While this week will ultimately be remembered for the successful recruitment of Malcolm Brown, not everything this week has gone exactly to plan. In addition to having Austin Seferian-Jenkins commit to Washington and DeAndre Daniels de-commit from the program, Texas lost another key player tonight.
As seen by this fanshot and as first reported by the fast-acting Hookem247, Varez Ward has decided to transfer out of the program. The AAS reports that his mother has a heart condition, and he wants to be closer to her. I imagine there will be some handwringing over this transfer--and perhaps even some recitations of the gospel of Bill Simmons--but, until shown otherwise, this explanation is legitimate. Some things are simply bigger than basketball, and this is one of them. Obviously, everyone should hope for nothing but the best for Varez and his family.
Not that this news doesnt hurt. While the loss of Daniels and ASJ is mitigated by the fact they were recruits still a year away from campus, the loss of Varez Ward is an entirely different story. Varez was expected to be a key contributor (and likely starter) for this year's basketball team, as they looked to rebound from last year's historic collapse. Coincidentally, Varez himself was looking to rebound this season, coming off of the bizarre injury to his quad that ended his season during a lay-up drill. These two rebounds (of both the team and Varez) may have been more interconnected than most UT fans realize.
A few months ago, Andy Katz wrote an excellent article about Varez, which included some fascinating quotes from Damion James about Varez's role with the 2010-2011 Longhorns.
"People don't know how much of an impact player he was for our team, how much of a leader,'' said James, who was going through a pre-draft workout with Notre Dame's Luke Harangody on Tuesday at the 360 Athletic Club in advance of heading to Chicago for the NBA's pre-draft combine this week.
"Maybe it didn't show, but with the freshmen struggling early it was overshadowed,'' James said. "We needed him. He was our extra lift.''
James said the 2010-11 Longhorns will be defined by Ward.
They'll have a good season with Jordan and Gary, but Varez was our best on-ball defender. He can pass the ball. He's a true point guard. He can get dudes the ball when they need it. He makes smart decisions. We had too many crucial turnovers.
"He's going to be the face of that team next year,'' James said of Ward. "No doubt. I know -- I hang around those guys. He works hard all the time and this is his time to shine and make a name for himself.''
Sounds like Damion wasn't exactly expecting this transfer, either.
After the jump, a few more thoughts over Ward's transfer and its effect on the 2010-2011 Longhorns...
Ward's departure thins out an already suspect group of guards for the Longhorns this year. When you combine Ward's departure with the ineffectiveness of Jai Lucas, the loss of Avery Bradley to the NBA, and the rumblings that J'Covan Brown has still not found his way out of Rick Barnes' doghouse, then things in the backcourt are looking pretty shaky. Especially when it comes to playing defense.
In the fanshot thread, Wiggo broke it down like this:
PG: Balbay, Lucas
SG: Brown, Joseph
SF: Hamilton, Williams
PF: Johnson, Chapman
C: Thompson, Wangmeme, Hill
Really hope Joseph and Thompson are college ready quickly. Won’t hurt if they’re ready to play D also. Not a ton of defense on the returning roster.
Losing Johnson, Hill, Chapman, Lucas, and Balbay after this season. Probably lose Hamilton too.
When you look at the roster, things are spelled out pretty clearly. One can only imagine the carnage that would have occurred if Balbay decided to return overseas or Joseph would have picked Villanova over Texas. Thankfully, they are both here, and they are both going to have a lot of pressure on their shoulders to perform. Unless Rick Barnes is mad enough to give pointless minutes to walk-on sensations Dean Melchionni or Andy Dick (of the constant "We Want Dick" fame at the end of blowouts), then the only other guards on the roster are J'Covan Brown and Jai Lucas, each of whom were major disappointments last season, relative to expectations.
While it seems crazy to question any notion of Rick Barnes' job security over the next few years, this season is setting up to be pretty important, especially in light of last year's collapse. Losing half a roster isn't pretty, and Texas will need a strong season to help stem the tide of negative recruiting tactics and flat-out recruiting losses against some other major schools. As of now, Texas still has three Top-85 recruits in the fold--and Myck Kybongo is Top-15--but the Horns still need to sign a few big men to replace the losses outlined above. Not to mention that 2011-12 is the first season in the "new" Big 12-2, which looks like it will be ridiculously tough, as the conference will be cutting the basketball deadweight of Nebraska and Colorado.
Everyone can go back to worrying about football, but tonight's loss of Ward was a significant loss for the basketball team. For now, there's just not much else to say. Damn.