Texas again will count on youth

AUSTIN, Texas -- In due time, the 2011-12 version of Rick Barnes' Longhorns basketball team is going to be known for something.

"At least one thing," the head coach said. "I don't know what that's going to be yet."

Whatever their calling card might be will have plenty to do with the six freshmen on the roster -- three times the number of seniors.

"The expectations for all of them are extremely high, because they're going to have to play," Barnes said. "And they're going to have to get out there and go after it. They've shown that they're willing to compete, and they want to get themselves improved as individual players."

Perhaps no player carries higher expectations than freshman guard Myck Kabongo, who was the headliner in a Texas class that finished fourth in the ESPNU class rankings.

Kabongo, like former Longhorns Tristan Thompson and Corey Joseph, grew up in Canada and went to school at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. A pass-first point guard, he earned a five-star grade and was the No. 11 player overall in 2011 by ESPNU.

He is one of four Texas commitments that were members of the 2011 ESPNU 100. Sheldon McClellan (Houston/Bellaire) was rated as the No. 47 player overall and the No. 14 shooting guard. Jonathan Holmes (San Antonio/Antonian) was the No. 62 player overall and No. 10 power forward, and Julien Lewis (La Marque, Texas/La Marque) was the No. 76 player and No. 21 shooting guard.

Getting these types of players to Texas is nothing new to Barnes, who has set the bar high for recruits who want to be a part of his program. Since 2009, the Longhorns have finished No. 4, No. 8 and No. 4. The 2012 class already ranks No. 2.

"We're not going to change that," he said. "And we've told those guys that they came to the University of Texas because you know where our program has been and we still want more. There's no question."

In addition to the ESPNU 100 members, Texas also got commitments from three-star prospects Jaylen Bond and Sterling Gibbs.

Bond, a power forward from Philadelphia Plymouth-Whitemarsh, originally committed to Pitt before ultimately deciding on the Longhorns. ESPNU rated him as the No. 6 player in Pennsylvania and the No. 24 power forward.

Gibbs, a point guard from Scotch Plains (N.J.) Seton Hall Prep, was ranked as the No. 5 player in the state and the No. 25 point guard.

With youth on its side, and the hustle that normally emerges from those trying to make their mark, Texas might find that calling card emerge on the defensive end.

That wouldn't be a problem for Barnes, who has preached defense since he took over the program April 12, 1998. As long as it doesn't turn into careless fouls.

"We've got the ability to pressure them, because we've got some quickness, and we've got some guys I think can get down and guard," Barnes said. "But the key is going to be teaching them how to do it without fouling. That's going to be a major thing. There's a fine line between playing hard and playing with some intelligence."

The Longhorns don't have much longer before their search for that identity can begin. They start the season Nov. 13 against Boston University in the regional round of the TicketCity Legends Classic, which will be played in Austin.

William Wilkerson covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation
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