Texas Players React to Tourney Invite

Texas is considered by many to be a football-first school.

So is it any shock that when a young basketball team made the NCAA Tournament, one of the players celebrated by imitating a gridiron move? In this case, the player was Jaylen Bond, tackling fellow freshman Jonathan Holmes just after the Longhorns heard their names announced on the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. Freshman guard Sterling Gibbs joined on the dogpile.

Basically I was just excited about my first time making the tournament," said a slightly more sedated Bond when speaking to the media. "Growing up, watching that stuff as I got older, and now actually having a chance to be a part of it, I think it's good for us."

You could count the reaction to youth, except that Bond said the players weren't young any more — "We're more like sophomores," he said, — and it was more an indication of just how far this team has come.

They don't play like freshmen anymore," said senior Clint Chapman. "I think we are lucky enough to have a group of guys that are experienced now. Obviously, they don't have the experience of playing in the NCAA Tournament, but that is not something you can give them until they experience it themselves.

"That is where guys like J'Covan [Brown] and I are going to have to help them out," Chapman said. "I think we have a great group of guys that will give us a great shot of going on a run. It starts with Cincinnati and we will start preparing for that tomorrow."

For Brown, it marks about a year since he was last on stage at March Madness, when Brown tore through the Arizona defense, then missed a potential buzzer beater when many thought he was fouled. When asked whether he hoped he would get another chance at a last second shot, Brown shook his head and said "No, I don't think so. I hope not."

"They just need to know that it is going to be tough, that no matter who we're playing, the other team is going to be a good one," Brown said. "We just need to focus on playing our game."

Freshman Myck Kabongo said that everyone on the team was happy to keep the Texas streak of 14 years of making the NCAA Tournament going.

"It's a streak at Texas that we want to keep going," Kabongo said. "We were all aware of the 13 consecutive seasons of being a NCAA Tournament team coming into the season. I took it upon myself as the point guard to tell the guys, ‘Look, this is what is at stake. We can't be the team that is remembered by not making the NCAA Tournament.'

"I was confident in what we had done to make the tournament," Kabongo said. "Coach [Rick Barnes] had stressed to us the strength of schedule we had and the league in which we play. We took care of the business that we had to, to be in good shape to make the tournament."

The Longhorns said they still had to watch more film on Cincinnati, though some — like Gibbs — knew a few Bearcat players from AAU ball.

"Right now, we are just really happy to be playing," McClellan said. "We don't know much about them, but I'm sure we are going to start watching tape and coming up with a game plan. From what I saw last night when they played Louisville, they are physical and play good defense."

Horns Digest Top Stories