Texas Longhorns: Myck Kabongo
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas suffered its biggest loss of the season on the night it pulled off its biggest win.
Prior to the Longhorns' 85-67 victory over No. 23 North Carolina at the Frank Erwin Center, point guard Myck Kabongo was ruled ineligible for the season by the NCAA, barring an appeal, according to sources from within the Texas athletics department. The story was first reported by Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday night.
The loss of Kabongo put a serious dent in this young Texas team's chances of making a 16th consecutive NCAA tournament. But the win against the Tar Heels at least gives the 7-4 Longhorns some hope.
Playing with a true freshman point guard in Javan Felix and only freshmen and sophomores on the court, UT played the role of the aggressor, pushed the more talented and savvy Heels around, built a big lead and -- for the first time this season -- didn't crumble.
"There is process that every student-athlete goes through, and I can only tell you that process is not done. We are in the middle of that process," said Texas coach Rick Barnes of the Kabongo situation. "Every student-athlete is entitled to a process if something comes up, and that process is ongoing."
Kabongo has been under investigation for impermissible benefits concerning a workout that involved agent Rich Paul. According to sources, the penalty was so severe because Kabongo had been less than straightforward when the NCAA initially questioned him.
While Barnes refused to take further questions on Kabongo, North Carolina coach Roy Williams now has plenty of them about his team.
"It was like comedy of errors, except it wasn't very blankety-blank funny," Williams said.
The Tar Heels' defense refused to extend in the first half and allowed Texas to build a 19-point lead. That lead was aided by two straight surprising 3-pointers from Texas forward Jonathan Holmes. The sophomore had made only three shots from beyond the arc in his 10 previous games.
And North Carolina continued to back down for most of the night.
"They did a better job of pushing the pace and getting us back on our heels," Williams said. "It seems like they got every loose ball."
There were plenty of those to go around, as Carolina turned it over 18 times. Texas, typically not a solid transition team, scored 14 points off those turnovers.
"Coming into the game, coach Barnes preached to us to getting the ball out and getting back in transition, and that was our game plan along with rebounding -- and that was what we tried to do," Felix said.
"They outran a running team," is how Williams put it.
In fact, Texas struggled only when it went into half-court sets. Starting the second half, North Carolina started to value the basketball more and made more of an effort to keep the Texas offense in front of it. That, coupled with the aggressiveness of James Michael McAdoo (14 points, 9 rebounds) and Reggie Bullock (a career-high 13 rebounds), allowed UNC to cut the lead to four.
Given that Texas has been a team that has struggled down the stretch -- the Longhorns were outscored 13-2 down the stretch in a 65-63 loss to UCLA -- it appeared as if the tide had started to turn.
Until, that is, North Carolina neglected to communicate on defense and allowed Cameron Ridley to throw down an uncontested dunk to push the lead back to seven with 6 minutes, 35 seconds remaining.
"We were aggressive and moved the ball pretty well, and some guys knocked some shots down," Barnes said. "But this was a game we thought would be won in transition and on the boards."
Texas didn't win on the boards in the box score (North Carolina had 43 to the Horns' 40). But UT did win in second-chance points with 18, and in fast-break points with 14.
"We have had a couple of tough losses because we had not played as hard as we should," said Holmes, who finished with 15 points and 8 boards. "[Wednesday night], we came out and did what we had to do. We definitely set the bar high for the rest of the season."
Regardless of who might be with Texas for the rest of the season.
--HornsNation writer Max Olson contributed to this report
Myck Kabongo could be taking part in his first NBA training camp right now and not be the subject of an NCAA investigation into his relationship with a professional agent, which Yahoo! Sports first reported late Wednesday night.
But the Longhorns sophomore point guard didn’t want his last game in a Texas uniform to be a 65-59 loss to Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He wanted his legacy in Austin to be much more memorable than that and figured he could make that happen with at least one more season as a Longhorn.
The Big 12’s head coaches reminded everyone last week of the expectations he brings with him into the season by naming him to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team. But if the findings in the NCAA investigation cause him to miss time this season, those expectations could be tempered a bit.
Kabongo, a 2011-12 All-Big 12 honorable mention, started all 34 games last season as a true freshman. A pass-first point guard, he finished fourth in the league in assists per game (5.2), second on the team in steals (38) and third on the team in scoring (9.8 ppg).
He was expected to be the face of a program whose roster features just two seniors (both walk-ons) and no juniors. He is up to 180 pounds after adding 10 pounds of muscle this summer, and said he felt much better about being able to handle the rigors of an NCAA season.
“I thought I could use another year of college to get stronger,” he said. “Talent-wise I think I was ready to go. But physically and mentally it was a good thing for me to come back, get bigger and stronger, and build a bond with my teammates.”
Kabongo, a 2011-12 All-Big 12 honorable mention selection, started all 34 games last season as a true freshman. A pass-first point guard, he finished fourth in the league in assists per game (5.2), second on the team in steals (38) and third on the team in scoring (9.8 ppg).
“I think it is a testament to the coaching staff and the work that I’ve put in,” Kabongo said. “Just countless hours in the gym and you are seeing it pay off.”
Kabongo is joined on the team with Baylor’s Pierre Jackson, Kansas’ Jeff Withey, Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder and Oklahoma State’s Le’Bryan Nash.
“I just want to continue to get better,” he said. “I know it is a preseason honor and I am honored for it. But at the same time I know any of my teammates could have been on that list. So I’m just happy to be on the list.”
Fellow Longhorns sophomore Sheldon McClellan was named an Honorable Mention selection. He’s the team’s top returning scorer after averaging 11.3 points per game last season.
Jackson, Baylor’s point guard, was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Amath M’Baye (Oklahoma) was voted as the Preseason Newcomer of the Year and Flower Mound (Texas) Marcus’ Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) was tabbed the Preseason Freshman of the Year.
You might have to strain your neck a bit to notice.
Thanks to Texas’ incoming recruiting class, which is ranked No. 4 by ESPN, the Longhorns will have three players above 6-foot-10 on their roster.
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It was the lure of playing time.
Sterling Gibbs, a backup point guard has elected to transfer from Texas. The rising sophomore played sparingly as a freshman on a team that had just nine scholarship players.
Gibbs appeared in 30 games, but started none. He averaged 7.5 minutes and 2.6 points per game.
Gibbs is the second player to elect to leave Texas this offseason. Guard J'Covan Brown gave up his final year of eligibility to enter the draft. Texas was able to hang onto point guard Myck Kabongo and that undoubtedly played a large role in Gibbs’ decision to transfer.
Texas signed Javan Felix, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound point guard from Saint Augustine High in New Orleans, in the fall. Felix was already expected to be Kabongo’s backup or even run the floor with Kabongo on occasion. Felix is rated 72 in ESPN’s top 100 players.
With the departure of Gibbs, Texas has five players currently on scholarship and another five who signed letters of intent in the fall. The Longhorns also recently picked up a commitment from shooting guard DeMarcus Holland (Garland, Texas/Naaman Forest). Post player Cameron Ridley, a top 10-rated recruit, is also expected to sign his letter of intent when the spring signing period begins Wednesday.
That leaves Texas with 12 scholarship players. The Longhorns continues to hope to add one more to get to the maximum 13 -- small forward Devonta Pollard. The 6-foot-7 Pollard has Texas among his final four, but just recently completed a trip to Alabama and is headed to Georgetown this weekend. Pollard to ESPN’s TideNation he will make his decision when he returns from Georgetown.
1. Smith and Davis get offers: It was bound to happen sometime. Texas finally offered the two top in-state defense back prospects. Maurice Smith and Antwuan Davis were both in Austin for the Orange-White game. They got their offers Monday. Neither has committed, but at least the waiting is over for them. Whatever Longhorns defensive backs coach Duane Akina’s vetting process was, it must have been intense. However, maybe it was the right approach. There are few spots left and Texas can’t guess that its going after the right prospects. Furthermore, DB was such a huge area of need, and given the fact that luring two big prospects – Vonn Bell and Marcell Harris – out of SEC country would be no easy feat, getting the best in Texas was key.
Cole Luke, who visited this past weekend from Arizona, did not leave with an offer.
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Read the full chat here.
If you didn't get your question answered, submit them to the HornsNation mailbag.
Here's a little bit of what you missed in the chat:
Stephen (Seattle, WA)
With Quandre going down but it not being serious, this basically opens the door for whose going to be the #1 backup corner for us. Who do you see filling that role?
Josh turner is seeing time at that spot. Josh played some last year and was pretty good backing up Carrington. He was being used in some nickel as well this spring. The other guy to watch is Duke Thomas. He is young but has very good upside. I think you have four corners who are very good with Quandre and Carrington being two of the best in the B12.
John McCrary (Willis, TX)
Is there rumblings that we might see another two quarterback system this season or has Ash moved out in front of McCoy? Also, why is Ra’Shaad samples not committing to Texas yet?
Ash is the man for quarterback. They like him and may bring Case in for some plays or the third series of the game but Ash is going to be the guy. Samples is an odd one. Thought he was very close to committing coming out of junior day and then he backed off. Not sure what the reasoning for that is other than he wants to explore all his options.
What are the chances we get a commitment at or a few days after the spring game? Who are the few most likely to commit if offered? How soon do you expect Akina's scholarship decisions?
Akina and the DBs have been the biggest mystery of the recruiting season. He has been so tight with those schollies. I'm thinking there will be one or two commitments in the week that follows the spring game. And one of those is going to be a corner. Luke is coming all the way from Arizona so that could be the guy.
David J (Sugar Land Tx)
Swoops did enough to get his "golden ticket", but how do you think he will do vs the top QBs in the nation at the Elite 11 camp in Cali? Also how excited should Horn football fans be for the future Young/Newton -like signal caller? I know we won’t see him for at least 3 seasons, but the big guy might bring back some excitement to the position.
Swoopes really struggled in the NFTC. He is just not there yet as a passer. So when he goes up against guys with big arms, he is going to look like he does not belong. But what he has is upside and that is why Texas recruited him. He just needs to work out a few things. All the tools are there. But Texas needs to get him in, redshirt him and work out his throwing motion.
Chances J'Covan comes back? If he improves his consistency and gets into better shape I could see him improving his draft stock into somewhere in the middle to late second round so why not come back?
I really do not think he will come back but have been very wrong before (see Myck Kabongo). I don’t think his draft status will go up any. He does not have the game that captures the imagination of NBA scouts. I'm not saying he can't make it in the NBA. But if he does it is going to be by getting a few 10-day contracts and catching the eye of someone. There are too many guys who can score just like he does who are 6-5 and fast.
There’s still no news on that front. But it’s interesting to consider the possible lineups for next season. One version is Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Ridley, Julien Lewis and Jonathan Holmes. Four sophomores and a freshman. Not bad. NCAA tourney berths have probably been won with less. But when you think of having Brown in that lineup, this looks like a team that could make some noise in March, 2013. It’s a big if, but having Brown as the scorer he is, but also a guiding presence to the young guys suddenly make Texas a little deeper and certainly more explosive on offense. The ball is in Brown’s court.
2. Visitors welcome: It will be interesting to see who shows up for Sunday’s spring game. William Wilkerson reported that a trio of Lancaster (Texas) prospects, including Texas commit Daeshon Hall, will be there. This is surely the first of many reports about which prospects are coming to Austin. On top, there are said to be a number of sophomores who have also been invited.
As the schedule goes, that could determine where Texas stands with some 2013 prospects. LSU is holding its spring game Saturday and some Texas targets are attempting to attend both. Baton Rouge to Austin isn’t that difficult of a trip, but we’ll see if that has any bearing on landing anymore 2013 prospects this weekend.
3. Meetings, meetings: Hopefully college football fans aren’t holding their breaths waiting on anything to come from the BCS meetings. The meetings went on for more than seven hours Monday and continue. The conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick are meeting in Grapevine, Texas, and playoffs are amongst the things being discussed. SEC commission Mike Slive intimated that change could be a ways off. But, on the bright side, there are more meetings in April.
1. Raulerson vs. Prevot: It was a much-talked about showdown at Sunday’s Nike Football Training Camp in Dallas. Texas commit Jake Raulerson, who lined up in a variety of spots on offense, battled defensive end target Torrodney Prevot. Sure, they could soon be teammates if Prevot commits to Texas. They could even line up together on the same defensive line if Raulerson ends up on that side of the ball. At least for one afternoon, they were competitors, and HornsNation’s Max Olson took some videos of it. This is what these types of camps are all about -- best vs. best competition that you might not see elsewhere. Check out the video, play scout and weigh in on this matchup. More importantly, help us decide who won.
2. Many happy returns: One of the few Texas highlights of last season’s Red River Rivalry game was Fozzy Whittaker’s 100-yard kick return. Then Whittaker did it again the following week. It was just one of the many ways Whittaker contributed to the Longhorns before being injured. While Texas is set at running back, it needs to find the right guy to return kickoffs. After Whittaker’s injury, several candidate tried, but with minimal success.
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Join Carter Strickland at 2 p.m. CT to chat about spring football, the results from the Dallas NFTC and Elite 11 events and what lies ahead with Texas hoops now that Myck Kabongo will return.
Submit your questions here.
Remember to tune in at 2 p.m. CT.
1. Kabongo making noise: It’s finally some good news for the Texas Longhorns basketball team. The Longhorns narrowly made the NCAA tournament only to get bounced by Cincinnati in their first game. The season’s end left many UT supports wondering what next year’s team might look like since both freshman Myck Kabongo and junior J'Covan Brown were seen as borderline NBA prospects and could have elected to leave. Kabongo has silenced the rumors about his future, for at least a year after announcing today that he’ll be back for his sophomore season. How will this affect Brown’s decision? What might the Longhorns lineup look like next season? Those are just some of the threads in this forum post.
2. Recuits: Broad topic, broad question thrown out from the fans. What five undecided recruits does Texas need to get? It’s tricky when discussing the 2013 class. There are only a few spots left and, don’t forget, Texas has yet to offer any in-state defensive backs. Some of the answers range from the realistic – Maurice Smith, Dontre Wilson, Ra’Shaad Samples -- to maybes like Su’a Cravens and Cole Luke, to wishful thinking like Robert Nkemdiche. Which five do you want?
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They are also demanding his patience. As Olson points out, he is almost certain to get an offer from the Longhorns, but how long does Smith wait?
With the misses the Texas coaches have made in recruiting, it’s wise to take time in evaluations and finding just the right prospect at each position. Furthermore, Texas coaches have said they are interested in players who want to be Longhorns. In Smith’s case, the convincing might have to come from the Texas staff to prove they really want Smith in burnt orange.
2. Feeling a draft: Iowa State sophomore forward Royce White has announced he will leave early for the NBA. White was certainly one of the breakout stars in the Big 12 this season. Texas fans are still waiting to see what Longhorns J'Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo decide to do about their professional futures.
There are two dates to keep in mind while watching this situation. The first is April 29. Players have until 11:59 p.m. ET to declare for the draft. The second date is 5 p.m. ET on June 18. Players who have declared, and not signed with an agent, have until then to withdraw their name from draft eligibility.
The time should help Brown and Kabongo. They can submit to the draft advisory board to see where they stand. For players like those two, who draft experts have in a variety of scenarios, that advising is crucial. At least they’ll be better informed on whatever decision they make.
3. Campbell honored: Former Texas linebacker/defensive back Tom Campbell will be inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame. Campbell played in the 1969 and 1970 Cotton Bowl Classics, both of which were Longhorns wins.
In the ’69 game, Campbell was named the game’s outstanding defensive player after recording two tackles and two interceptions. The following year, Campbell intercepted Notre Dame quarterback Joe Theismann with 38 seconds to play to seal a 21-17 win. It also helped the Longhorns secure the national championship.
As the game ended in Nashville and Rick Barnes’ team once again saw an early NCAA tournament exit, the thought for most Texas fans turned to what happens next? Will junior J’Covan Brown leave early? Will Myck Kabongo be a one-and-done? Answers to these two questions will do more to shape next season than anything else.
Chad Ford has Brown as someone leaning toward the draft and projects him as a second round pick. Kabongo doesn’t appear ready for the NBA after his struggles running the offense this season, but Ford cites that he could be a better pro if he finds a system that fits his style.
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Moments before a final half of basketball that may have decided the fate of Texas’ season, coach Rick Barnes stood before a dry-erase board in the Longhorns’ locker room.
On one side, Barnes scribbled three letters: “N-I-T.”
Then he took a step to his right and jotted down four more: “N-C-A-A.”
Barnes put down the marker and looked at his team.
“Who are we?” he asked the Longhorns. “Which one would you put your name under?”
By the time Texas left the Sprint Center, the question had been answered.
In a game that so many predicted they would lose, the Longhorns fought back from an 11-point deficit and defeated Iowa State 71-65 in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament. Along with propelling them into Friday’s semifinal against Missouri, the victory significantly enhanced the résumé of a Texas team that entered the contest on the NCAA tournament bubble.
Now 20-12, the Horns feel much better about their chances of earning a 14th consecutive bid under Barnes, who isn’t the type to politick to the selection committee.
He shouldn’t have to.
Texas finished 9-9 in what is generally regarded as the second-best league in the country behind the Big Ten. The Longhorns’ strength of schedule is No. 20 in the country according to ESPN's InsideRPI, and they have only one defeat (at Oklahoma State) that can be viewed as a “bad loss.”
Thursday’s victory over Iowa State also should turn some heads considering the Cyclones -- who tied for third in the Big 12 standings -- entered the game touting wins in four of their previous five contests. Texas’ win Thursday came before 18,792 people, most of whom were in support of Iowa State.
“You love to walk into other gyms and quiet their fans,” UT guard J’Covan Brown said.
Texas led 65-59 with 2 minutes, 55 seconds left before Iowa State scored six consecutive points to force a tie. But rather than flounder in the face of adversity, the Longhorns flourished.
Brown scored seven of his game-high 23 points in the second half.
“A few seconds before I hit that shot, Coach was like, ‘Are you feeling it?’” said Brown, a junior. “I told him I was, and he let me go out and do my thing. It gives you a lot of confidence when your coach has your back like that.”
Brown’s performance this season -- he averages a Big 12-best 20.1 points -- is even more impressive considering he’s on a team that features five freshmen among its top seven players. Opposing defenses are geared to stop Brown, yet he still finds ways to score. His game winner Thursday came against Iowa State’s Chris Babb, who is regarded as one of the top defenders in the Big 12.
“[Brown] is a gifted offensive player,” Barnes said. “He has such great vision. On that last play he had three or four different options, and he picked the right one to get the ball where it needed to be.”
The Cyclones still had a chance after Brown’s clutch basket, but standout Royce White lost control of the ball on the perimeter, and it ended up in the hands of Texas forward Jonathan Holmes. Iowa State immediately fouled Holmes, and the freshman made both free throws to make it 70-65 with 22 seconds left.
As proud as he was of Brown, Barnes was also ecstatic about the play of freshman point guard Myck Kabongo, who has been on a steady incline all season. Kabongo finished with 11 points, five assists and no turnovers -- Texas had only six turnovers as a team -- and he played excellent defense on Iowa State 3-point ace Scott Christopherson.
A senior, Christopherson entered Thursday’s game averaging 21.8 points in his previous five contests and had made 19 of 36 3-point attempts during that span. Pestered by Kabongo, he scored just 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting and missed four of his six attempts from beyond the arc.
As a team, the Cyclones made just five 3-pointers Thursday. They came in averaging nine per game.
Texas now advances to play another strong shooting team in Missouri. The Tigers are shooting 49.9 percent from the field, a mark that ranks third in the nation. Mizzou defeated Texas 84-73 in Columbia on Jan. 14 and 67-66 in Austin on Jan. 30.
“We feel good about this win,” Brown said. “But we can’t let our young guys celebrate too much. We’ve got another big one tomorrow.”