AW's already given us a great game summary of yesterday's hoop action. Below is your individual player report card.
DJ Augustin After the Gonzaga game, I was a little bit concerned about Augustin. He'd been playing a pretty effective point until that game, but he hadn't been showing much willingness to try to score. Then, in the Gonzaga game, he struggled mightily, looking, even, a bit lost on the court. I wondered if he might take a full year to develop into the kind of point guard we might need him to be. If so, the offense might wind up being a version of "stand around and watch Kevin try to score 35" each night. Something changed in that week of practice before the LSU game, though, and Augustin turned in a masterful performance. Fast forwad six days to yesterday's contest, and we got much more of the same. Augustin is now penetrating to the basket, showing a willingness to create shots for himself, and still passing the ball well. The assists numbers are slightly down, but the quality of play is leagues better. Texas can win the Big 12 if Augustin keeps this up. Tremendous player. Grade: A+
Jay Mason I don't remember who it was, but whoever said on BON that Jay Mason had NBA potential is absolutely right. Mason showed some of that yesterday, using his athleticism, strength, and ball skills to turn in a terrific performance. What's most impressive about him, though, are his basketball instincts. He's got a nose for the ball, he's always in the right spot at the right time, and his sense of anticipation is uncanny. He's already as good a defender as Royal Ivey was, and you could argue he's already better offensively than Royal ever was. Ivey, by the way, plays about 10 minutes a night for the Atlanta Hawks. Jay Mason is an 18 year old freshman. His effectiveness, a bit surprising to me, is what has me extending Texas' ceiling even higher than it was heading into the season. Grade: A-
Damion James James played 25 minutes, scored 10 points and grabbed 10 boards. He's an absolute freak of an athlete, which helps him on the glass and around the rim. The only negative about James is his hands, which fail him frequently. He's probably given up about 4-6 points per night from his average on scores he's missing because he has bad hands. Still, he's improved dramatically from the first of the year, when he wasn't putting his athleticism to good enough use. He's in better position - on both ends of the floor - and giving Texas excellent minutes on the interior. Best of all, he plays bigger than he is, which, for Texas, is huge. He's looking like a 12-10 guy in conference play this season. Grade: B
Kevin Durant Kevin had a pretty quiet afternoon, finishing with only 11 points and 4 rebounds. He wowed the crowd with two NBA-level dunks - one on a breakaway, one on an alley oop, but other than the highlight reel moments, he was pretty quiet. Early foul trouble kept him on the bench, and he never got too involved in the game after that. What's most interesting in the big picture, though, is that Texas, which started as a team that stood around and watched Durant, has developed into a real team. Now Texas can play as a team, can spell Durant rest on the bench, and, best of all, if needed, Texas still has a go-to guy that can create his own shot. Grade: B
Dexter Pittman I guess I understand that Dexter's inability to get back on defense quickly is a liability for this team right now, but it's a shame, because he's an absolute beast on the interior. Does he have problems at times with his size? Sure. But he's got incredibly good hands for a big man, excellent body control, and deft touch. He could be a 15-10 guy if he could stay on the court for 20 minutes. For now, the goal has to be to continue to get in better and better shape. I have to think that, at some point, Rick will turn to the big fella when the opponents are killing Texas on the interior. Dex only managed six minutes yesterday, but they sure were six exciting ones. Grade: B
AJ Abrams AJ's shot was just off yesterday. He wasn't set properly on a couple, and he just flat missed on another. He did a pretty good job handling backup point guard duties, but he's most effective when he's playing a pure two guard. When he's got his feet set and is coming off screens for open jumpers, he's outstanding. I don't trust him nearly as much to create his own shot. In fact, he shouldn't be doing it. I thought he did a pretty good job yesterday of penetrating and passing, though. Definitely an improvement from some other games this season. Grade: B-
Connor Atchley Connor definitely had some "Connor!" moments (the kind where you're yelling because he did something incredibly dumb), but he also played a solid game. He didn't try to do too much, and gave Texas some solid minutes at the four. Not a great afternoon for Connor, but he gave useful minutes. We'll take it. Grade: B-
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Matt Hill AW and I keep saying that he's a year away, and that looked to be the case yesterday. He's just not quite up to the speed and strength of the collegiate game yet. He's going to develop into a fine post player, but he's not there yet. The big question is how far he can come by March. He was pretty bad yesterday, though. Grade: C
J.D. Lewis Eight minutes, Rick? For Lewis? Presumably, Lewis is a "shooter" - that small white guy that can bury three after three. Must only be in practice. For the season, Lewis is 3-for-14 from beyond the arc. Three. For fourteen. From the "shooter white guy." Look, if the guy can't bury an open look, he has no value. He can't defend. He can't penetrate. He can't create shots for others. If he's not hitting shots, he shouldn't be playing. Hey, Rick: he's not hitting shots. Grade: F
Everyone else Harrison Smith (awful), Craig Winder (hide him, please), and Ian Mooney (token scrub) saw some late action in garbage time, but nothing of note. Winder is actually showing some signs of not trying to do too much, which is good, but still, the guy's a senior - if he had anything good in him, we'd have seen it by now. This is not a deep basketball team. Hill and Pittman can give you 20 minutes between them, but Hill's not effective and Dexter has his downsides. Counting on Atchley is kinda scary, but that's where we are. The rest of the team is, obviously, outstanding.