I was recently asked a series of questions by MT from The Black and Gold Truth, a Colorado Buffalos/Big 12 blog. We got things started with some hoops talk before turning to a few football questions. Be sure to check out B> throughout the season.
Black and Gold Truth: LaSalle Thompson, Chris Mihm, T.J. Ford: all outstanding talents. Is Kevin Durant better than all of them, as a freshman?
Let's first start by striking Chris Mihm from the conversation. The guy's a solid talent, but his draft status was directly attributable to his height. Centers are a premium in the NBA; that's the only reason Chris Mihm was a lottery pick. As a collegiate player he was great, but not elite. He can't be compared with Thompson, Ford, and Durant.
You know, what's kind of interesting about your question is that Durant is almost a Ford-Thompson hybrid. Thompson, UT's all time leading rebounder for 21 years (until James Thomas broke his record in 2004), was sort of the ultimate inside beast. Ford, of course, was one of the best point guards and open court players that has ever played college basketball - and he only played two years. And then we get to Durant, who is - easily - the most versatile player Texas has ever had: the kid leads the team in rebounds and points, can run and score in the open court like Dr. J, and is (when we're executing things properly) the guy who the offense runs through.
Thompson was a truly outstanding inside guy, but Ford was more of an impact player. And, though I thought I'd never say it, Kevin Durant is even better than T.J. Ford. Just typing that makes me a little bit uncomfortable, but there's simply no denying it. If you didn't know anything about Kevin Durant, and you watched him play for a game, you'd swear up and down that the guy was a junior or senior. He's just that much better than everyone. Of course, he's a freshman, and just learning how to play with guys that can legitimately claim to be in the same gym with him.
As good as Forid is, Durant's better. Odds that he's the best player ever to play at Texas (now and projecting into the future) are 95%. He's just that good.
B>: What's up with the tiny guards with big games -- Abrams and Augustin? How do they do so much at their height?
Well, DJ Augustin was a McDonalds All American point guard - highly recruited, universally praised by scouts and so forth. The only question for him was how quickly he'd become an effective point guard at this level. Of all the players on the team, he's the one with the most room to grow; he's already a B+/A- guy, and he's just beginning to figure it all out.
Abrams sort of surprised people, though - certainly people outside of the CenTex basketball hoops circle. There are two things I think he's got that make him so effective: first, as quick a shot release as you're likely to see in the game today, and second, a veteran's basketball awareness. He's a very intelligent basketball player, which goes a long way at this level. Best of all, even he's still learning a lot from game to game. Abrams is a damn good player who's sort of learning how to maximize all the things he's good at. I'd imagine he's one of the most enjoyable players to coach who you could have.
B>: Where is Texas going this year in the Big 12 race? Can you compete with KU, A & M, and OSU? Where are the Horns likely to end up?
In our most recent Texas Basketball Report we broke down what the Horns had in front of them this conference season. I regret to inform you that we placed the Buffs in the "Bad Loss" category, but I'm sure you guys will be back up soon anyway. For Texas, the key is to avoid a youthful collapse and let the talent take the team up to 20-25 wins. The key for the fans will be not getting discouraged when the team has a bad night. It's just too much to expect a rotation of six freshmen and two sophomores to put it all together every night during conference play.
Realistically, we're probably looking at a third or fourth place finish in the conference - provided injuries don't derail the line of this team. And that should be fine. The key is to grow and keep getting better from game to game, while avoiding meltdowns. Easier said than done - no doubt.
B>: Is Durant a sure bet to split, in your opinion, after this season? Is Damion James, a bright prospect himself, his replacement?
It would be an upset if Durant returned to Texas for another season, that's for sure. I guess I could see it if he had a particulary bitter end to his freshman season that he felt the need to rectify. LaMarcus Aldridge, as a point of comparison, came back that way - returning for a sophomore campaign after a hip injury cut his freshman year short. Durant, though, stands to be the #1 or #2 draft pick in what will be, according to the projection honchos, one of the best draft classes in years. There's not much for him to gain by coming back.
WIth that said, these are human beings we're talking about. Who knows what they're thinking or going through? A coach of one of Texas' 2007 recruits said that Durant promised the recruit that he'd be in Austin for two years. We can hope, right?
Now Damion James is an entirely different story. And comparing him to Durant is a bad idea. They're different ball players, with different skill sets. James is a freak of an athlete, but he isn't a tenth of the basketball player that Durant is. James will need as much collegiate seasoning as he can discipline himself enough to take. When he's ready, he'll make for a professional player in some capacity, but he's not an NBA star, based on what I've seen so far. He's got bad hands - which is tremendously hard to overcome. The best NBA comp I can think of is former Texas Tech standout Darvin Ham.
B>: Colt McCoy, a legend in the making or just a product of the system? Look ahead, how could be end up being regarded?
Ah, the million dollar question... McCoy's probably not a big time NFL prospect, but he's got a chance to be one of the college game's all time record setters. Think Ken Dorsey. Physically not all that amazing, but a perfect collegiate passer. He's accurate, gritty, poised - all that good stuff. I don't think there's any chance he was a fluke - if he stays healthy, he challenges all kinds of fun NCAA records.
B>: Is Mack Brown going to feel some pressure after "only" winning 10 games?
You'd think not, but there will always be some "grass is greener" folks in the lot. One of the things I'm learning to appreciate is how difficult it is to win all your games. Mack Brown - flawed as he is (like everyone else) - does one thing as well as anyone: win 10+ games and put himself in a position to compete for a national title should all the pieces fall together. For some fans, that's not enough. For me, that's about all I think I can realistically ask for.
All I'll say is this: thank God we're not Alabama.
B>: Who's the best college basketball coach in Texas? Rick Barnes, Billy Gillespie or Bob Knight?
Bob Knight, and it's not close. Barnes and Gillespie are tadpoles in Bobby Knight's ocean. Whatever you think of Knight's temper, his resume outside that speaks for itself. The man is one of college basketball's all time best coaches.
Hook 'em, and thanks for chatting, Mike.