Extra MustardSI On CampusFantasyPhoto GalleriesSwimsuitVideoFanNationSI KidsTNT
Talk hoops all year long in Luke Winn's blog, a journal of commentary, news and reader-driven discussions about the college game.
11/18/2006 12:28:00 AM

Early Returns: Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant
Four games into his collegiate career, Texas sensation Kevin Durant is already must-see TV.
AP
NEW YORK -- Texas freshman Kevin Durant spent the past two nights at Madison Square Garden scoring a total of 50 points and grabbing 19 rebounds, and yet when Longhorns coach Rick Barnes went into Friday's post-game press conference, he said with a straight face, "He hasn't played well yet. I'm telling you."

Despite statistical evidence to the contrary, it's a statement I'm inclined to believe. The best team in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic was Maryland, which took down St. John's and Michigan State to win the title. But the biggest curiosity was the Suitland, Md., product who headed southwest to play his college ball in Austin, and is only a year away from becoming an NBA Lottery Pick.

In his second national TV appearance as a 'Horn, the 6-foot-9 Durant gunned and glided his way to 29 points in a 77-76 consolation-game win over St. John's. He only scored nine in the second half, though, and had a similar fade the previous day, when he scored just five second-half points (finishing with 21) in a narrow loss to Michigan State. He was undoubtedly fatigued, playing 30-plus minutes both nights, but also seemed content to assume a complementary role in crunch time.

Durant's blend of basketball grace -- no 6-9 player in the country moves or shoots as well as he does -- and late-game passivity evokes memories of one of the college game's most enigmatic players of the past few seasons: former UConn forward Rudy Gay. The amazing thing is, Durant, just four games into his career -- and less than two months removed from his 18th birthday -- is already ahead of where Gay was at the end of his sophomore season. Whereas one would watch Gay score 15 and wonder why he didn't get 25, it was easy to watch Durant drop 29 on the Red Storm and think, he could have had 40.

Point guard D.J. Augustin, Texas' other stud freshman, set up many of Durant's five 3-pointers Friday, including two from NBA distance. Augustin said that when Durant finally unveils the whole package, including more drives to the hole and a low-post game he's been reluctant to flash, "I don't even want to see it, because it's going to be too scary. Kevin's got so much to his game that I don't think anybody will be able to stop him."

I found Durant's parents, Wanda and Wayne Pratt, in the Garden stands at the start of the second half; when Wanda examined the first-half box score, she was more interested in how many rebounds Kevin had (seven) than his point total. I asked her about her son's Sphinx-like mien, and she said that "he's a very laid-back, reserved guy" off the court. We talked about how, after graduating high school at 17, Durant is one of the youngest players in all of the NCAA -- and it might take a couple of months for him to truly take charge of the Longhorns. "Right now, he's just getting used to college," Wayne said. "He's enjoying it -- but as the season goes on, and he gets more and more seasoned, he'll take more of a leadership role."

It already appears that the freelancing, perimeter forward role Durant is playing in Texas' new offense -- which is said to be modeled after the Phoenix Suns -- will allow him to thrive more than a slower, halfcourt setup would. "He's the kind of guy we're going to move all over the court," said Barnes. The coach had his young 'Horns studying video of the Suns in the offseason, with hopes that an uptempo attack led by Augustin, sophomore A.J. Abrams and Durant could make up for the Horns' size deficiency in the post.

Durant, when asked which of the Suns he modeled his game after, gave an instant, animated answer: "Boris Diaw. I love him, he's one of my favorite players in the game. I try to be like him a lot, man. He's so versatile, he can pass, he can do everything. I want to be like him."

While Diaw was a late bloomer who toiled in obscurity in France and Atlanta before blowing up in Phoenix, Durant is already on everyone's -- both his college opponents' and the NBA's -- radar. He has the first step and the handle to blow by most defenders, but will need to get more aggressive in the lane. After the Spartans kept Durant under wraps in the second half on Thursday, Michigan State freshman Raymar Morgan said, "He's NBA-caliber, but he's the type of guy who doesn't like a whole lot of contact." If Durant makes an effort to ensure that his free-throw attempts consistently outnumber his 3-point tries (he took eight 3s against seven FTs against MSU, and had an even six-six split vs. St. John's), his scoring average will explode.

With all of this room for improvement, it's stunning to think that a kid who's just 18 years and 49 days old is already averaging 22.8 points and 9.5 rebounds for a nationally ranked team. "He's special," Barnes said of Durant, "but he's going to get so much better over the next three months." By March, he'll be far more than a curiosity.
posted by Luke Winn | View comments (9) |

9 Comments:

Posted: 11:04 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Considering that Maryland pretty much dominated and then won a great tournament, Strawberry and the rest of the MD seniors proved themselves to be mature and focused, Williams kept the team geared up offensively and smart on defense, isn't it time for you and the rest of the media to start focusing on this team, clearly one of the top 15 in the nation, if not better?
Posted: 11:04 AM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Considering that Maryland pretty much dominated and then won a great tournament, Strawberry and the rest of the MD seniors proved themselves to be mature and focused, Williams kept the team geared up offensively and smart on defense, isn't it time for you and the rest of the media to start focusing on this team, clearly one of the top 15 in the nation, if not better?
Posted: 11:10 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
If anybody saw Durant in the first half of the State game, you know this kid is legit! Yes, he faded a little in the second half, but let's not forget he IS only a freshman...and name me one freshman, outside of "Melo, that didn't pull a few of those second half dips. He looked like a young KG, but with a better touch and deeper range. It's just a shame we will only see him in Austin for just 1 year. If he stays healthy, you can go ahead and reserve this kids spot on several future All-star teams.
Posted: 4:13 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Kevin Durant is the real deal baby and will be a hall of fame player in the NBA soon enough.Everyone is comparing him to KG but I don't see that at all. Kevin will develop a low post game but he will never be a predominantly post player. I see him as a Tracy McGrady but with a better 3-point jay and a more versatile offensive game.A lot like Rudy Gay but twice as good and will be a very cluth player once he gets comfortable at Texas. Can't wait to see him in the NBA as a star.
Posted: 4:14 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Kevin Durant is the real deal baby and will be a hall of fame player in the NBA soon enough.Everyone is comparing him to KG but I don't see that at all. Kevin will develop a low post game but he will never be a predominantly post player. I see him as a Tracy McGrady but with a better 3-point jay and a more versatile offensive game.A lot like Rudy Gay but twice as good and will be a very cluth player once he gets comfortable at Texas. Can't wait to see him in the NBA as a star.
Posted: 9:31 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Durant is as good as advertised and then some. Its been awhile since I've seena college kid be able to do it all. Jump, run, pass, low post, spin off contact and hit the turn around, long range, hit free throws, finish, pull up J, rebound, block shots, and even make some nice dishes. He is sick, and I rarely say that about college guys. Texas has had some good ones but only TJ Ford was even close as fun to watch. Once Rick Barnes teaches this young man to love and use defenders physical contact and aggression he will be a load (more than he already is)with no 2nd half fades
Posted: 1:19 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Kevin Durant is a great player. He is in that Tmac mold he can do it all but i don't he has the playmaking skills Tmac posseses so i think hisa more agressive Rudy Gay
Posted: 8:52 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
i just hope he enters the draft and the pacers get him!
Posted: 1:50 PM   by Anonymous Anonymous
Durant is a great player and has the focus of the national media, but on Feb. 5, 2007 Texas A&M's RS-FR Chinemelu Elonu will absolutely dominate Durant.

Luke, i'm tellin ya, you gotta get in on the ground floor with this one. Elonu is a penny stock about to go Google, all it's gonna take is a national broadcast.

Take this tip to the bank, you're welcome.
Search