Changing the culture
Last season, for a number of reasons, Texas faltered to a 16-18 record, including a 7-11 mark in conference play. But Longhorn coach Rick Barnes wasn't interested in excuses, only changes. And after several transfers, Texas again returns a young roster, albeit one that he said was coming together from a chemistry and cultural standpoint.
"The one thing that has happened this spring was the fact that those guys made a commitment to each other that they were going to change this culture and this environment back to what we want it to be and what we're about," Barnes said. "And they've done that."
Barnes said that the past few seasons the culture "wasn't what we thought we had to have." Now, he said the players are scrapping to get better every day.
"Because I've always believed that if you're not getting better, somebody somewhere is and they're going to work," Barnes said. "So you've got to get better every day. With that said, there's not one guy in our program that hasn't moved forward as returning players."
One player expected to take on a bigger role is Holmes, considered to be one of the leaders of the team due, in part, to the fact that he's the only scholarship upperclassman.
"I think there's a lot of different ways to lead and the way you do it," Holmes said. "Jonathan is not really the vocal kind of guy that's a rah-rah kind of guy. But Jonathan from the day that he got here, he's a hard working player. You know you're going to get max effort from him and it doesn't matter what you're doing, he's going to give you everything he's got."
After struggling against UCLA, Holmes appeared to turn a corner, averaging 11 points and 7.7 rebounds over a seven-game stretch before getting injured, including a 13.5-and-9 average in the final two games of that string. But he suffered an injury in the next game and never quite regained that momentum.
"Jonathan's done everything that we've asked him to do," Barnes said. "He is a guy that this spring, once we were done, he was right back at it and doing what he needed to do. But we expect a lot from him, in terms of not just his leadership, but also in terms of production that we need from him."
Barnes said that Holmes brought an increased energy level that affected everyone in the program. But he was also quick to point out that energy and leadership was coming from several sources on this year's team.
"It's not just Jonathan," Barnes said. "It's everybody."
Texas A&M in the Big 12-SEC Challenge?
One of the big news events this offseason was the announcement of the Big 12-SEC Challenge, an event that will pitTexas against Vanderbilt in the first round of matchups this year. Obviously, with the rival Aggies in the SEC, there's a question of whether the Longhorns would ever play A&M within the challenge.
"I haven't thought much about any of that," Barnes said. "I really haven't thought about it."
Barnes said that the typical case was to arrange matchups based on "what's best for TV." But while Barnes didn't say one way or another, Kansas coach Bill Self took a stronger position. When asked if the Jayhawks would play departed rival Missouri as part of the challenge, Self simply stated, "No." He went on to say that he also didn't believe that Texas and Texas A&M would play as part of the challenge.