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Rick Barnes Talks Hoops During Big 12 Summer Teleconference

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Good read from Texassports.com

Here's the transcript and my thoughts on each subject/answer.


On how this incoming class of perimeter players (Avery Bradley, Jordan Hamilton, Jai Lucas and Shawn Williams) ranks among past classes: Well, (Kevin) Durant and (D.J.) Augustin were pretty good now, but we will wait and see. Jai has been here and we have been impressed with him. I think he really understands taking care of the basketball, and he understands the role of a point guard and what needs to happen. We have never recruited a guy who has improved as much as Avery Bradley from the time he committed to us. Jordan obviously we have recruited for a long time. We are excited about all of them. But in terms of comparing them to another class off the top of my head, I don’t think I really can.

The comments on Jai Lucas are right in line with what we've been saying on this site. It's the whole "son of coach" cliche, but in Jai's case it's reality. The kid knows how to play the game and understands the nuances required to play fundamental basketball. A good case in point is the dearth of solid post entry passers the Longhorns have had the last few years. With the advent of the 3 point shot the game has become less post-centric and post entry has become a lost art. Lucas is one of those rare players that understands angles, spacing, timing, and help recognition required to be successful when entering the basketball. As a Longhorn fan, I was tempted to add "willingness to enter the basketball" to the list. Jai's ability to enter the ball will make Dexter Pittman's life much easier.

The absence of Shawn Williams being mentioned is interesting as well. Hell, given the depth and talent of next season's squad, Williams omission is pretty telling. I'd bet dollars to donuts that he'll take a redshirt. Williams is a terrific catch and shoot player, but he lacks the dynamic offensive game that is required to challenge for serious minutes on this team. Shawn also needs to get stronger to make a serious impact on defense and on the glass. Redshirting 4 star top 100 players is a luxury Texas can afford.


On his biggest concerns going into next year: Looking at it right now, we have always had high expectations. We are not afraid of that. I wouldn’t say that I have any concerns right now, but we will obviously think about guys playing roles and accepting roles. That’s our job to put guys in those situations and make sure they accept it. But today, I don’t have any concerns. You know what I love is the fact that we are going to have great competition. I think our players will realize that if they are going to get on the floor, they are going to have to earn their way there. They are going to have to produce and be productive. I like the fact that we have more depth now than we have had in a long, long time.

Before Damion James elected to return to school, rebounding was going to be a glaring weakness on this squad, which is a deficiency that snowballs on itself because not only does lack of rebounding prevent you from closing out possessions but it keeps a deep athletic team like Texas from getting easy buckets in transition. With James returning, Barnes' only real concern is well, umm, coaching. Barnes readily admits he'll have to push the right buttons and find the right personnel combos for this team to operate at peak efficiency. As funny as it sounds, next year will be one of the toughest coaching challenges Barnes has faced in his career. It'll be as tough if not a tougher job than his first year at Texas.


On the team’s point guard situation: I think that Jai and Dogus are both natural point guards. You mentioned Avery could probably do a little bit of it, and I think Justin Mason has proven he can do a little bit of it. Jai, once he got here and started figuring out what we were trying to do, was terrific at the end of the year when we were working all of our special situations and those type things. He really understands the game, and he does the one thing that I think all coaches love about a point guard. He doesn’t turn the ball over, and neither does Dogus for that matter. So I think we will be really solid there. We need everyone to buy into their role and do what they have to do, and then we will figure out what we have to do to try to win some games.

Barnes acknowledges he has two classic point guards or distributors, and two combo guard options he can go to in a pinch. All these guys will play the position well because they're good players and they'll be facing defenses more concerned with getting dunked on by Dexter Pittman or shot out of games by Jordan Hamilton. Notice that word "role" is mentioned again.

It's somewhat concering that Ward wasn't mentioned. He's a much better lead guard option than Mason. I'm hoping this was a just a tip of the cap to a blood spilling senior, because Mason was awful on the ball last year. It will sting if Ward transfers, because Varez brings so much on both ends, and he performs on the big stage. Kid was nails vs. Duke, despite the fact that he was the only player on the team that could get his own shot. Flank him with Hamilton and Bradley and watch him wreck shit.


On Dexter Pittman’s improvement and momentum from last season: Dexter continues to work hard. Again, the key will be how long he can play at a very high level. How long can he stay out there at that level. He’s a load for anybody to deal with. He’s a guy that people have a hard time with obviously. What we’d like to do is continue to play at a quicker pace but still find Dexter. As he continues to get his conditioning where it needs to be, that’ll help us more than anything. We’re hoping that’s what he can do.

Dex has to be the bell cow for this team, but the Horns still have the components to change gears and play a more wide open, up tempo style when they want to. The 4 out 1 in scheme can actually do a nice job of accomodating a pound the block style as well as wide open attack in a half court setting. Barnes can pound the strongside block on some possessions and then lift Dex away from the bucket for ball screens and back screens to create driving lanes on others. Or, Texas can elect to use the Memphis Dribble Drive Motion model and park Pittman on the weakside block. The thought of dealing with Dex on the weakside glass or as a dime finisher has to be a hellish one for opposing coaches. Think a 6-10 300 lb basketball skilled version of Joey Dorsey. A version that hits 75% of his foul shots without the propensity to get a neck tat or threaten to shank an SAT proctor.

On defense, Texas has the personnel to hide and rest Pittman with some zone if they so choose. Long and athletic players like Bradley, Hamilton, and James are a Jim Boeheim wet dream, and are liable to get love letters from Jay Bilas. They can get into passing lanes, disrupt jump shooters, and rebound effectively without block out assignments. Lots of options here for Texas to play multiple styles on given POSSESSIONS, not games. And do so on both ends of the floor.


On what kind of player Jai Lucas is: Jai really understands the position he plays. He quickly came in here and became a great teammate to everyone. He is just a guy that loves being in the gym, and I’m sure his brother (John) was the same way. They didn’t evolve too far away from how their dad was as a player. Jai has been a really nice addition. The one thing I really like about him is that he just simply doesn’t turn the ball over, and you want that from a guy who plays that position.

Again, what's not to like? The kid can also punish help with his range. I'll put the over/under on "straw that stirs the drink" references for 2010 at 5,650 and 1/2.


On being adaptable as a coach from season-to-season and what the team’s style might be this year: I want it to always start on the defensive end. I think that we can be an outstanding defensive team, because we’ve got some guys that can play the ball one on one and stay in front of the ball. Offensively, we want to be aggressive and we want to run. We want Dexter to be a part of what we do. I think we’ll have great balance which is what any coach likes. There are certain things we have to do every night. We’re going to play defense. We’re going to rebound the ball, and we’re going to take care of the ball. If you do those three things, then you’re going to give yourself a chance to be in most games. I don’t think there will be a drastic change in the way we play. I just hope we’re a whole lot better on both ends of the court.

A sliver of hope that Barnes is going to adapt his coaching style to his players? I hope so. Varez Ward was yanked a couple of times last year for shooting wide open jumpers within the confines of our offense. That's not encouraging aggression on the offensive end or inspiring confidence.


On Dogus’ shooting ability: Now he’s with his team back home (in Turkey) playing. He had a really good spring, but he knows what he has to do to improve and play the minutes that he wants to play. If not, that’s where Jai is going to have a great impact on our team with his ability to make shots. So the competition is going to be good.

Wow, that's putting it out there. Dogus has a legit role on this team with or without any improvement shooting the ball, but he can't continue to be a source of help for guys like Pittman, Bradley,and Hamilton. George Ackles cost UNLV a National Championship by posing zero offensive threat. Or, it could have been Larry Johnson's hot tub session with a powerful Vegas bookie, but you get the point. Balbay recently sustained a hand injury, and that's not going to help his plight, unless it forces him to shoot right handed. Stay tuned.


On the conference strength being similar to the 2002-03 season: I don’t think there’s any question that our league is better than it’s ever been. You have outstanding coaches in the league, coaches who understand the schools they’re at and what they have to do to compete at this level. We’ve had a good league though. The perception of this league I don’t think has probably been what it should have been, because this league’s been good for a long time. But if you go back and look, we’ve fared well over the last 10-12 years. Our league is as good as any league in the country. I think it goes back to the way the coaches in this league work at it and the players we’re able to attract. I do think it’s going to be one of the great years in our league.

I agree with coach here. Kansas and Texas could and should be final four teams, unless Keith "Tiny" Gallon decides to eat CJ Henry while being double teamed.

I actually like Texas to win the league because I think they'll be a better defensive team, and a bit more dynamic on offense. As always, if you stop Sherron Collins, you stop the Jayhawks. Until I see one of the KU freshman making creative plays off the bounce, my scouting report stands.

Thoughts?