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Growing new 'Horns

After adding to stellar class, Texas looks to future

Posted: Thursday May 25, 2006 12:23PM; Updated: Thursday May 25, 2006 4:13PM
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Texas' Class of 2006
Pos Nat'l Pos. Rank Name High School Ht.
SF 7 Damion James Nacogdoches (Texas) 6-8
PG 5 D.J. Augustin Hightower (Sugar Land, Texas) 6-1
C 17 Matt Hill Lincoln (Neb.) Southeast 6-10
C 18 Dexter Pittman B. F. Terry (Rosenberg, Texas) 6-10
SG 29 Harrison Smith Jones (Houston) 6-3
SG 26 Justin Mason Palo Duro (Amarillo, Texas) 6-3
SF 1 Kevin Durant Montrose Christian School (Rockville, Md.) 6-9
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Last Saturday night, Kevin Durant, the No. 2-rated prospect in the class of 2006, made a critical cell phone call to a fellow blue-chipper. Durant, a 6-foot-10 small forward from Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.), will likely be a major contributor for Texas next season, and he had a plea for the young man on the other end of the line: "Let's team up. We can be the best duo in college hoops."

The second half of that proposed partnership, 6-8 small forward Damion James of Nacogdoches, Texas, was then the top-rated unsigned recruit left in the country (No. 19 overall). Originally bound for Oklahoma, James had been released from his letter of intent to OU in early May following the departure of coach Kelvin Sampson for Indiana and was considering the Longhorns and Texas A&M. "Let me think about it," was James' answer; his recruitment had already extended to the end of his senior year, so what did another few days really matter?

Texas, meanwhile, had been sitting on a stellar, six-man recruiting class since last winter that included McDonald's All-Americans Durant and point guard D.J. Augustin, but spring was not kind to the 'Horns. Two starters from their Elite Eight team -- workhorse power forward Brad Buckman and shooting guard Kenton Paulino -- were graduating. Their other three starters -- sophomore center LaMarcus Aldridge, junior small forward P.J. Tucker and sophomore guard Daniel Gibson -- declared early for the NBA draft (Aldridge and Tucker have since signed with agents). If that wasn't enough, reserve power forward Mike Williams announced on Monday that he was transferring and is eyeing Cincinnati and Louisville. (Another reserve forward, Dion Dowell, transferred after the fall semester.)

Should Gibson keep his name in the draft -- a decision largely contingent on his play at the Orlando predraft camp in June -- only one returning player, sophomore backup point guard A.J. Abrams, will have significant game experience heading into 2006-07, and the Texas exodus will be similar to the one North Carolina experienced after winning the 2005 national title. The Tar Heels lost their top seven players, including four NBA lottery picks, that year. However, in a scenario that is undoubtedly a source of inspiration for the 'Horns, UNC managed to finish a respectable second in the ACC last season on the strength of stellar freshmen Tyler Hansbrough and Bobby Frasor.

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