With the the 2012-13 basketball season in the books, it's time to perform the autopsy on the nightmare of a season. To tip off the season review, I'll be publishing a review of each individual player on the team, to be capped with a lengthy look at Rick Barnes and the current state of the Texas program. Up first: Myck Kabongo, who like Sheldon McClellan has probably played his last game in a Texas uniform.
When he played, Myck Kabongo demonstrated meaningful improvement from his freshman debut and succeeded in elevating the Longhorns from "below average" to "NCAA Tournament bubble" team, but the point guard's sophomore season -- and, in all likelihood, Texas career -- ended with fans feeling disappointed and expecting more.
What The Numbers Say
Kabongo was slightly more efficient on the offensive end of the floor, upping his field goal percentage on two-point shots, substantially elevating his shooting from the free throw line, and cutting down on his turnovers against a slightly improved assist rate. Myck was again elite at getting to the free throw line, with 70% as many free throw attempts (77) as field goal attempts (110), and he converted more of those attempts into points this time around, shooting a solid 79% from the stripe. His peripheral numbers were stronger this year, as well. Myck cut down substantially on fouls caused -- a real problem last year -- while enjoying modest gains in both his steal and rebounding rates.
As for blemishes, the glaring weakness in Myck's statistical profile is his outside shooting ability, which was again right around 30% from beyond the arc. At the college level Myck's poor three point shooting is most painfully felt at the team level, but it will limit him individually at the professional level. If he can't develop a credible jump shot, Kabongo is likely to find himself in a career-long battle with back-of-the-rotation roster spots as a fringe NBA contributor at point guard.
If Myck doesn't return for a junior campaign, his career will be remembered for the high expectations he was unable to meet more than his accomplishments, but Longhorns hoops junkies will not soon forget his epic performance against Oklahoma in February in Austin, when he delivered one of the best 13-minute stretches of basketball ever played at Texas, including a buzzer beater that sent the game to overtime.
Myck Kabongo's season bottomed out before it even began, when he didn't purchase his plane ticket to a workout in Cleveland, went on to lie about it to UT's compliance office, and despite being fully truthful to the NCAA about it wound up getting hammered with a season-long suspension that was subsequently reduced to 23 games. It was a mistake of youth, and the punishment did not even remotely fit the crime, but it was also the kind of mistake about which these kids are constantly warned and know better than to make. Kabongo was wronged by the NCAA with the punishment, but in the sense that he put himself in position to get hosed by making an easily avoidable mistake, he has to own some of the responsibility himself. (Which he did, with unwavering strong character.)
For Kabongo's worst performance on the court, look no further than the Big 12 Tournament. After Texas knocked off TCU in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament, the Longhorns' quarterfinal match up with Kansas State presented an opportunity to pick up a win that would guarantee the team at least a .500 season record (securing eligibility for the NIT) and, of course, advance to the Big 12 semis, preserving the team's only chance at an NCAA Tournament berth. Even if Texas' odds of winning two more to make the NCAA Tournament were minimal, the quarterfinal match up with K-State was a high stakes game with the potential to salvage some respectability out of a thoroughly bleak season.
Unfortunately, Kabongo turned in what would be by far his worst performance of the 11 games he played, getting badly outplayed by the Wildcats' sophomore point guard Angel Rodriguez and finishing with a meager 2 points on 0-5 shooting, and offsetting his 7 assists with 5 turnovers.
Season Grade: D+
This grade is almost entirely about the suspension, which just killed his and Texas' seasons. Kabongo missed 23 games due to an unfair but easily avoidable suspension, and though he improved his play from his freshman season, Kabongo's ineffective performance against Kansas State revealed him to be limited in many of the same fundamental ways that had been holding him back since his arrival in Austin two years ago. Without Kabongo on the floor for the first two-thirds of the season, the offense was miserable, and though things got markedly better when he did play, Kabongo was still not quite the elite player that his physical gifts suggest he should be.
Will there be a potential redemption campaign for Kabongo as a junior? In all likelihood, the loss to Houston marked the end of Myck's time in Austin, as he is widely expected to declare himself eligible for the 2013 NBA Draft, with current projections slotting him near the back of the first round. For a multitude of reasons, it's hard to blame him, not least because of the screw job he received from the NCAA. Would you want to come back to play NCAA basketball after something like that? Me neither.
And so while we must wait a bit longer for Myck's official announcement, the time is nearly here to bid him adieu, closing down the last leg of the Canadian pipeline, which succeeded in delivering promising raw talent to Austin, but ultimately was a resource out of which Rick Barnes and Texas were able to produce very little.
Myck's a good kid and a hard worker, and assuming he departs I wish him nothing but the best. May he and we have better luck going forward.