Putting pro career on hold, Kabongo ready for sophomore season


Lawrence Peart

Myck Kabongo passed on a opportunity to play in the NBA to return to Texas. The sophomore will lead a young Longhorns team as he tries to improve his game for the next level.

Christian Corona

When Myck Kabongo was contemplating whether or not he should leave for the NBA after one year at Texas or return for his sophomore season, he enlisted the help of his teammates to make a decision.

“I asked all of those guys if they wanted me to be here,” Kabongo said. “They said that, without a doubt, they wanted me back. If you get that from your teammates, you can’t let them down and leave. I asked every single one of them when it was time to make that decision if they wanted me back, and they all said yes. It was pretty easy after that.”

A week before leading scorer J’Covan Brown announced his intentions to go pro, Kabongo announced his plans to come back and play for the Longhorns for at least another year. He averaged 9.6 points and a team high of 5.2 assists per game last year, which ended in the Longhorns getting ousted after one game in the NCAA tournament, a loss to Cincinnati.

“It’s about winning,” Kabongo said. “Being part of a winning club is all I want to do, and that’s why I came back, so I could bring my talents to the table and everyone else could bring theirs together and we could do something special.”

Kabongo had another reason for returning to the 40 Acres — bulking up. He felt he was talented enough to hold his own at the next level but saw the need to fill his 6-foot-1-inch, 180-pound frame.

“At the next level, those guys are much stronger,” Kabongo said. “It’s not a boys’ league. It’s a men’s league. You’ve got to be strong. I thought I wasn’t ready physically. Talent-wise, I thought I was ready, but physically I wasn’t ready for the NBA.”

This time last year, Kabongo was a five-star prospect coming out of Findlay Prep High School in Toronto as the second-best point guard prospect in the country, according to ESPN. Now with Brown pursuing a professional basketball career, Kabongo is among the team’s most experienced players. The Longhorns have 11 scholarship players: six freshmen and five sophomores. Four of those six first-year players are at least 6-foot-8-inches.

“We’ve got a really long team,” 6-foot-9-inch freshman forward Connor Lammert said. “With the guys we have returning, they’ll bring the experience. We definitely brought a lot of height in here.”

Without Brown, though, Texas will be much more balanced on offense. When the Longhorns need a bucket in the final minutes of a game, there won’t be only one guy everyone will look to take that shot anymore.

“We did look for J’Covan at the end to score, but I think this year we have a lot more options, especially down low with [freshmen] Prince [Ibeh] and Cameron [Ridley],” sophomore guard Sheldon McClellan, the Longhorns’ second-leading scorer last season, said. “They’re going to be big offensive threats, so it won’t just be one person scoring. It’ll be a number of people.”

Fortunately for Texas, it was also a number of people that helped convince Kabongo to put his NBA aspirations on hold for at least another year.

Printed on Friday, September 28, 2012 as: Kabongo to carry heavier load