Barnes Inks Another Top Class

Coach Rick Barnes landed what is generally considered one of the top recruiting classes in the nation when five prep standouts signed Letters of Intent Wednesday to play basketball next season at Texas. ranks the Longhorn class as No. 7 nationally and it comes on the heels of the consensus No. 1 class that Barnes inked two seasons ago. The next generation of Horns is considered solid enough to bolster a program that is currently ranked No. 2 in the preseason AP Poll and No. 3 in the USA Today coaches poll.

"I always thought that the best way to judge them is in four years, or when they're done," Barnes said Wednesday. "It's what they've done, or what they bring to the program. Where we are in our program right now, we look for a certain type of individual and a certain type of player. We feel like this whole group meets what we've had in the past."

The jewel of the group is swingman Kevin Durant (Suitland, Md.), ranked as the nation's second-best high school prospect at any position by most recruiting services. The 6-9, 205-pounder picked Texas over North Carolina and Connecticut and might have opted for the NBA had professional basketball not imposed an age-limit on incoming prep stars.

"There's no doubt that he would have, and should have, tested those waters," Barnes said. "He's an outstanding player. He, as much as any player we've ever signed, helped us in recruiting. He was always willing and eager to call other recruits because he wants to win. That's what he's about. Everyone knows how good of a player he is and what he brings. He's a very versatile player that can do a lot of different things. What we like about him is that he continues to want to get better."

Durant averaged 19.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and more than three blocks per game during his 35-2 junior season at Oak Hill Academy. Completing his prep star days this season at Montrose Christian School, Durant shot 65 percent from the floor and 43 percent from three-point range last season.

Highly touted point guard D.J. Augustin has given Texas his verbal commitment and is expected to sign on Thursday, his 18th birthday. A press conference at Houston Jones is expected. Augustin's family has taken up residence in Missouri City, Texas after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their New Orleans home last August. Considered a floor general of T.J. Ford's and Daniel Gibson's caliber, Augustin chose Texas over LSU. lists Augustin as the No. 40 high school senior in the country.

Harrison Smith (6-3, 185) is a shooting guard and, as a sophomore, was a starter along with current Longhorn guard Daniel Gibson on the Houston Jones' Class 4A State Championship team. He averaged 23 points and seven rebounds per game during his junior campaign.

Matt Hill (6-10. 230) is a power forward from Lincoln, Nebraska, and is ranked as the No. 74 high school prospect in the country by He averaged 19 points, 10.5 boards and 3.7 blocks while converting 68 percent from the field during his junior campaign.

Dexter Pittman (6-10, 320) is a center from Rosenberg, Texas, and's choice as the No. 51 high school prospect nationally. He averaged 15 points, 8.5 rebounds and three blocks per contest last season.

Justin Mason (6-3, 185) is a combo guard from Amarillo who averaged 19 ppg in leading Palo Duro to the Class 4A state finals as a junior.

Many expect Gibson and C LaMarcus Aldridge, two of four McDonalds All-Americans currently on the Longhorn roster, to announce for the NBA following their sophomore seasons. Regardless, Barnes' expects next year's freshmen class to contribute right away.

"They're going to have to," Barnes said. "With where we are and with what we try to do with our program, we count on young people to come and help us. There's no doubt that everyone that we sign has the ability to do that."

The NCAA's fall signing period concludes November 16.

Click here for more Signing Day coverage, including top prospects lists, team rankings, and more.

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