Schooled by pros, the sophomore playmaker is poised to become the next Longhorns legend
Last season, while attending an NBDL game in Austin with his dormmate, Longhorns point guard D.J. Augustin was asked to give up his front-row seat at halftime. "We had to leave through the backdoor," he recalls, "with security." The two weren't causing trouble; it's just that Augustin's friend happened to be a fellow named Kevin Durant -- heard of him? -- and a sizable portion of the crowd had become more interested in getting his autograph than watching the minor leaguers. Durant's takeover of the college game last season made him an instant celebrity. He collected so many player-of-the-year awards that, as of October, they were still scattered about the Texas players' lounge, awaiting the construction of a new trophy case.
After Durant moved on to the Seattle SuperSonics in June, Augustin enrolled in a couple of summer internship programs to prepare himself for the Longhorns' starring role. Former Texas point guard and Wooden Award winner T.J. Ford, now starting for the Toronto Raptors, returned to Austin to take classes -- and in daily pickup games schooled his latest successor on becoming a more assertive floor general. Augustin had averaged a team-high 6.7 assists a game in 2006-07, but he wasn't making himself heard enough to please coach Rick Barnes. "T.J. told him, ‘This is your team, and the point guard's job is to coach,' " Barnes says. "After a month of working with T.J., D.J. totally changed."
Then in July, at the Steve Nash Skills Academy in Union, N.J., Augustin learned firsthand from the two-time NBA MVP whom he has been studying zealously on film since arriving in Austin. Texas assistant coach Russell Springmann says Nash's influence is obvious in both the way Augustin comes off ball screens and in his penchant for shooting midrange jumpers off one leg. Augustin has even begun sporting black Nike Zoom BBs -- the signature footwear of the Suns' star -- in practice. Now, when Augustin enters the gym, guard A.J. Abrams, one of three other returning starters, sometimes shouts, "Steve Nash is here!"
He's kidding, of course. The Longhorns would be happy if D.J. could just become their new T.J. this season. -- Luke Winn
Issue date: November 19, 2007