Can Kabongo’s return make an impact?

Wes Maulsby

It’s been no secret that Texas has not been the best of teams so far this season. Fresh off a 13-point loss to Oklahoma State, the  Longhorns now sit six games back of Kansas State and need a bona fide miracle to even reach the NIT as they have virtually no shot at the Big Dance.

But it is not all doom and gloom in Austin.

Myck Kabongo will not only return for Wednesday’s game against Iowa State, but in the words of Rick Barnes, there’s “no doubt he has to start.” 

Barnes has clearly not been satisfied with his team’s performances, going as far as sitting Sheldon McClellan for all but one minute when Texas first played Iowa State.

Kabongo’s return could be the kind of shot in the arm that Texas needs. He could come in and fix the most turnover-prone team in the Big 12. Texas also ranks eighth in the Big 12 in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. Kabongo doesn’t have to come in and be anything spectacular, he just has to come in and be able to guide the offense more efficiently and cut down on turnovers.

Texas needs help and Kabongo can certainly provide it, but it remains to be seen if he will. He averaged one turnover every 10 minutes  during his freshman season and any improvement would make a very significant difference for this team. But we are not talking about a fifth-year senior. We’re talking about another sophomore. While he may be the most talented sophomore on the team, he doesn’t provide any more experience or savvy that isn’t already there.

Kabongo has likely spent the last week getting properly anxious with his first action in nearly a year fast approaching.

“I have a great team, and they have supported me all year. I believe I am a better teammate and am looking forward to finishing the season with my team.” Kabongo said in a statement released by Texas on Monday. “I am ready to start playing with my team again and putting behind me the last several months.”

Speaking of the last several months, there was a reason that Kabongo hasn’t played yet this season. The interaction he had with an agent may not have been that bad in the long run, but lying to the University is a cardinal sin. Even if it was a mistake to some extent, he still interacted with an agent in the offseason. Texas fans should not be surprised by its players leaving early for the NBA when they are not sure-fire lottery picks in the NBA Draft. 

If Kabongo had planned on going to the NBA after this season anyway, how much dedication will he have to the remaining eight regular season games? If he’s committed to the team, Texas could make some turnaround with a decent tourney run somewhere. But if he isn’t,  Texas could continue to struggle in what may become a lost season in the Barnes era. We’ll have to wait until Wednesday to see which is the case.