Inside Texas Blog: Retire 35

Kevin Durant may have been the greatest player in the history of Texas basketball. But if that's the case, should the Longhorns retire Durant's No. 35 jersey, even though the phenom only played a single season on the 40 Acres?

Yes.

Kevin Durant's performance as a Texas Longhorn was so superior to all of his peers that it does not matter if he had stepped onto the floor for only a single game. No. 35 needs to be retired.

It may be difficult to look up into the rafters at the Erwin Center and see two jersey numbers with only three combined years at Texas, but it needs to happen.

There are all the wonderful things that go along with Durant such as his humility and playing ability, but the most important reason is this: Retiring Kevin Durant's jersey makes it more difficult to retire a jersey at Texas.

This may seem a little counter-intuitive. After all, why would adding another to the list make that list more exclusive?

It all has to do with the standard for retirement. Take a look at each of the jerseys that have been retired at the University of Texas.

No. 11 – T.J. Ford – Basketball
Led the Longhorns to a 48-19 record and their first Final Four appearance since 1947, the first freshman to lead the NCAA in assists, won both the Naismith and the Wooden awards.

No. 20 – Earl Campbell – Football
4,443 yards rushing and 41 touchdowns, inducted into both the College Football and NFL Halls of Fame, winner of the 1977 Heisman Trophy.

No. 21 – Roger Clemens – Baseball
Hurled 35 consecutive scoreless innings during 1982 post-season competition as the Horns finished tied for third nationally, the Rotary Smith Award, given to the nation's top player, was renamed the Roger Clemens Award in 2004 (it now goes to the nation's to pitcher, but still).

No. 34 – Ricky Williams – Football
Set NCAA career rushing mark at 6,279 yards, currently holds or shares 20 NCAA records, winner of the 1998 Heisman Trophy.

Notice a pattern? Naismith, Wooden, Heisman. The absolute best player in their sport.

This standard is why there is momentary hesitation about retiring Vince Young's No. 10…Vince Young's! Young is possibly the greatest player in the history of college football, and yet we wait. We can clearly make an exception for Young because he's so transcendent (one could also argue that his Maxwell Award qualifies him), but he would be an exception.

Just like for Clemens. He became the first, and is currently the only, Texas baseball player to have his jersey retired. He's the exception because he did not win National Player of the Year honors, but that's the important part. He is an exception.

Cat Osterman's No. 8 will be joining them soon. Osterman twice won the Honda Award as National Softball Player of the Year and also earned the 2006 USA Softball Collegiate National Player of the Year honor three times, the only player to ever win that award more than once.

If Durant's jersey is not retired, then that means that the standard is not greatest player in the nation. And if that's not the standard, what is?

There are some schools that retire a player's jersey if he reaches All-American status, but if that was the case here, the football team would have to start wearing fractions because there have been over 90 All-Americans in the history of Texas football.

"Touchdown Texas! Number 42 and 7/8 does it again!"

Doesn't really roll off the tongue. Since we're talking about Texas, the standard has to be something else.

A great guy? How about Ahmard Hall's No. 45? It's hard to find a person who has a more impressive list of accomplishments. Hall of Fame? Good grades? Statistical records?

No, the standard is National Player of the Year and Durant not only won a POTY honor…he won all of them.

The standard has been set and Kevin Durant has more than surpassed it.

What do you think?

What Now?
by Clendon Ross
Inside Texas Publisher
April 10, 2007

Kevin Durant will announce his intentions to enter the NBA Draft this afternoon at a 4 p.m. press conference, according to multiple reports. So where does that leave Rick Barnes' Horns heading into the 2007-08 season?

Well, the cupboard is certainly not as bare as heading into this past season when Barnes had to replace all five starters and the vast majority of the 2005-06 Elite Eight team's scoring and rebounding, but Durant's defection, although expected and totally understandable, leaves a huge hole in every statistical category.

Durant accounted for 25.8 points per game (32% of UT's offensive output), 11.1 rebounds (28%), 66 steals (25%) and 67 blocks (34%).

Texas returns four starters: sophomore point guard D.J. Augustin (14.4 points, 6.7 assists), top three-point threat junior A.J. Abrams (15.5 points), sophomore Justin Mason (7.6 points) and sophomore Damion James (7.6 points, 7.1 boards). Plus, the entire bench aside from late-season contributor Craig Winder also returns, including top sub junior Connor Atchley (3.9 points, 3.9 rebounds in 18 minutes per game) and sophomore big men Dexter Pittman and Matt Hill.

Expect a bit of shake-up in next season's line-up, though. Augustin is a definite starter at the point, with Abrams the probable starter at two guard, although Mason could be in the mix for the start as well (and, worst case, will be the first man off the bench at guard). With potential newcomer back-up point guard Dogus Balbay's fall status still up in the air, little-used senior J.D. Lewis and sophomore Harrison Smith are the only known commodities off the bench at guard, and neither currently projects to play more than a minimal role, which means Augustin could again be asked to play close to 40 minutes a night.

Damion James will remain in the starting line-up, but he'll move from down low to more of a wing, three position, and will be expected to take over some of the scoring load vacated by Durant, which means a long off-season of ball handling and jump shot practice. Aldine's Gary Johnson brings low post scoring ability and rebounding and looks to crack the starting five immediately as a true freshman at the four spot, with Pittman, despite his relative lack of playing time as a true freshman last season (he averaged just 5.3 minutes per game as a freshman while working himself into a reasonable playing weight and conditioning), the projected starter at center. Atchley and true freshmen Alex Wangmene project as the top depth in the paint, with true freshman Clint Chapman and sophomore Matt Hill fighting for minutes.

Although Durant's decision takes Texas out of the pre-season conversation for next year's national championship, the Horns could -- I repeat, could -- have a team capable of reaching the second weekend of the tourney unlike the Durant-led group. It will probably play bigger than this past group, and it will certainly have more experience, and hopefully more depth (at least at the three through five spots), which are reasons for optimism despite the loss of a once-in-a-generation talent.

What do you think?

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