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Morning Coffee Gets Loquacious

Horns_bullet_mediumThe Pittman Paradox. In the edition of Morning Coffee I wrote last week, one of the items included the statement that Dexter PIttman had slowly but surely become an integral part of the Texas offense. And some of the number certainly supported that assertion, as the Longhorns played well and won when Pittman played efficiently, and lost games in which Pittman played inefficiently.

However, the changes Rick Barnes made in the offense last week leading up to the Tech game seemed to render my prior observations irrelevant. Pittman played all of one minute in the game, throwing up an ill-advised hook shot that fell short after failing to pass out of a double team. The issue for the offense with Pittman is one of spacing. With the Texas guards outside of AJ Abrams shooting poorly, teams are free to collapse into the lane defensively, disrupting driving and passing lanes. Pittman is a large part of that problem, often camping on one block or the other and limiting ball and player movement in the half court.

So what is the solution? Not playing Pittman at all isn't a long-term options, which is a waste of his prodigious talent. The first issue revolves around match ups. Against a team with little in the way of an inside presence in Texas Tech, it didn't make sense to play Pittman in a game where he isn't needed defensively. Playing against Blake Griffin last week, Pittman demonstrated that he can play effective post defense when moving his feet and staying away from bad fouls. Expect Rick Barnes to play Pittman against teams like the Aggies, who have two talented interior players in Bryan Davis and Junior Elonu.

The talk about match ups fails to answer the question about how to involve Pittman in the offense without stagnation. Answering that question involves using Pittman in more ways in the offense. Basically, instead of Pittman camping on one block and then moving to the other block, Barnes needs to involve Pittman in more pick and roll situations, particularly with AJ Abrams and Damion James, setting picks for Abrams when he's gone a stretch without getting a good look at the basket and setting picks for James to open up driving lanes. Using Pittman to set screens unclogs passing and cutting lanes, while also increasing his ability to flash to the basket, though Pittman on the move could create more opportunities to pick up offensive fouls.

Barnes must also be more selective in the players he puts on the court with Pittman. Playing the 4-out-1-in offense to get Pittman easy looks close to the basket makes an incredible amount of sense for a struggling offense, but the problem is being able to space the floor with shooters. Not exactly an easy task with this roster. Therefore, only one of the group of Justin Mason, Dogus Balbay, and Varez Ward should be on the floor with Pittman at the same time. The other players should be James, Abrams, and Connor Atchley to maintain spacing, with the possibility of using Gary Johnson because has some ability to hit outside jumpers.

At the same time, Pittman needs to be more aware and willing to pass out of double teams to facilitate ball movement and open shots. With his strong hands and wide body, Pittman often feels that he can power through double teams instead of making the proper read and pass, an area in which he needs to quickly improve.

Horns_bullet_mediumAnother 2009 offer. With basically no warning other than speculation about the likely impending transfers of Montre Webber and Philip Payne, the Longhorns extended an offer to Texas High School's Cobi Hamilton, a 6-3.5, 200-pound wide receiver whose nickname apparently is "Bootz." Arkansas is the current favorite for Hamilton because both his parents are Razorbacks ($) and Hamilton played with Ryan Mallett in high school, who will be eligible next season after sitting out a year after transferring from Michigan, with Oklahoma State also in the running for Hamilton. Arkansas had an in-home visit with Hamilton on Monday night. The good news for Texas fans is that Hamilton just confirmed that he will be taking an official visit to Austin ($) next weekend and will not visit Auburn, as planned before his Texas offer, likely eliminating them from consideration. Hamilton had already taken four of his official visits and only had one remaining.

The offer to Hamilton was only extended because the Texas coaching staff thinks there are impending transfers, probably Webber and/or Payne, and DJ Monroe may not do well enough in school this semester to be with the team in the fall. Hamilton's status will not affect the number of wide receivers Texas will take in the 2010 class, probably three or four, as there is a lot of depth at the wide receiver position next year.

As far as whether or not Hamilton is necessary to this class is hard to say. There are a ton of wide receivers currently on campus, with it hard to imagine that players like Brock Fitzhenry will ever see playing time. Texas coaches probably could stand pat at this point and not offer another receiver in the class, but they must see something that they really like from Hamilton.

What they see is likely his combination of speed, size, and production. While there isn't any publicly available film on Hamilton and his film in general ($) is limited, he looks faster than his 4.56 40 (looking much like Malcolm Wiliams), accelerating quickly. Hamilton also looks to have the ability to make tough catches in traffic and over the middle, though he doesn't seem to have the incredible feet and elusiveness that would make him more than a three-star prospect. Good hands and leaping ability (36-inch vertical) are also assets for Hamilton, though his route running is raw. With only two other receivers on campus next year taller than Hamilton (not including Webber) -- Williams and Dan Buckner -- Hamilton's greatest asset to Texas may be his size. Hamilton's production ($) is nothing to scoff at and is belied by his three stars: 64 catches for 1,071 yards and 14 touchdowns, an average of 16.7 yards per catch, numbers achieved despite facing constant double coverage. Those numbers increased significantly from his junior season, when he caught 29 passes for 726 yards and seven touchdowns, though his average of 25 (!) yards per catch was higher as a junior.

Since the offer is already extended, that only leaves the question about whether Hamilton will commit. Arkansas still seems to be in the lead, as they have been throughout most of the process, but if Hamilton's surprise ($) when notified by his coach of the offer means anything, the Longhorns are vaulting to at least near the front of his consideration, with Hamilton saying, "It's every kid's dream to go to Texas."

Horns_bullet_mediumJunior day will draw out-of-state talent. With the recruiting gurus predicting a Longhorn shut-out in the recruitments of Devon Kennard, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Jarvis Jones and high-profile failures like Darrell Scott, Longhorn fans are noticeably reticent to get excited about out-of-state prospects. However, that could change for 2010, as the Longhorns are inviting three out-of-state prospects to the February 8 Junior Day, including West Chester, OH linebacker Jordan Hicks, Tulsa, OK wide receiver/athlete Demarco Cobbs, and Thibodaux, LA wide receiver Trovon Reed.

Will Muschamp will be visiting the 6-2, 210-pound Hicks in Ohio today to watch him play basketball. A big-time national recruit with interest from nearly all the major programs, Hicks runs a 40 in the 4.5s and has been a Texas fan for a long time ($), wearing Texas hats around his high school and paying his own way to a Texas camp last summer, putting the Longhorns squarely in his early top four, with Ohio State, Florida, and Georgia in the mix as well. As a player ($), Hicks shows sideline to sideline range at his outside linebacker position, along with a great nose for the football, diagnosing plays and shedding blocks, while needing work on his coverage skills.

The 6-0, 175-pound Reed excels at multiple positions ($) in high school, playing quarterback, wide receiver, and running back, leading his team in each of the three categories, accounting for 1,748 yards and 21 touchdowns. Reed was one of the fastest players at the combine held in San Antonio before Army All-American game, running a 4.5 on a slow track and recording a vertical leap between 37 and 42 inches (measurements varied). Reed is also a track star for his high school, running the 200, 4 x 100, and 4 x 200. Reed is not planning to announce his decision until lack in the recruiting process. Sounds like a versatile Percy Harvin type.

Horns_bullet_mediumPoor Aggies. Not too long ago, Stony Point defensive end Tevin Mims was in the midst of bursting onto the college football recruiting scene with dominant performances during his senior season. They were golden days for Texas A&M and TCU, the leaders in the battle to secure Mims' services. That all changed when Texas started showing interest, culminating in a commitment on Sunday morning ($) that felt completely anti-climactic after weeks of speculation that he would commit if offered.

Perhaps no other anecdote so clearly defines the gaping chasm that currently exists in the world of recruiting between Texas and Texas A&M. Where the Aggies sit and pray during recruiting season that Texas won't offer their targets and that those targets play well, but not too well during their senior seasons, Texas selects the players they want early in the process, then swoops in on rising seniors between the end of their football season and signing day, frustrating smaller schools and amusing the Longhorn fan base.

And that's a problem for the Aggies. Still holding aspiration of South Division dominance and "high expectations," the Aggies currently find themselves in a dogfight with Baylor for recruits and the position just out of the cellar in the division. Incapable of competing for recruits with Texas, the Aggies have to find some other way to gain an edge. With the additions of Major Applewhite and Will Muschamp to the Texas staff over the last year, any strategic advantage seems as far-fetched as the Aggies stealing any recruits from under Bevo's nose. Poor Aggies.

Horns_bullet_mediumKabongo speaks. In his first interview ($) since committing to the Longhorns on January 12, Myck Kabongo talks about the reasons he chose Texas over other schools:

I just built a great relationship with the Texas coaches. I didn't feel the same relationship with all of the coaches I spoke with. My relationship with Coach Barnes is great, Coach Terry and strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright. Coach Wright is known for getting players bodies ready for the college and pro game and that is where I want to be. What Texas has done with point guards in the past helping get them to the next level was attractive to me. I want to be the next one at Texas.

Kabongo also said that friend Tristan Thompson's commitment to the Longhorns wasn't the only reason he chose Texas, saying that he would have felt comfortable and picked Texas even if Thompson hadn't.

Showing a trait common to all great players, Kabongo is ready and willing to focus on improving his game:

I want to improve my defense. We (St. Bendict Prep) always preach defense and playing defense wins games. I'm doing alright right now, but I want to get better and be able to hold down a man to ten points or pressure the ball. Really, I think I have to work on everything as nothing is perfect about my game.

With his work ethic, personal awareness, and high basketball IQ, Kabongo should blossom into an even better defender than he already is, aided by his 6-6 wingspan. Under coach Dan Hurley, brother of Bobby, the former Duke basketball player, and son of Bob, a high school basketball coach with more than 800 victories and 21 state championships on his resume, Kabongo will receive coaching as good as that received at any high school in the country, the perfect preparation for contributing early as a Longhorn.