Basketball season is just days away. To help get ready for the season, here is a quick look at the likely contributors for Rick Barnes' team this year.
The back court
Myck Kabongo (6-1, SO). Coming into this season, the biggest question for this team is Myck Kabongo's eligibility. The NCAA is still investigating an off-season trip the Texas guard made to Cleveland. If Tristan Thompson's account of the financing of this trip is true, then it is unlikely that Kabongo will be severely punished, but until the investigation is closed by the NCAA he is unlikely to play.
Once on the floor, Kabongo is the key to the Texas season. He is a gifted player who can get to the rim and free throw line, but who will need to cut down on his turnovers as a sophomore. Fortunately, there is a lot of reason for us to expect that this will happen.
Thankfully, Rick Barnes' guards have a long history of reducing their turnover rates as their careers' progress. As a freshman, J'Covan Brown had a turnover percentage of 21%, which turned into a 19% turnover rate as a sophomore and a 16% turnover rate as a junior. In his first season, Dogus Balbay had a 27% turnover rate. In his second and third years, Balbay's turnover rates were 28% and 24%, respectively (*). D.J. Augustin had a turnover rate of 23% as a freshman and 16% as a sophomore. Daniel Gibson's turnover rate as a freshman was 24% and as a sophomore was 17%. Of course, Kenton Paulino did much of the ball handling in Gibson's sophomore season. Paulino's turnover rate also decreased as his career progressed, falling from 25% in 2004-2005, to 21% in the following season. T.J. Ford's turnover rate dropped from 28% as freshman to 21% as a sophomore. In Ivan Wagner's first season playing for Rick Barnes his turnover rate was 37%. Wagner's turnover rate dropped to 27% in his second season with Barnes.
Javan Felix (5-10, FR). Until Kabango is cleared to play, the primary ball handling duties will fall to the freshman from New Orleans. Felix's reputation is that of a very smart player, which is a good match for what Barnes expects out of his point guards. Peter Bean recently wrote about Felix:
Read any scouting report of Javan Felix, and you'll see -- usually right from the top -- gushing praise about the point guard's competitive drive, his superior understanding and feel for his position, and his striking ability to help produce wins for his team by making everyone else around him better.
Julien Lewis (6-3, SO). As a freshman, Lewis started in 25 games last year. Lewis is Texas' best perimeter defender. He also goes to the glass, gets after loose balls, and makes many of the hustle plays that a team needs. Scipio Tex of Barking Carnival once wrote of Lewis, "he continues to be the toughest individual on the planet named Julien." Lewis' offensive game is more limited, but he can still play a role on offense as a perimeter shooter.
Lewis' strength is as a catch and shoot three point shooter. Last season, he took 40 percent of his shots from three point range and made 32 percent of his three point attempts. He only made 39 percent of his two point shots. Lewis' low two point field goal percentage was due to two things: he seldom made it to the rim, and he only shot 51 percent on these attempts. Lewis also didn't attempt many free throws. Beating his man off the dribble is not part of his game.
Sheldon McClellan (6-4, SO). McClellan is probably the most offensively gifted player of any of the Texas guards, and is likely to lead the team in scoring. After a good freshman campaign, big things are expected of McClellan.
More than any other returning Longhorn, Sheldon McClellan seems to have captured the imagination of the Texas fan base. Rick Barnes thought highly enough of McClellan that during preseason practices prior to his freshman year, every time McClellan passed up an open shot, Barnes would make him run. In addition to his shooting stroke, McClellan is a guy who can get off the deck and make things happen at the rim. Slashing drives to the basket and spectacular dunks are a part of his repertoire.
Demarcus Holland (6-2, FR). As a freshman, Holland isn't expected to contribute a lot to this team, but will probably play a few minutes a game. His ability to give Texas minutes in the back court will be more important if Kabongo misses time to start the season. A high school teammate of Texas freshman Prince Ibeh, Holland has a reputation as a defensive player, as Wescott Eberts wrote when Holland committed.
At just under 6-4, Holland is known as a tough defender and projects as a four-year player at Texas, a positive for many fans tired of constant departures following short Texas careers. However, for others, Holland is a reach with five-star Devonta Pollard still on the board, especially since Holland shot only 31% from three as a senior and wasn't much better at the foul line for his position, hitting just over 70% of his attempts at the charity stripe.
The front line
Cameron Ridley (6-9, FR). The Texas center is the No. 14 rated incoming freshman, according to the RSCI recruiting rankings. And he is big; Ridley lists at 270 pounds. As Peter Bean wrote, Ridley is more than just a big body:
Cameron Ridley provides the long-awaited answer to the question: "What if Lamarcus Aldridge and Dexter Pittman had a baby?" The McDonald's All-American center has the long arms and diverse skillset of Aldridge, with the body strength and giant suction cups for hands of Pittman, and you could make the case that Ridley is the best big man recruit that Rick Barnes has ever had at Texas. Aldridge may have possessed the higher long-term professional upside, but the gangly power forward did not arrive at Texas nearly so ready for college basketball as will Ridley.
Jonathan Holmes (6-7, SO). Holmes had a solid season as a freshman, playing a key role for the team, and starting 17 games. Holmes is a good all around player, who is very skilled on offense, and gets after things on the offensive glass.
For a big man, Holmes shot a fair number of three point shots. Roughly one quarter of Holmes' field goal attempts were from three point range last season. Unfortunately, he only made 25% of his three point attempts. This is a poor percentage, to say the least. From two point range Holmes' was much better. He made 56% of his two point attempts. He also took 0.57 free throws for every field goal attempt (a good rate of getting to the line), and made 72% of his free throws.
Jaylen Bond (6-7, SO). Bond is the type of player that every team needs. He is tough, he is athletic, he hustles, and he rebounds.
I spent a sizable amount of last basketball season calling for more playing time for Jaylen Bond. Texas was terrible at defensive rebounding, particularly early in the year. Jaylen Bond was by far the best rebounder on the team. Bond led Texas in both offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 13 percent of the available misses on offense, and defensive rebounding percentage, pulling down 21 percent of the defensive rebounds while on the floor. Defensive rebounding was a huge glaring weakness for last year's team, and Bond made things better every time he was on the court.
Prince Ibeh (6-10, FR). Great teams usually have someone who can protect the rim. Last season, Texas was just too small along the front line. Along with fellow freshman Ridley, Ibeh gives Texas a quick antidote to being too small. While Ridley projects as having a bigger offensive impact, Ibeh is on the 40 Acres to do one thing, as Peter Bean wrote:
Prince Ibeh is a bad mother in the defensive paint, with height, long arms, athleticism, quickness, and good timing that combine to make him an high-impact shot eraser. On some of those clips, Ibeh calls to mind junior high days when your group of friends would lower the rim all the way down to enable a bunch of shorties to dunk and swat shots like the pros. It won't be that easy for Ibeh in college, but the length and skill will play, and he's got a good bit of room to develop into an impact player across his collegiate career.
Ioannis Papapetrou (6-8, FR). There is almost no information available on Papaetrou. He is a mystery man. Texassports.com reports that his name is pronounced "ee-yo-ON-nis pa-pa-PEH-troo." I am thankful that I am just a writer.
Why is so little known about Papapetrou? Because he didn't participate in the AAU circuit. Many of the recruiting news services focus their attention on AAU events, which tend to aggregate many top players in one location. This is a more efficient way to cover recruiting than attending many individual high school games.
Although Papapetrou was under the radar of the recruiting services, he was noticed by a number of top programs. When he committed to Texas, he declined offers from Kansas, Florida, Alabama, and George Mason. His reputation is of a skilled inside-outside player who can play many different positions. While this sounds good, it is important that we tap the breaks on expectations for Papapetrou this season, as accounts of his play tend to make him sound like Grant Hill 2.0. It is also possible that he could be a less physical version of Jonathan Holmes with a better handle, or something else entirely. We will have to wait until we actually see him play to get a sense of what he is like.
Connor Lammert (6-9, FR). As a freshman, Lammert will probably play a few minutes here and there. Lammert is tall, and has a good shot. GoHornsGo90 described Lammert in this way:
Lammert is your traditional swing-four a la Connor Atchley, although he is much better built and a more physical player. He can rain shots from all over the court and looks effortless from three-point range on in. His face-up midrange game is lethal and is very refined for such a young player.
Aside from his shooting ability, Connor's next biggest asset is a very impressive feel for the game. He's a solid passer with good vision and likes to get his teammates involved. He's also a decent penetrator from the perimeter, where he spends a vast amount of time.