The NCAA stays with that Christmas cheer.
Texas fans didn't even get a chance to enjoy the victory over North Carolina, as the news that Myck Kabongo would be suspended for the rest of the season broke in the final minutes of the telecast on Wednesday night. Adrian Wojnarowski and Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports have all the gory details.
There's a lot to get to, so let's get to it.
- The NCAA:
- At this point, it's almost obligatory, but it must be mentioned. What a bunch of [expletives]. This is not a situation where a guy is breaking any actual law or doing anything immoral. This was a 19-year old kid trying to figure out his professional future before he makes the biggest decision of his life. Does anyone actually care whether some agent set up a workout for him? What's the difference? What kind of person spends their life being a glorified hall monitor for a morally bankrupt organization like the NCAA?
- What kind of business sense is this? This is an organization that makes billions of dollars in TV revenues. Look the other way! Why are you shooting yourself in the foot and generating mountains of bad PR? What are trying to accomplish? The NCAA should be policing amateurism violations (particularly when they don't have much to do with recruiting) the same way that the MLB policed steroid violations in the 90's.
- That being said, everyone knows what the NCAA is all about. There's just one rule -- Don't get caught! How exactly did this happen? There was a workout in Cleveland with a trainer. Four people needed to know about that workout -- Kabongo, Rich Paul (the agent), the trainer and Tristan Thompson. There should have been a circle of trust. You think Kabongo is the first guy with a friend in the NBA who set up a workout with a trainer?
- Maybe more to this story leaks out in the next few days, but if Wojnarowski and Forde got the story right (and they almost always do) this is some real amateur hour stuff going on.
- I'm going to do a lot of connecting the dots and irresponsible speculating, but that's what you came for right? It sounds like someone from Paul's end messed this up. Just this last year, he stole LeBron James from the CAA. Think about how much money LeBron's agent makes: he took a lot of cash out of some very powerful people's pockets. His enemies got enemies. I wonder if Kabongo got caught in the cross-fire between some much bigger players. I don't see how this case gets made, and how they were able to catch him red-handed, unless they've got a source.
- The 2012-2013 season:
- How depressing would this ruling have been if it came down at the end of the Georgetown game? At least now we can see a post-Kabongo plan. Whether it will work in Big 12 play, or against Michigan State on Saturday, I don't know. It's possible it could though. That's something.
- The big thing was forcing turnovers and getting out in the open floor. Texas has got a bunch of athletes who struggle to create shots in a half-court offense: sound familiar? They need to get as many easy shots as possible, which means forcing turnovers (18 for UNC) and getting offensive rebounds (12 for Texas).
- Of course, not all of that was great play from the Longhorns. UNC has got a lot of issues; they're so much like UCLA it's scary. They get nothing from the point guard position, they have zero interior defense and very inconsistent perimeter shooting. That's a formula that can get you beat by just about anyone. That being said, they've got still at least three future pros in James McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston. There are pieces in place. My big concern is how they completely fell apart in 2010 with a bad PG (Larry Drew II) running the show. Let's hope that doesn't happen again, because we really need this to be a quality win in March.
- The good news is Texas will only go as far as their defense takes them this year. That's one thing Rick Barnes has always been able to coach. Jonathan Holmes, Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis: those are the three guys who are going to need to step up on that end of the floor. They're all athletic enough to be good defensive players. If the freshmen can avoid mental mistakes on defense, they've done their job.
- Saturday will tell us a lot about this team. They're playing in East Lansing against a Tom Izzo coached team and Javan Felix is going up against Keith Appling, one of the most athletic PG's in the country. It's very unfair to ask a freshman PG to carry the load Felix is going to have to carry this season, but that's where we are right now. McClellan will need to help him out, same with Ioannis Papapetrou. Papi's role on this team is still unclear, but he can definitely play some basketball.
- Myck Kabongo:
- He had to have known about the ruling before the game right? It certainly seemed like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. The last few months must have been awful: the not knowing is always the worse part. I say that as someone who had to "go to the principal's office" in downtown Austin during my college days. Whatever the punishment is, the anticipation of what it's going to be is just horrible. At least there's some closure now.
- He really has to come back to school now. Let me rephrase: he really should. He's got a lot of potential, but that's all it is. He didn't set the world on fire last season. He's a PG: you can't simulate the things a PG needs to do in a workout or even a scrimmage. NBA teams just aren't going to have enough information to make an informed decision about him come draft time. Maybe, maybe a team like the Spurs drafts him at the very end of the first round like they did Cory Joseph, but how's that working out for Myck's fellow Canadian?
- If he goes pro, he's a second round pick whose being sent straight to the NBDL. In the D-League, he's a target for every 25+ year old veteran guard whose been living off $30,000 a year. He might make it out, but he might not either. As a second rounder, no one is really going to care either way. As a mid to high first-round pick, a team has millions of guaranteed money invested in you and the GM has a reputation to protect in terms of selecting you. As a second-round pick, you're more or less on your own. And if there's one thing an NBA coach hates to do, it is stick his neck out for a young PG. Derek Fisher (!!) is starting for the Mavs right now. You read that correctly.
- If you look at the big picture, Kabongo really isn't in that bad of a situation. When you're a sophomore at UT Austin, how bad can life be really? He just needs to look at this like a redshirt year. It happens all the time in college basketball, a guy takes a year off and comes back a better player. Kelly Olynyk from Gonzaga is a perfect example of that. If Kabongo dedicates himself to the gym and comes back with a good outside shot as a junior, he's going to make himself an obscene amount of money. Sometimes in life, you can turn an obstacle into a lever.
- The program:
- If Kabongo does leave, what a bust the whole Findlay Prep pipeline turned out to be. In the span of three years, Texas got four future NBA players. They got one NCAA Tournament win out of it. Maybe we're all singing a different tune if the ball bounces differently in that 2011 loss to Arizona. That's one of those losses that gets bigger as more time passes. Avery Bradley never had the chance to show everything he could do in Austin, Tristan Thompson left just as he was putting it together, Cory Joseph left way before he had any business leaving and if Kabongo never plays another game in a Longhorn uniform, you can say the same for him.
- The program had a ton of momentum after the success of the Kevin Durant/DJ Augustin recruiting class. 2009 was a bit of a transition year, but they came into 2010 with Dexter Pittman and Damion James on the inside and a recruiting class that featured Jordan Hamilton, Bradley and J'Covan Brown. Behind them, they had a line on three more NBA players. There were a lot of possible outcomes for those set of circumstances; we're clearly in one of the darker timelines right now.
- All of a sudden, Julius Randle is the most important recruit Barnes has had since Durant. You add Randle and Kabongo to this group and you've got a team who can put Texas basketball back on the map. The Big 12 is tough: Kansas is Kansas, Baylor is still reeling in McDonald's All-Americans and Oklahoma State is coming on very, very strong. Let's be honest: Rick Barnes might could out-scheme Scott Drew, but he's not coaching rings around Bill Self, Bob Huggins, Bruce Weber and Lon Kruger. If he's going to win at the level we expect him to, he's going to need some players.
- I know there are lot of grumblings about him, but I'm still on board for now. Maybe his biggest asset as a coach is his ability to develop players: guys don't usually get worse from spending time in Austin. This team is going to fight and claw all season and I expect they'll be a lot better in March than they are now. Big picture, we have to reserve judgement until the end of next season. I also reserve the right to change my mind about this eight times in the next three months.