Texas: The sleeping giant?

Texas basketball has been on a good run since the late 80’s when Tom Penders was coach, and Rick Barnes has elevated the program to an even higher level since he took over in 1998. Although I have the general feeling that Barnes has underachieved considering the talent he’s had, there is no doubt the Longhorns have been trending up for awhile.

"Hey Bill, how many Kevin Durants have you put in the league?" Image courtesy zimbio.com.

One of the reasons for this is that Barnes has been scoring victory after victory on the recruiting trail. While winning there doesn’t always correlate to winning on the court, the number of players he has put in the NBA, and the success of two in particular, should ensure that Texas keeps piling up the blue chip recruits.

High-profile recruit Archie Goodwin recently scratched Baylor off his list in part because they play a 2-3 zone, and he had figured this didn’t bode well for his NBA stock. Craig pointed out that Syracuse, which also primarily plays a 2-3 zone, has had no trouble getting high-profile recruits most likely because Jim Boehiem has put players into the NBA.

Kids want to get to the league. Who wouldn’t want to make millions and get to join LeBron’s pre-game dance party? A school’s track record of putting players in the league is obviously an enormous pull.

Obviously there are other factors too, such as the “forge my own legacy” idea of playing at a school with little history or the hometown discount. And of course if you are related to Mike Anderson or any of his close friends you go play for him. Though I think that pool of recruits is drying up.

Then there is the chicken or the egg situation of the prestigious programs. Do highly-ranked recruits choose UCLA/North Carolina/Kentucky/etc. because they have rich histories? Or do they go there because many of great players that have created those rich histories end up in the NBA? It’s probably a combination of both, but for high school kids the allure of the NBA has to be strong.

Consider Texas’ recent run of players making it to the league:

  • 2007: Daniel Gibson, LaMarcus Aldridge
  • 2008: Kevin Durant
  • 2009: D.J. Augustin
  • 2010: Avery Bradley, Damion James, Dexter Pittman
  • 2011: Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton, Corey Joseph
Now there is a lot of NBA riff-raff on that list. But Durant and Aldridge are among the best players in the league, and although that isn’t necessarily solely a product of them going to Texas, their big success is very effective and very free advertising for the program.

Now compare this to Kansas’ results over the same time:

  • 2007: None
  • 2008: Julian Wright
  • 2009: Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson, Brandon Rush
  • 2010: Xavier Henry, Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins
  • 2011: Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris

Both schools have put ten players in the league since 2007. And many of those players have thus far played bit roles for their respective teams.

Texas, however, has the good fortune of having had two of their players skyrocket. I don’t think that this means Barnes has a built-in advantage anytime he goes against Bill Self for a recruit. And Kansas’ long-history and former players that have made the league aren’t going away.But it looks like it could somewhat even the playing field for Texas, and allow recruits to look past their lack of great history and “blueblood” status.

Take Myck Kabongo, the 5-star point guard in Texas’ incoming class, for example. He chose Texas over Kentucky, which has put 71 players in the NBA and ABA and North Carolina, which has put in 76.

Each program has also had their fair share of recent players find success in the NBA, like Rajon Rondo and Ty Lawson. Now I can’t get inside the head of Kabongo, but I’d reason that Texas’ recent string of NBA players, especially Aldridge and Durant, helped put them on the same level as UK and NC in the first place.

Texas already has great resources and a television network that could play a part in boosting recruiting. Barnes is also clearly a skilled recruiter, and that skill is paying dividends and should continue to do so. It all adds up to Texas being a sleeping basketball giant.

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5 Responses to Texas: The sleeping giant?

  1. CST says:

    “Hey Rick, how many NCAA tournament games did you guys win that year?”

  2. L. Payne says:

    Bring Louisville into the Big XII, and Texas will want to stick to football. Texas has VASTLY underachieved in basketball.

    • GPM says:

      Oh yeah I agree. It might sound wrong that winning as much as they have equals underachieving, but they got one tournament win with Kevin Durant. I know he was young…but still come on.

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