at the position, as landing both Jordan Hicks and Corey Nelson would be a major upset. There aren't any signs indicating that Big 12 teams will move away from the spread any time soon, making hybrid safety/linebackers like Favors much more valuable than they would have been 10 years ago -- the tweener label for such players is now much more of a compliment than an insult.