We've discussed at length what to expect from the 2009-2010 Longhorn Basketball team. We've projected personnel combinations and schemes. We've hit on minute distributions. And we've made some great friends along the way...
Many of the threads felt like the following.
Awe. The memories.
What we haven't done is discuss the ever increasing possibility that J'Covan Brown, the talented guard from bitch kicking Port Arthur, will join this talent laden squad at some point in the season. Even more encouraging is that even the most discriminating observers of Longhorn intra-squad pickup games see a budding star while watching the 6-3 guard going up against current and former Longhorn stars alike.
And That's the thing. Nobody had any idea Brown was THIS good. This dominant. And this adept at running the show. That's right, I'm not talking about being dominant at the already log-jammed 2 spot. I'm talking about dominating the lead guard position where J'Covan is making plays for himself and others in these high octane games. It's this playmaking ability that has set the Texas Longhorn basketball intellegentsia on its collective ear. Including Rick Barnes. Hell, we all knew Brown could shoot it and score it. We all knew he had elite size for college guard. But when casual and diehard Longhorn Hoops fans fantasized about morphing the playmaking ability of Dogus Balbay with the shooting and perimeter scoring threat of Jai Lucas to form the ideal point man, they, quite frankly, may have got what they wished for in this talented yet enigmatic player.
But that's the catch. J'Covan's explosive temper and notorious lack of self control on the basketball court are well chronicled. The already cliche'd J'Covan joke involves the number of fist fights he'll get into with uber-intense Avery Bradley before Brown even steps on the floor in an official game for Texas. And, therein lies the problem with placing your national championship dreams in the fiery lead guard's basket.
Have to keep the big man fed.
When you have all the talent Texas has, especially upper classman talent, your 1 guard should be a steadying, calming influence. Does it help if he's as talented as Derrick Rose? Sure. Especially if that guard is your go-to-guy or at least one of your top two options. But even Derrick Rose deferred to Chris Douglass Roberts most of the time. Remember, Texas has one of the premiere Power Forwards in the game, the premiere Center, and some talented NBA one and done wings that need to be fed to keep ideal chemistry and continuity. Obviously Balbay and Lucas thrive at this nuanced point guard skill, but can Brown? What happens when Damion James or Varez Ward drop a "pass me the fucking ball J'Covan" after the freshman guard selfishly charges leading a 2 on 1 break? Even if it's an honest freshman mistake and not a case of "trying to get mine", can the young guy swallow his pride, take the criticism, and defer to the older guys?
On the filpside, if Barnes' strong father figure presence can somehow help exorcise Brown's hot temper demons and be the discipline influence in the young man's life, then you have one hell of a starting five. Wrap your head around this group.
Brown is the perfect athletic combo 1, Bradley is your versatile 2, Hamilton is an NBA caliber 3, James is an athletic rebounding and finishing 4, and Pittman is one of the best 5's in the land. Sick. At least on paper. Throw in depth at every position for good measure.
If Brown can't handle the responsibility of being the catalyst, glue guy, or playmaker, then you risk alienating portions of your team by making J'Covan the starter over guys with skins on the wall. I liken it to the talented North Carolina teams that never gelled because they were too talented and plaqued by jealousy. Sure, they could field two separate teams that would have gone deep into the tourney but the two squads didn't like each other because the upper classmen like Montross and Salvadori were in their minds "established", and underclassmen like Wallace and Stackhouse knew they were already better than the senior starters. There was no Balbay or Lucas to bridge the gap and tie individuals together on that team. And no, Dante Calabria doesn't count. That's the true value of Lucas and Balbay on this squad.
So there are two scenarios that Coach Barnes, could or should go with, with respect to Brown's sudden emergence as a would-be star.
First, let's say J'Covan displays the maturity necessary to run a major college basketball team. I'm talking deferring to teammates and knowing when to hunt his own offense. If it can happen anywhere in the nation it will happen at Texas under the disciplined guidance of Rick Barnes. Brown's ability to slide right in and run the show for the Horns is obviously the best scenario, making the Horns the odds on favorite to win the whole enchilada if Texas wasn't the favorite already.
The domino affect of J'Covan at the 1 allows Avery Bradley to do what he does best, make athletic plays going to the goal or utilizing his strength which is the lost art of the midrange game. Brown's presence also gives Hamilton bonafide shooting cohort to attack zones, and it further opens up the floor for Damion James and Dexter Pittman. In a word, UNFAIR.
These cats didn't defer to upperclassmen.
The second scenario, which is more likely in my humble opinion, is that Brown is not quite up to the lead guard task. Combo scoring guard, sure, but full blown PG, not likely. Remember, I think point guards are born and not made. In this scenario if I'm Barnes, I'm bringing Brown off the bench to "get his". I take playmaking off of his plate and I do that by putting him on the floor with Lucas or Balbay. I tell him he's a 1 or 2 scoring option with Hamilton on the floor along with James and Wangmene or Chapman. I run sets for the young guy, and try to free him up for instant offense Vinnie Johnson style. Long term, I'm trying to build his confidence and give him game experience before taking the proverbial next step which is running the show. More than likely, I'd experiment with Brown at the 1 against non-conference lesser lights and go from there, looking for any sign of disgruntlement from player and teammates alike.
But in the end, keep in mind there's a solid chance you'll see Brown mature over the course of the season and go from scenario two to one. Or, he might rip off his shirt and try to strangle Hamilton during a game and go from 1 to 2. But all that's on Barnes and it's the kind of behind the scenes chemistry decision I trust Rick with.
In any event, it's just another interesting thing to watch for during the upcoming hoops season. Stay tuned.