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March 12, 2008

Hoops Locker Room

The Texas Longhorns will be boarding a plane shortly on their way to Kansas City for the Big 12 tournament as the No. 1 seed. The No. 6-ranked Longhorns will take on the winner of Texas Tech and Oklahoma State Friday at 11:30am. That means Selection Sunday is right around the corner and the Longhorns have positioned themselves to receive a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance.

In this weeks Hoops locker room, potential fatigue of D.J. Augustin, the question of play down the stretch and recruiting take center stage.

Q: With the loss at Tech, then they get blown-out by Kansas, and a close one against Nebraska at home is there anything to worry about? Did we peak too early? Please assure me that Coach Barnes will have them back on track soon.

A:
I'm not one that believes in peaking too early or anything along those lines. This team is a tough one to figure and has been throughout the year. As well as they have played in a handful of wins this year, they have been the complete opposite in just as many. Consistency is the key and that isn't their strong suit.

For Texas to play at its highest level, production offensively from D.J. Augustin, A.J. Abrams, Damion James, Connor Atchley, Gary Johnson and Justin Mason have to be consistent. That means they all have to make plays and Texas has to put them in position to make plays using their strengths against match-ups. Neither has happened the last three games of the regular season.

Not that some quality minutes from Alexis Wangmene or Clint Chapman aren't needed, but the six players who score a very high percentage of the points have to deliver in the NCAA Tournament. If Texas has a problem as the competition gets tougher, it's the ability to score 75-80 points when they have to. Because this team doesn't create many easy transition baskets or baskets off of turnovers, it is forced to score too many points in the half court.

Q: How do you think getting a 2010 commit will impact 2008 or 2009? How confident can we feel about a commit so far in the future?

A:
Texas fans should feel very confident about the commit of Tristan Thompson. His mother accompanied him on the unofficial to Texas and they both felt very comfortable. He'll be back on campus the first couple of days of June for the Elite Camp.

Don't think the 2010 commit impacts the 2009 class at all. Texas is going after a point guard, and wing scorers in that class. If Texas hits on a couple of the main 2009 targets, they may only be at Texas for one year. Because Thompson is a combo forward at this point, he doesn't hurt 2009.

On the flip side, having Tristan Thompson on board already helps with the 2010 class. With his lofty status, he becomes a player Texas can build around in the class, which will likely be a four man class.

Q: When do you expect Jordan Hamilton to make a commitment?

A:
Hard to say for sure. Hamilton has maintained that he will take at least a couple more unofficial visits in the spring or early summer. I'll be surprised if he doesn't make a decision by the end of July.

Q: What recruit does Coach G have for next season and what do you think the Women's program's prospects are for next season?

A:
The women's team signed two versatile guards in Yvonne Anderson (out of Columbia, Mo) and Ashleigh Fontenette (out of Pflugerville Connally) as well as highly regarded power forward Ashley Gayle out of the Las Vegas area.

Coach Goestenkors wants to create as much ball pressure as possible and next year will have the required depth to be more consistent doing so. The depth gets a much needed shot in the arm and offensively Texas will have more ball handlers and play making ability instead of having to depend solely on Cortijo off the bounce.

Having the ability to put play makers on the court not only at point guard, but on the wings is key. The ability to attack from the wings equally will make Texas much tougher to defend.

Gayle, will bring shot blocking defensively, which is a must when constantly applying ball pressure on the perimeter or in trapping and pressing situations. Offensively, Gayle will bring a player with the ability to post with two feet in the paint to the program.

Q: Why didn't Rick put in Big Dex to bang on Maric in the Nebraska game? He may not be adept on defense but Connor needed some relief & Dex could have possibly drawn some fouls.

A:
Dexter Pittman, simply put, has to play better defense. The risk vs. reward at this point isn't seeing dividends. Because he hasn't finished around the basket at the rate he should, his minutes aren't productive enough to outweigh the negative on defense.

Texas should have isolated Gary Johnson at the elbow or in face up situations on the baseline against Maric in the six or seven possessions the big man was guarding Johnson. Texas would have had success testing Maric laterally and in recovery in those situations.

Q: I think it's pretty clear that D.J has logged a ton of minutes this year and he has had some issues with fatigue even if it is not apparent and he is a gamer so there is no worry about him breaking down. However, because he means so much to the team and he is the only one we have it raises at least one question about our depth issue at the PG position. Did losing Dogus Balbay really hurt as that much or are the early departure to the NBA causing us to have depth issues, because we cannot replenish as fast as they are leaving. Balbay would have been a true freshman this year anyway so in reality, he should be ridding the bench as an understudy and coming in during garbage time.

Second issue is how we are doing with respect to recruiting the top echeleon "bigs" that can come in and contribute right away as opposed to the projects - I do not mean this in a negative way - that we are recruiting that require at least one, maybe two years to develop?

Third issue is do you think this group has the capacity to go deep with the D.J situation? I am afraid he will tire during the course of all the pressure games he will have to play without any real rest.

A:
Balbay definitely hurt Texas at guard, period this year. He wasn't the average freshman because he has played in a lot of international tournaments against top flight competition. Even though he had reported to Austin late to due to playing with the Turkish 18 and under team, he had already shown that he would be a factor in the rotation and not just his individual minutes at point. He would have played the point, but it would have allowed for Augustin to play off the ball more and have two pure point guards on the floor. He was going to be a 10-15 minute per game player. Balbay strength's are on the ball defense and feel for the screen and roll, which would have put him on the floor more than many expected.

I don't think there will be a change in the Texas recruiting of big men. The big men that are instant impact guys are few and far between. Also, the offensive style that Texas appears to want to play now and in the future is centered around combo forwards and pick and pop big men. Not that Texas won't look to the post more in the coming years as Gary Johnson and Clint Chapman gain experience and strength (Chapman), but Texas wants a lot of versatility from their big men. I'll be surprised if Texas recruits a two feet in the paint center in the coming years unless he is a truly special talent they feel like they can get.

My feeling on Augustin is that he'll be fine as long as Texas doesn't play three games in three days in Kansas City this weekend. Not just Augustin, but Connor Atchley. Atchley has played more minutes and been asked to do much more than ever before.

As far as D.J., it's all about learning how to rest on the court, which he has done this year. His body is in much better shape to play big minutes and recover this year. It will be interesting to what happens this weekend, but playing him 32-minutes per game win or lose wouldn't be the worst idea in the world. There hasn't been a concern this year because of the way the games have set up in conference play, but the conference tournaments can take a toll on even the best players.


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