• One-and-Dones hurting Texas

    Jordan Hamilton is gone. Tristan Thompson is gone. Cory Joseph is gone. 

    What, you expected otherwise?

    The one-and-done been the norm for Texas the past few years. And that’s not going to change, so long as Rick Barnes is still inking five-star after five-star and the Longhorns bow out early year after year.

    Granted, it’s never really a bad thing to be signing prep All-Americans. And it’s a testament to how far the Texas program has come in the past decade and a half that it can get the best players in the nation to come play in Austin. But when multiple top-five recruiting classes don’t translate to final finishes in the top four, or top eight, or top 16…or top 32 (you get the picture), then what’s the point? The supreme talent Barnes brings to Austin every August just ends up leaving in April and May, with nothing to show for it but the skid marks of a once-promising season coming to a screeching halt.

    It wasn’t always like this, because Texas didn’t start recruiting and signing “superstars” until a little over ten years ago. T.J. Ford took Texas to the Final Four in 2003, then left with two seasons of eligibility remaining. A few years later, LaMarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson and P.J. Tucker all declared for the draft after an Elite Eight appearance. Aldridge has flourished in the league, Gibson has settled into a nice role as a spot-up shooter in Cleveland (though his ceiling seemed to be much higher when he first came to Texas) and Tucker was a complete disappointment professionaly, now coming to an Italian arena game near you. Kevin Durant left after his freshman year (no arguing that), D.J. Augustin left after his sophomore year — a good, not great, point guard now with the Bobcats — and last year, Avery Bradley left after a relatively unremarkable individual year.

    Bradley, if you remember, came to Texas billed as the No. 1 high school player in the nation. Ahead of DeMarcus Cousins. Ahead of Derrick Favors. Ahead of, yes, John Wall. So all Bradley did was put up around 12 points a game, wildly underachieving any expectations the Longhorns’ fan base might have set for him. Bradley spurned the opportunity to get better and realize his potential in college, jumped to the draft, missed out on the lottery, was picked up by the Boston Celtics at No. 19, played a large chunk of the season in the Developmental League and, as I sit in front of my TV watching Boston play Miami in the Eastern Conference Semifinals,  is nowhere to be found on the court. In fact, Bradley hasn’t played in a game since April 17.

    A classmate of Bradley’s in 2009, Jordan Hamilton returned for his sophomore year and greatly improved his game. That Hamilton is now moving on the NBA — where he should be selected in the lottery and should also be a top scorer on any team in the league — should not upset any orange blood.

    Neither should the departure of Tristan Thompson. Thompson was a five-star recruit and still managed to exceed expectations this past season for Texas. Sure, his game could benefit from another year or so in college, but he has been guaranteed first-round money. To argue that Thompson is dumb for not returning for another year here at Texas would just be selfish, because Thompson is ready.

    But Cory Joseph, sadly, is not. In fact, Joseph declaring for the draft a few days ago is incredibly similar to Bradley’s mishap. Like Bradley, Joseph was a five-star recruit. Like Bradley, Joseph looks to be a bit of a point guard/two-guard tweener. Like Bradley, Joseph can play good defense and has a plus jump shot. But also like Bradley, Joseph didn’t meet freshman expectations (11 points a game), and could greatly benefit from another year in school, working on his skills and his body. ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted last week that he thought Joseph “could be on the D-League All-Rookie team this year.”

    As I sit here on my couch, I understand that I would seem not a good judge to offer my insight on any decision dealing with millions of dollars. No, there are no New York Timeses or Boston Globes calling to offer me lucrative contracts. I know what it’s like to be a college student, yes, but I do not know how hard it may be to say “no” to six or seven figures. I also know I often wake up and wish I didn’t have to go to class (about every day.) So there is no blaming, on my part, of any student-athlete who elects to follow their dream, earn some money, ditch the textbooks, and enter the NBA draft. It’s their call, and if they flame out in the league, it will be completely their fault (looking at you, P.J. Tucker.)

    With that said, I just don't understand why Barnes keep taking these ready-to-go kids. It’s not like they’re helping bring his program to the Promised Land — four out of five years without even a Sweet 16 appearance. And it accounts to some seriously scary roster turnover, unless you believe that a frontline of Clint Chapman and Alexi Wangmene will in fact be a formidable one.

    If Barnes wants to really earn that $200,000 pay raise he just received, he’d be smart to re-evaluate his recruiting practices. He shouldn’t completely stop going after the super recruit, the nearly-inevitable one-and-done, because most national champions usually have one or two great players on their team, and you never know when some of the best players in the country will elect to return to school (Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, Baylor’s Perrry Jones — all highly regarded by NBA minds, all returning for their sophomore season this fall.) Nationally recognized players also bring their schools national attention. Whatever Kevin Durant did for Texas in his time here and whatever his legacy will do for Texas in the hereafter has extraordinary significance.

    But Barnes should start placing more value on the high-character role players, guys he knows will stick around for at least a couple of seasons, improve every year, buy into the program, and develop as leaders. Gary Johnson was that player last year. Texas needs more guys like that if it ever hopes to develop as a yearly national championship contender.

    So as soon as the one-and-dones stop using Austin as an eight-month long layover on their way to the NBA, the Longhorns will be able to field a consistent, synergized roster. That should equal more success.

    Until then? Don’t expect much, other than disappointing finales, fleeting memories, and awkward goodbyes.

  • Joseph to remain in NBA draft

    Cory Joseph is staying in the NBA Draft, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Joseph, a freshman guard who averaged 10.4 points per game this year for the Longhorns, is not currently projected to be a first-round draft pick.
    In fact, earlier this week ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted this:

    “Hurts me to say this but Texas’ Corey (sic) Joseph could be on D-League All-Rookie team next year.”

    But with a weak draft pool — several marquee players have elected to stay in school — and a strong showing this weekend at a NBA feature camp hosted by the New Jersey Nets, Joseph could move up some draft boards if he continues to impress.

    Joseph becomes the most recent Longhorn to officially declare for the NBA draft, following Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton. 

  • NBA commentary: This year's Mavericks team is different

    Hey Mavs fans remember '06? We got so excited, the Mavs were going to win their first ever championship, but then they choked away the series, something many of us still haven’t come to terms with.

    Remember '07? That was the year when they won 67 games, Dirk was MVP, and were the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs. But then it all quickly came to an end as they choked again, losing in six games to the eight-seeded Golden State.

    Remember just last year when they were the No. 2 seed and everybody had hope? They had Caron Butler, and Roddy B was a beast. But as is typical for the Mavs they chocked again and couldn’t even get past the first round against an ancient and decrepit, Spurs team.

    So when the Mavs went into the playoffs this year as the No. 3 seed, Mavs fans knew to not get their hopes up. Although it’s like the Mavs can feel the doubt from the Dallas metroplex, and they have finally responded.

    This team is up 2-0 on the two time defending champion Lakers, and if you were just watching the screen with no previous NBA knowledge, you would think the Mavs were champs.

    The team is playing with more heart and desire than in years past and you can see the determination not to fail again in their faces. This was evident after they blew a 23 point lead in the first round against the Blazers in game four, and did not quit, instead winning games five and six to advance.

    This change can partly be attributed to Tyson Chandler, and the toughness he brings to the team. Plus Chandler brings with him an emphasis on defense, and the leadership skills to back it up and enforce it.

    However I think the change goes even deeper than that. I believe that this roster of 30 something former all-stars, with a combined zero championship rings, has finally decided that this year might be their best and final chance to really win a title, and it shows.

    So when the Lakers come out tonight with their hair on fire, and get up quickly by 10, Mavs fans shouldn’t be concerned like in years past. Because this team is different, it won’t choke or make excuses and complain to the refs. They’ll put their heads down and play Mavericks’ basketball, which unlike in years past starts with defense.

  • Baseball Rapid Reaction: Prairie View A&M 0 - Texas 8

    Some notes after Texas’ 8-0 win over the Panthers:

    Nathan Thornhill (2-0) pitched five perfect innings in his first career start. No need for the freshman pitcher to go a full nine innings though, not against a 23-18 team, and not when his previous career high for innings pitched in a game was two.

    It won’t help his average, but Paul Montalbano (who went 0-for-2) had two sacrifice flies for the Longhorns. And a few days after his 15-game hitting streak was snapped, Erich Weiss rebounded with a 2-for-4 day at the plate, with 2 RBI.

    The announced paid attendance was 5,713, but it looked more like 57. What, a mid-week Texas vs. Prairie View A&M game isn’t a big draw? Who knew.

    Jordan Etier turned in a nice, 1-for-3, 1 RBI performance, but his highlight of the day was the sensational defensive stop he made in the seventh inning. P-View A&M’s James Rodriguez hit a quick grounder near second base, and it looked like it might roll through for a hit. But Etier roamed to his right, made a sliding stop, bobbled the ball, recovered it, and then made a strong throw just in time to beat Rodriguez to first.

    The win gives the No. 6 Longhorns a 34-11 record. 

  • Where have all the Rangers shirts gone?

    Remember when the Rangers made the World Series? It wasn't that long ago. Suddenly everyone in Austin cared about baseball. No matter where you went in October, the Rangers were being discussed. 

    People were wearing Rangers gear. After each round of the playoffs, the different shirts popped up. Those weird and random shirts with the antlers and the hand were all over the place.

    Now...not so much.

    Where did all the Rangers fans go? We are one month into the 2011 season and the Rangers continue to win, yet all the shirts and caps are gone.

    Come on! Don't do this again. Don't wait until the playoffs again when you actually start caring.

    It is ridiculous to see more Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs gear being worn around campus than that of the Rangers or Astros.

    I guess there is a reason that the Astros logo is harder to find than Osama Bin Laden, but that is because the team is terrible. Only a brave few, including myself, are able to walk out in the sunlight wearing an Astros shirts. That's a little more understandable.

    But the dust needs to come off the Rangers clothes. Or else once again, people are going to continue to have legitimate reasons to not be too keen about Dallas fans.