I've made the case before that it wasn't as important for Texas to get specifically Myck Kabongo back, or J'Covan Brown back … that it was more vital just that Texas get one, or the other, back. The cost of starting over with a freshman point guard could have seriously limited the Longhorns' chances to make a run at the league.
But now that Kabongo has announced that he's coming back to the 40 Acres, it's time to look at just what kind of impact he can have as a sophomore. To do that, we're going to go back to the past a bit.
So which areas can we expect Kabongo to improve? If we use the example of two other Barnes point guards — T.J. Ford and D.J. Augustin — we can guess that Kabongo will see his scoring bump up, while his assists will drop.
Both Ford and Augustin saw their scoring go up more than four points per game between their freshman and sophomore seasons, while both had fewer dimes than the previous year. See below:
Ford (FR) — 10.8 points per game, 8.3 assists per game
Ford (SO) — 15.0 PPG, 7.7 APG
Difference — +4.2 PPG, -0.6 APG
Augustin (FR) — 14.4 PPG, 6.7 APG
Augustin (SO) — 19.2 PPG, 5.8 APG
Difference — +4.8 PPG, -0.9 APG
It's also worth noting that both players used a significantly higher percentage of possessions as sophomores, while at the same time becoming more efficient (i.e. improving their offensive rating.
That would fall in-line with common sense as well. The instinct of most point guards is to dish the ball, meaning that when they're the new point guard on campus, that's the behavior they fall into by default. But give them another year in the offense, and often they'll feel more comfortable creating their own offense. Even point guards who have significantly more assists as sophomores than they did as freshmen — such as North Carolina standout Kendall Marshall — do so while also increasing their own scoring at the same time.*
* Marshall is an interesting case. He scored more points as a sophomore, but his per minute averages stayed roughly the same. Still, the point remains that even point guards who improve their assist margin don't do so at the expense of their own scoring. Former Kansas standout Aaron Miles, the Big 12's all-time leader in assists, dished out more assists as a junior and senior than he did as a freshman and a sophomore, but he also improved his scoring all four years he was on campus.
So, if Kabongo makes the average leap of the two Barnes point guards, his sophomore numbers would be 14.1 points and 4.45 assists per game. Those numbers would have been good enough for No. 9 and No. 7 on the Big 12 charts this year, respectively. Only one Big 12 point guard this year topped both of those averages: Kansas PG Tyshawn Taylor.
If, like Ford and Augustin, Kabongo is able to do it while becoming both a higher usage, and a higher efficiency player at the offensive end, there's legitimate reason to believe that Texas will compete for the Big 12 conference title in 2012-2013. And that's why Kabongo coming back was so huge for the Longhorns.