Longhorns Building Experienced Base

If the proliferation of early entries in college basketball did one thing over the last 10 or so years, it was to create a gap between the haves and have nots in terms of experience.

Texas was more bitten by early entries than most. In fact, Texas coach Rick Barnes had three classes in a row — 2008, 2009 and 2010 — where a single player didn't make it to his senior year.

Some of that was just plain bad luck. For instance, when Texas inked Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph in 2010, both were considered multi-year players, but left for the NBA Draft following their freshman years. That's how this year's team, a collection of sophomores and freshmen with no juniors or seniors occurred.

In a way, it was a tragic accident caused by a combination of early entries and the occasional transfer. But at the same time, the current crop of players represented somewhat of a shift in philosophy, with the Texas staff pursuing a solid base of players who were expected to stay and build a more experienced backbone to the program.

"I've said before, we're going to recruit the best players," Barnes said. "And I've said this too: that we've had guys that have come in and I'm not sure they had a timetable. I think guys left because they took advantage of an opportunity. They were workers and they got things done.

"But there's no doubt that we want the foundation like we had with Brandon Mouton or Royal Ivey, a James Thomas, a Brian Boddicker," Barnes said. "You think about that group of guys, they were guys that they were really the foundation and then we were able to add a player like a T.J. Ford that was a different caliber player, obviously. But [he] came in with the right idea that he was all about winning."

Right now, the Longhorns aren't winning. They're 8-10 and 0-5 in the Big 12, the worst start of the Barnes era. But Texas is the youngest team in the country, according to KenPom, and the Longhorns have the look of a squad that is going to stay together for a few years.

"We have felt from the beginning that this group of guys fit into that mold," Barnes said. "They're a talented group of guys, and they will figure it out. I go back and I can tell you, Sheldon McClellan, you guys know that I've been pushing him hard. But Brandon Mouton, we didn't think he figured it out until halfway through his junior year. It goes like that.

"This is where we are right now," Barnes said. "Back then we had more scholarship players too, which was a little bit different. But the fact is, I would think that we, in our mind, we thought about as we went out we definitely wanted to get a foundation. We love these guys, and we feel like they're going to do that for us."

But can they do it alone? The Longhorns are actively recruiting in 2013, and in addition to commitment Isaiah Taylor, the 'Horn staff is pursuing a pair of players in Julius Randle and Keith Frazier who could provide that extra scoring pop to a roster that is short on natural scorers.

"Again, we're going to recruit big-time guys," Barnes said. "We're always going to look at our needs. And we're always going to look at the what-ifs. With this group, I've said before, I think we've got enough [to win] with this group.

"But to take it over the top, you always want to have … a guy that really sets himself apart," Barnes said. "With that said, there's guys we'd like to add to that mix."

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