Key Losses: G Sydmill Harris (6.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg), C Jason Klotz (11.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.1 bpg), G Kenny Taylor (10.6 ppg, 2.6 apg)
Postseason: NCAA: Lost to Nevada 61–57 in the first round
Round Rock, TX/McNeil
Clear Lake, TX/Redshirt 2004-05
Amarillo, TX/Midland (TX) JC
Hebron, MD/Cecil (MD) CC
Abrams and Winder could make an immediate impact in the backcourt. Abrams could play some point guard, allowing Daniel Gibson to move to shooting guard in certain situations. Barnes also hopes to make use of Lewis, a 3-point shooter who transferred to Texas from junior college. Atchley, a redshirt freshman, is a 6-foot-9 shooter who will force post defenders to follow him out to the 3-point line.
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In July, Rick Barnes lost his first recruit directly to the NBA, when C.J. Miles signed with the Utah Jazz after being drafted in the second round. That's the price Barnes is willing to pay for increasing the standards of recruiting at Texas.
Miles was all but penciled in as the starter at shooting guard for a Texas team talking about making a serious run at the national title. But anyone who thinks Barnes is feeling sorry for himself without Miles didn't watch the Longhorns last season. And anyone who thinks Barnes has lowered his goals without Miles doesn't know Texas' fiery head coach.
"We're always going to make the Final Four and the national title our goal at Texas," Barnes says. "That's where this program is. Our first-round loss in last year's NCAA Tournament was unacceptable. I don't care what the circumstances were."
Texas lost P.J. Tucker, the team's leading scorer and rebounder at the time, to academics for the second semester. The team also lost freshman center LaMarcus Aldridge to a hip injury three games into the Big 12 schedule. Yet, the Horns still managed to reach their seventh straight NCAA tournament without arguably their two best players.
"We all had to grow up in a hurry because of everything that happened last year," says point guard Daniel Gibson, the first freshman to lead Texas in scoring (14.2 ppg last season).
Tucker and Aldridge are back and will be the keys to success this season. Tucker is the heart and soul of the team, the source of its toughness and its vocal leader. Aldridge is arguably the team's most skilled player.
Senior Brad Buckman, who came on strong last season after a sophomore slump, will join Aldridge and Tucker in the frontcourt. Power forward Mike Williams, a McDonald's All-America in high school, who got off to a slow start as a freshman and barely contributed, hopes to be a much bigger factor this season.
Teammates describe Tucker as a different person after finally being forced to get serious about his academics.
Aldridge feels like he's gotten better because of his injury. On crutches after his hip surgery, Aldridge worked on his shot by sitting in a chair and shooting hundreds of jumpers and hooks.
An X-factor for Texas will be the improvement of Williams and sophomore forward Dion Dowell. Tentative and unsure for most of the season, Williams and Dowell didn't attack the glass the way coaches hoped they would. Williams has bulked up from 215 to 240, and Dowell is playing with more confidence, Barnes says.
"We need Mike to be a great post defender, grab rebounds and attack the rim for putbacks and garbage baskets," Barnes says.
Barnes says Gibson had to endure more than former UT point guard T.J. Ford ever dreamed of as a freshman and rarely got rattled. After Tucker and Aldridge went down, Gibson became the team's top scoring option and was hounded with defensive pressure. Still, Gibson led Texas to the NCAA tournament, even if he had a miserable game in UT's first-round loss to Nevada.
Without Miles, Barnes will have an assortment of options to pair with Gibson in the backcourt, including senior Kenton Paulino, 5-10 freshman A.J. Abrams and junior college transfers Craig Winder and J.D. Lewis.
The loss of Miles to the NBA hurts because UT lacks a slasher who can hit from outside, create his own shot and get to the basket. Aldridge must stay healthy; Texas would probably turn to untested redshirt freshman Connor Atchley if Aldridge goes down.
If Gibson continues to progress as much as he did last year, he'll be one of the best point guards in the country as a sophomore. Abrams has already shown coaches he can pass and shoot. He could be a defensive liability at 5-10. But with Aldridge and Buckman behind him to swat away shots, UT can probably get away with playing Abrams extensively.
Even though Texas goes 11 deep, Barnes wants Gibson, Aldridge, Buckman and Tucker to average at least 30 minutes per game.
The schedule will impress the NCAA tournament committee with games against Villanova, Memphis, Duke and an early-season tournament that includes Iowa, Kentucky and West Virginia. If the chemistry is right, Texas is a Final Four-caliber team.