In Part 1 of our preview of the 2011-12 Texas Longhorns basketball season, we took a look at Rick Barnes' four new freshman guards. Today in Part 2 I'll introduce you to the two freshman forwards joining the squad. We'll look at the returning players in Part 3, and then wrap things up in Part 4 with a look at how all the pieces on the team fit together.
Although the news that Canadian Kevin Thomas (Grassroots Canada) failed to qualify academically was a harsh blow to a thin UT frontcourt, the blow was softened considerably less than 24 hours later when Texas announced that Pittsburgh had released Jaylen Bond from his letter of intent, freeing the small forward to play in Austin right away. Bond and fellow small forward Jonathan Holmes will both play important roles as true freshmen this season -- and not just because we're thin in the post. Both of these kids have skills that play right now.
Jaylen Bond (Plymouth Whitemarsh / Philly's Finest) is a very active and athletic small forward (6-7, 220 lbs) who can rebound, run the floor, move his feet, and play some defense. And I really, really like him.
Did I mention that he's athletic and can run the floor?
Bond has impressive athleticism that allow him to do a lot of different things well, he has nice quick feet, good agility, and enough upper body strength already that he's going to be valuable to this team from day one. He's active and assertive, and demonstrates great instincts around the rim that could make him the team's leading rebounder this year. Think Damion James with a little more length and a little bit less explosive jumping ability. Although more of a pure forward than James, Bond does have some ability to play with the ball in his hands away from the basket, and if Texas really needed to go big, it could with Bond and McClellan playing the wings.
Bond appears to have good hands and nice touch around the basket, and though I think his ability to score within the halfcourt will take some time to develop, he's going to be capable of finishing when he's given a good look, as well as chipping in buckets off offensive rebounds. He'll be an important player this year, and has the body and skill set to develop into a damn good college player by the time he's a junior, if not sooner.
Jonathan Holmes (Antonion Prep / SA Ro-Hawks) is perhaps an even more skilled prospect than Bond, with a long frame that's just beginning to fill out (6-7, 235 lbs) and a diverse skill set that serves him well on both ends of the floor. Holmes has a developing face up game in the post, but it's his ability to extend that makes him unique. You don't see many kids Holmes' size who can spot up and drain a 20-footer, and that range will be a real asset to Texas in terms of running the high-low game as well as helping to space the floor.
Holmes needs to get stronger before the full force of his skills will be felt, but he's already polished enough offensively to be an offensive asset, and he's got long arms that make him a solid shot blocker on the defensive end. Until he adds some lower body strength he may have trouble holding position on the blocks, and Texas will need him to be a more active and assertive rebounder than he was in high school. How quickly he's able to hold his own in the paint will determine just how much value he can add to this year's team, but he has a ton of potential and projects to be a true impact player.
In conclusions, both Bond and Holmes will provide important contributions as true freshman. Bond is an active, athletic small forward who can run the floor, defend and rebound. Holmes is a versatile, highly skilled player with good length and the ability to stretch the defense. Holmes may have the higher ceiling overall, while Bond looks like he may be more ready to make an impact right away. If both players develop quickly, we have the potential to be a surprisingly interesting and dynamic team by the time February rolls around.
This team may be young, but man is it going to be fun to watch develop. Rick Barnes is killing it on the recruiting trail right now, and there are going to be some damn good Longhorns basketball teams in Austin in the next three years.
Up next: In Part 3 of this season preview we'll look at the returning players on the team and then wrap things up in Part 4 with a look at how all the pieces fit together.