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Texas Basketball Open Practice Report

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Rick Barnes and the high-expectation Horns held an open practice ahead of the 2014-2015 season this past weekend. How is Rick Barnes tinkering with lineups? How is he integrating the freshman? And is Isaiah Taylor healthy after a fall last week?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

While BON was unable to get any authors to the open practice held at the Frank Erwin Center, we have many eyes and many spies. Special thanks to Zach Rabinovitz for getting us a report from the Drum. I'll let him take it from here....

******

After 24 minutes of zero-sum basketball, I think it's safe to say I know how this season is going to go. And it's not bad.

The Old Guys: Javan Felix, Connor Lammert, Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes, Damarcus Holland, & Prince Ibeh

The group played well, but for the most part we know what we have with these guys.  A few quick thoughts:

  • Javan is the clear number two guard now. When the offense is in rhythm, he looks confident, and won't make too many mistakes. The outside shot is there, but we may be at a point that we have better options from long range. When the offense breaks down, the ball would stick to Javan -- not sure we scored on any of these possessions.
  • Lammert -- Connor continued to flash with some great passing. Unfortunately, it is difficult to project how his minutes will go this year. With Holmes trimming down to try and play more 3, Barnes tried out a super big lineup with Connor at the 2 (Taylor G, Lammert G, Holmes SF, Turner PF, Ridley C). I love that we have this sort of flexibility, but Connor frequently found himself out of position.  I'm not too worried about this -- doubt we'll see a backcourt like this during the season.
  • Ridley is a hungry, hungry man. We need to feed him.
  • Jo Ho looks great out there. He made some great moves to the basket and looked noticeably faster.
  • Holland is still our best on-ball defender. But here is where it gets interesting -- Holland flashed some offensively in this game. He frequently took advantage of players over-rotating and was able to quickly get to the rim. There wasn't much of an outside shot, so this may be an indication of poor defense rather than great O, but if Holland can at least present himself as a threat the defense will have to respect that.
  • Ibeh -- most improved? Prince is a man out there, and on numerous possessions Prince decided to welcome Mr. Turner to school by forcibly backing his way to the basket. He managed to score on a few "non-dunks" and even made half of this FTs.

The Young Guns: Kendall Yancy, Demarcus Croaker & Isaiah Taylor

  • Yancy spent the entire time playing the 2, and looked "solid". No highlight plays, but I anticipate him seeing quite a few minutes against smaller teams. His skill set popped when the opposing side went zone -- quick cuts, crisp passing.
  • Croaker came to impress. He made a few defensive plays, and on one occasion sky'd over Holmes for a big rebound. His athleticism still pops on the court.
  • Taylor (full 24 minutes) -- He's noticeably less frenetic on the court, and made some great mid range shots. The crowd made some noticeable "oohs" & "ahhs" on a beautiful drive, spin, and finish.

The Next Gen: Jordan Barnett & Myles Turner

  • Barnett is a player. He made some outside shots, and deserves to see the court. I didn't notice too many defensive breakdowns, and against the Super Big lineup zone, Barnett, Yancy, and Croaker destroyed the zone with great cuts, and a willingness to shoot from the outside and from the elbow.
  • Finally -- Mr. Myles Turner. The talent is real. The thing that stood out most is how different his skill set is than anyone on the team. His mid-range game is silky smooth and he was consistently hitting 8-10 foot shots. He's got a great turn around move when he's close to the basket, and on one play went from the three-point line to the bucket with two dribbles. The downside is he's still a freshman, and when asked to defend Ibeh he struggled inside, and needs to work on his hand strength. There were quite a few rebounds that Turned tried to grab with one hand, and even more occasions when Turner popped  perfectly to the middle of the zone, and wasn't able to cleanly field the pass.

The big takeaways:

This team's size is going to be very fun to watch, and we have guys who can hit an outside shot, but our size and our shooting are a somewhat mutually exclusive.  I'm curious to see how Barnes develops his backcourt to effectively pull defensives away from the paint.

The Turner-Ridley combo needs some work, but it's a beauty to watch Turner catch the ball at the free-throw line and either shoot (which he can comfortably make) or dish to Ridley who is very willing to dunk.

Taylor is the guy this year -- we need him healthy. Javan has shown he can step in and play, but Rick Barnes teams need great point play.

After the scrimmage Barnes set up a series of situational plays -- eight seconds to go and you are at the free-throw line, four seconds to go from out of bounds -- these types of things. We executed a few these quite well, but on a few occasions didn't even get off a shot. Let's hope we work out the kinks before one of those situations matters.

Today's scrimmage was a rough, and probably unrealistic sketch of how the games will go. But I'm impressed by the offensive flow, and our size on defense. I haven't been this excited for a basketball season in some time -- I'm looking forward to watching these guys grow and I'll see you at the Drum.

Bonus

So, Damarcus Croaker this has those crazy hops: