• The big miss

    What could have been? Swope caught 89 passes last season.
    What could have been? Swope caught 89 passes last season.

    Good thing they make white-out, because while filling out my Big 12 Media Preseason Football team, I had one Swope, Ryan, occupying the top wide receiver spot.

    And then, oops, I remembered Swope is an Aggie and the Aggies are now, surreally, in the Southeastern Conference. I settled on Baylor's Terrance Williams and Oklahoma's Kenny Stills, but neither are better than Swope.

    Then, if you so choose, you can remember that Swope grew up a Longhorn fan, tore up 5A competition for years as a running back and returner at Westlake High School -- an All-State back and 25-5A offensive MVP who ran for 1,826 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior -- was not offered a scholarship by Texas and signed with Texas A&M.

    Big mistake. Big, big mistake.

    Because what if I told you 11 of the 20 players Texas signed in 2009 either quit, transferred or were kicked off the team before their eligibility expired? Or that the only running back taken, Chris Whaley, has since moved to defensive tackle? Or the only receiver taken, Greg Timmons, never saw the field at Texas and spent the last fall catching passes at East Central Community College.

    Meanwhile, Swope has done the following in three seasons:

    180 receptions, 2,204 yards, 16 touchdowns.

    His 89 catches for 1,207 yards as a junior were both single-season school records. Swope decided to return for his senior season -- more egg in Texas' face, because the Longhorns have only had four receivers drafted to the NFL the last 10 years.

    You could look at Swope and divine that he never would have been the same player at Texas. A valid argument considering the problems the Longhorns have had developing receivers recently. However, even primarily playing running back in high school, Swope flashed the tools necessary to play wideout: he placed fifth at the 5A State track meet as a junior with a time of 10.7 in the 100-meter dash, caught 44 balls for 982 yards and 11 touchdowns in two years and spent his sophomore season at free safety, covering wide receivers for State Finalist Westlake.

    No way Swope or stud Auburn receiver Emory Blake should have slipped out of Texas' grasp -- and it is considered an embarrassment that a program that prides itself on recruiting overlooked two city stars. This isn't the same thing as not offering Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. Luck was a heavy Stanford lean, and RG3's father told me at the NFL draft in April that his son never really considered playing at Texas because he wanted to make his own imprint (and plus, Texas had dialed in on Garrett Gilbert, the best high school quarterback in state history). Luck and Griffin III going No. 1 and No. 2 in the Draft is just kind of bad luck.

    But for a kid to grow up bleeding orange, put up major numbers at a power high school 10 miles from campus, get spurned, sign with the rival school, shatter school records and appear on a who's who of the nation's best wide receivers?

    It's a great, big mess, and an even bigger miss.  

  • Four Longhorns begin pro careers

    Jonathan Walsh's pro career is off and running.
    Jonathan Walsh's pro career is off and running.

    Four Longhorns were drafted in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, and they have all signed with their new professional teams.

    Hoby Milner, Jonathan Walsh and Sam Stafford -- who was drafted in the second round last year by the Yankees, failed to sign because of shoulder problems then missed his would-be senior season because of said problems -- each decided to forgo their last college season. Austin Dicharry, whose collegiate career was marred by injuries, was rather lucky to be drafted by the Nationals in the 24th round.

    Milner, drafted in the sixth round by the Phillies, was 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in one short season with Williamsport in the New York-Pennsylvania League. Milner, who projects as a reliever, struck out seven and walked two in 5 2/3 innings pitched. He's since progressed to Class-A Lakewood, where he yielded four earned in one start -- resulting in an ERA of 12.00.

    The Los Angeles Angels nabbed Walsh in the 11th round, and while it wasn't easy to pass up his final season, the outfielder knew he had to take the money while he could.

    "I love Texas, but it was time for me to go, with how the draft works," Walsh said via text.

    Walsh saw teammates Cole Green and Kevin Lusson turn down professional offers after their junior seasons, only to see their draft slot drop a year later. Green turned down a $300,000 signing bonus from the Detroit Tigers in 2010. He was picked five rounds later in 2011, a big drop-off in money. Lusson went undrafted this past June.

    Through 13 games with the Orem Owlz in short-season rookie ball, Walsh is hitting .244 with two homers. In 50 games with the Longhorns as a junior, Walsh hit six home runs.

    "I started out hot, but had a tough last week," Walsh said. "But I'm loving [not having to hit at Disch-Falk Field] for sure."

    Stafford hasn't recorded any Minor League stats, as he's still rehabbing from season-ending shoulder surgery. It's a pleasant surprise that he was drafted in the 13th round by the Rangers, despite missing a full season and having a shoulder complication previously red-flagged so much by the Yankees that they couldn't agree to terms.

    If Stafford can get healthy and then pitch to his capabilities, it wouldn't surprise anybody within the Texas program one bit if he becomes a top-three starter. He's left-handed, which is a plus, and he has such dynamic stuff -- which at times was better than Taylor Jungmann's in 2011.

    Dicharry, a senior, actually improved his draft stock between this year and last. The Phillies took a flier on Dicharry in the 41st round in '11, as he pitched just one inning because of nagging shoulder injury. He made some money this season with a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings pitched.

    In three relief appearances with the Nationals rookie squad in the Gulf Coast League, Dicharry has allowed one earned run on two hits in five innings pitched, with five strikeouts. 

  • Watching Huston Street receive his All-Star invitation

    Huston Street picks up his twelfth save of the year Sunday against the Rockies.
    Huston Street picks up his twelfth save of the year Sunday against the Rockies.

    Huston Street, the former national champion at Texas and current closer for the San Diego Padres, received his first All-Star nomination Sunday while in Denver for a series against the Rockies.

    Many felt that third baseman Chase Headley deserved to be the lone representative from the Padres, but with Giants fans stuffing the ballot box and getting Pablo Sandoval into the starting lineup, David Wright was chosen as the backup third baseman -- though, with a .354 batting average and 50 RBIs, he is a candidate for National League MVP -- and there was suddenly no place for Headley.

    Street entered the day with 11 saves, and ended it with 12. He has only pitched 21 innings, but this was, as much as anything, a recognition of Street's career. He's 10th among active pitchers with 190 career saves, and finished in the top-10 in the category in his division in 2006 and '09. He won the American League Rookie of the Year award in '05. He's only played on two postseason squads, though, so he flies under the radar.


    Anyways, here's how it went down (Note: I was covering the Padres for MLB.com this past weekend. What timing!):

    With trade rumors swirling -- the Mets have called about Street -- I wasn't quite sure what to think when I saw the closer being called into manager Bud Black's office early Sunday.

    Then Street came out with a puzzled look on his face, cup of coffee in his right hand, and the media relations guy began waving us over and whispering closely (here's where he's telling me Huston Street just got traded, I thought) and instead I heard the words: "Huston Street just got...

    "Selected to his first All-Star game. Don't tweet it yet."

    OK, so the secret had to be kept for the next 10 minutes or so. Some of the Padres gathered in front of the selection show on TBS and began watching. With a cellar status in the National League West, they knew there'd only be one of them chosen.

    Street stood at his locker, keeping the secret to himself. When a holographic image of himself appeared on the TV screen, his teammates erupted. Shouted Mark Kotsay, "How long have you f***** known?!?"

    Embarrassed, Street accepted hugs from his teammates, then expressed how much of an honor -- an unexpected honor -- it was to a very small pack of reporters.

    "It's the Midsummers Classic, I grew up watching it. It's overwhelming -- I don't think it's sunk in yet."

    Former Rockies teammate Matt Belisle, also a native of Austin, left a yellow note on Street's locker congratulating him. Street pitched for the Rockies for three seasons, amassing 84 saves. He was dealt to San Diego in the offseason, a salary-dump trade from which he harbors no ill will. It's been a tough year for the Padres (30-50), who haven't given Street much of an opportunity to save games. A stint on the 15-day disabled list didn't help, either. Since returning on June 5, Street has eight saves and one win.

    "Every year, you're realistic about [his All-Star chances]," Street said. "You know when you have a shot and when you don't. I've had a few years where I thought, 'Maybe this was the year.'"

    It never was, not until yesterday.


    "I told Huston this is deserving, even though he might not have the save totals of other guys, that his career has been indicative of All-Star work," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "There's been seasons where at this point I'm sure he's been in very strong consideration, and to never have been picked is surprising." 

  • J'Covan Brown not drafted -- should he have stayed?

    Despite leading the Big 12 in points per game, J'Covan Brown went undrafted.
    Despite leading the Big 12 in points per game, J'Covan Brown went undrafted.

    As the Beaumont Press reported Thursday night, former Texas guard J'Covan Brown -- who went undrafted in this year's NBA Draft -- will join the Miami Heat as a free agent.


    Brown will play for the team in the NBA's summer league, beginning July 8.


    Despite not being selected in the 60 picks, Brown, who left after his junior season, told the Beaumont Enterprise that he had no regrets about leaving early.


    And he shouldn't. Brown has a daughter to care for and another child the way. He wasn't going to get any better in college -- unless he grew a few inches between May and October. And it was a down year for point guards; for the first time since 2006, there wasn't a true point taken with the first five picks.


    Brown played mostly shooting guard in college, but because of his size he projects to a point guard -- or a combo -- in the NBA. Brown certainly could have come back to college to again put up monstrous numbers, but he would have still been playing at two-guard with Myck Kabongo in the fold, eliminating any chance to prove his worth at the point.


    Looking closely, Brown and Austin Rivers, the Duke guard selected No. 10 by New Orleans, put up similar numbers and both have a gunslinger approach. Also, both were two-guards in college who will likely begin at point guard in the pros:


    Rivers: 43 percent from FG (174-for-402), 36 from 3-point (58-for-159), 3.4 rebounds per game, 2.1 assists, 2.3 turnovers.


    Brown: 42 percent from FG (223-for-535), 37 from 3-point 80-for-217), 3.4 rebounds per game, 3.8 assists per game, 2.7 turnovers.


    So what makes one undrafted and the other a lottery pick? Rivers is 6'4" with a NBA pedigree. Brown is 6'1" with a streaky history of hot-headeness.


    Very little would have changed if Brown decided to stay for his senior season. The point-guard pool will be deeper, he'd be a year older -- of the last 240 first-round draft choices, spanning back to 2005, only 10 selections have been senior point guards. (And if you're going to make the "He could improve at shooting guard!" argument: there hasn't been a sub-6'1" shooting guard drafted in the first round the last 10 years). Plus, Texas's dependency on Brown to shoot was going to drive his efficiency numbers into the ground.


    Brown's game never translated well to the professional level, where it's unlikely he'll be able to blow past his opponent as easily, inflate his numbers by dominating the rock or get to the rack with as much consistency. He'll get his shot with Miami, and that's good for him, but it's probably not the best fit; the Heat need a distributor, mostly, not somebody to sap shots from James, Wade and Bosh.


    Remember J'Covan Brown for this: a scoring savant with a knack for playing best when it mattered most -- 21 points per game in four career NCAA tournament games -- and not as some fool who left college a year early and then went undrafted.


    He really had nothing left to prove, and not much to gain.