February 5, 2007
How scary would it have been if Kevin Durant, the multi-talented offensive machine, chosen his number two choice … North Carolina!
In Durant, I am talking about the best-skilled perimeter big man I have seen in many a year. Some of the names I would throw out there in the same talent class are pretty impressive. I am talking about guys who left high school and went right to the NBA, like Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady. I am thinking about Dirk Nowitzki.
Mr. Durant is so special. Just look at some of his numbers this season (see box). How many people can go on the road against a program like Texas Tech, against the number one winner in Division I history, Robert Montgomery Knight, and put up 37 points and 23 rebounds! Remember, the Red Raiders beat Texas A&M and Kansas in Lubbock.
You couldn't tell Mr. Durant how tough that game would be! I call him Mr., or Sir Kevin, because he has earned that kind of respect. He made every big shot possible.
If you are a Longhorn fan, you'd better go and buy a ticket and see him play now while you have the opportunity. We all know that this kid is one year and out in Austin.
He has been a real treat for Rick Barnes. Think about what Texas lost from last year's Elite Eight squad -- LaMarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson and PJ Tucker to the NBA. Then add on Brad Buckman and the Longhorns really saw their talent leave Austin. Aldridge was a top five talent, but in my book it is NC, no contest. I would take Durant right now over Aldridge because he is capable of scoring in the NBA now.
Led by Durant, this Texas team has played very well. This is a very young squad with solid talent surrounding Durant, but again, it was inexperienced coming into the season. Despite the youth, Barnes has a team that looks like it could make some noise come tournament time with DJ Augustin, AJ Abrams and company showing its ability. The win at Texas Tech was a statement.
Texas has had some tough losses, like the three-overtime thriller against Oklahoma State, the two-point loss at Michigan State, the overtime defeat against Tennessee. If the Longhorns won those games, we would probably be talking about a top 10 squad despite starting four freshmen much of this season.
The big question is, would you take Durant number one in the draft, or would you go with Greg Oden of Ohio State.
Oden has that big, physical stature, a world of potential, great body strength and a defensive dynamic. Many people would go in that direction, but you can't go wrong with Durant. He will put points on the board at the next level, because they will have a difficult time trying to check him out on the perimeter. He can put the ball on the deck, he can shoot the trifecta, he can get on the glass.
Mr. Durant is so talented that my VBDI is kicking around the idea of moving him up to #1 on my national Player of the Year list. Alando Tucker, Aaron Brooks and Durant are the top three, order to be decided.
I am looking forward to seeing Durant hook up with Texas A&M and Billy Gillispie's tough-minded defensive club.
Wow, imagine if Durant had joined his pal Tywon Lawson in Chapel Hill? Put him on the frontline with Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright and the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers might have been sweating. The Tar Heels could have challenged the Charlotte Bobcats with that line-up.
People in Texas are happy he came to Austin.
DURANT'S TOP PERFORMANCES
POINTS AND REBOUNDS:
VS. TEXAS TECH: 37, 23
VS COLORADO: 37, 16
VS OKLAHOMA ST: 37, 12
VS MISSOURI: 34, 13
VS BAYLOR: 34. 9
VS ST JOHN'S: 29. 10
VS ARKANSAS: 28, 13
VS OKLAHOMA: 28, 13
vs KANSAS STATE: 32, 9
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.