Before we get to the meat of this story, I would like to acknowledge this as the best lead image in the history of barking carnival. Future Bill Simmons, ftw. Boom goes the dynomite.
Rick Barnes is going to have to really work to earn that raise from earlier this year. Even with ace in the hole freshman point guard Myck Kabongo arriving in Austin, Barnes was still holding on to a shaky hand of cards for the 2011-12 season. Now his frontcourt just got thinner with word that freshman Kevin Thomas did not qualify academically and will instead play at a junior college this season.
Thomas, a 6-7 forward from the same AAU program that brought the Longhorns Corey Joseph, Tristan Thompson, and Kabongo, was going to bring some much-needed athleticism to the front line that lost all three starters. The most experienced frontcourt players on the Longhorns now are seniors Clint Chapman, who redshirted last year, and Alexis Wangmene, who averaged just under 10 minutes per game last year.
Not dire enough for you? Remember that the frontcourt trio of Thompson, Jordan Hamilton, and Gary Johnson were the team's top three scorers and rebounders, plus they formed the backbone of the Longhorns' defense that held opponents to 42.5% shooting last season (#3 in the country).
The current roster is Hollywood-diet thin with eight scholarship players, four big men, and six freshmen. Sounds like a perfect recipe for cutting down the nets, no?
Tempering the loss of Thomas was the announcement on the same day that Jaylen Bond, a 6-6, 225-pound forward from Philadelphia, was granted his release by the University of Pittsburgh and has enrolled in fall classes at UT. Bond plays better post defense than Thomas, but lacks his array of moves to get to the rim on offense.
The news amounts to a net loss for the program. Bond's switch from Pitt to Texas was all but a sure thing, and Thomas was all but assured one of the forward roles. The backcourt is in good hands with Kabongo, J'Covan Brown, and freshman Sheldon McClennan, but a front line of Chapman, Wangmene, and either Bond or freshman Jonathan Holmes makes fans happy that football season is around the corner to distract them from what lies ahead come November.
Maybe Barnes pulls this young group together and with the T.J. Ford-like Kabongo assembles a solid run through the season and into the tournament. But it's going to take one of his best coaching efforts yet.
Might want to start rolling tape of Villanova...
Either way, enjoy that raise, Rick. You're going to earn it.