Rick Barnes’ first priority to keep talent on the team, Myck Kabongo’s decision on his future has major implications for Texas

Wes Maulsby

The season is over and it's time to look to the future. There is no question that this campaign was a disappointing one for Texas and for its fans. A wide open Big 12 that saw three teams lose in the round of 64 was there for the taking with Texas nowhere. Now the next challenge for head coach Rick Barnes has begun: keeping the current roster together.

Texas saw its first departure last week when sophomore forward Jaylen Bond made the decision to transfer before Texas’ game against Houston in the CBI.

Barnes has to find a way to keep the talent on campus if Texas is going to be more successful next season, which means keeping sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo from going to
the NBA.

When his suspension ended, Kabongo provided an instant spark to a listless team. Suddenly there were lanes to drive in and the outside shooters had more space with easier shots. He could create his own offense off the dribble with the ability to go left or right while attacking the rim. He pulled defenders away from Sheldon McClellan, who had some of his best performances in late-game situations near the end of the season. Losing Kabongo would put Texas in roughly the exact same situation it was in to start this season. It would leave the Longhorns without a primary ball handler who could stay on the court for over 30 minutes without seeing his productivity drop.

Kabongo has a case supporting his jump to the NBA. He was the key spark that allowed Texas to win games against Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor at the end of the season. He is very capable of getting to the rim to either draw a foul, distribute the ball or go for the layup. His is also a savvy presence who brought cohesion to a lost team when he returned from his suspension.

But he also has some aspects to keep developing. He gets his pocket picked too often in college, which will evolve to being mugged on every trip to the lane in the NBA. While he can get to the rim, his finishing still needs work, as was evident in his 0-12 performance against Texas Tech.

Kabongo will have a tough decision to make in the next few weeks. If he declares for the draft there would be a very good chance for him to be picked up by someone. But if he were to return to school he could continue to work on his game and turn a possible second-round selection into a lottery pick.