Inside Texas Blog: What Now (Part 2)?

Freshman forward Gary Johnson is out for the 2007-08 season and maybe for good. Inside Texas asks again, What Now?

When Kevin Durant announced his intentions to enter the NBA Draft back on April 10 I wrote a blog entry titled What Now? projecting the personnel situation for the Horns for the 2007-08 season. Yesterday's news that incoming freshman but expected starter Gary Johnson is sidelined, possibly permanently, due to a heart condition means a reevaluation is in order.

I had Aldine's Johnson slated for the starting power forward spot for Rick Barnes' 10th Texas team, along with returning starters point guard D.J. Augustin, shooting guard A.J. Abrams and forward Damion James (moving from the four to the three), while the center spot was/is a little less certain, although Dexter Pittman is the probable starter.

With the 6-foot-6 Johnson out of the mix, Texas will probably play taller at the four, with 6-foot-9 junior Connor Atchley, 6-foot-9 sophomore Matt Hill and 6-foot-8 true freshman Alex Wangmene fighting for the start. If the season started today, Atchley, who averaged 3.9 points and 3.9 rebounds in 18 minutes per game last season as a sophomore, would almost certainly be in the starting five, but Hill, Wangmene and even true freshman center Clint Chapman (with Pittman still not a probable high minute guy) could see substantial action in the paint as the season progresses.

Barnes basically has six ‘bigs' at his disposal if you include Damion James, who played the four last year when Durant occupied the three, but James is by far the best option at the three. Some might say the only option, since the roster is made up almost exclusively of one/twos and four/fives. Aside from James, the 6-foot-2 Justin Mason is the only other player on the roster capable of filling the three role, but he's best-suited for the two, and his presence in a line-up along with the 5-foot-11 Augustin and the 5-foot-10 Abrams could put the Horns at a defensive disadvantage on the wing.

That probably would have been an issue regardless of Johnson's availability, because James last year led the Horns in fouls (100), and fouled out three times, despite playing just the fifth-most minutes on the squad. But Johnson's absence means Barnes may have to get creative with his line-ups, at-times, both on the perimeter and in the paint. And even more than expected, he's probably going to need Wangmene and Chapman to contribute immediately.

There's at least one bit of off-season good news for Texas hoops, and that's the official signing of Dogus Balbay during the spring signing period. Balbay should be capable of a few minutes off the bench at the point, allowing Abrams to remain almost exclusively at his best position, shooting guard, with Mason getting significant minutes as the team's third guard.

As I said in the original What's Next piece, the cupboard is certainly not as bare as heading into this past season, at least in terms of experience, but this latest off-season hit leaves Barnes with fewer good personnel options for a team already with some pretty big question marks, and no apparent Kevin Durant-level talent available to single-handedly elevate the team. It will truly be a collaborative effort in 2007-08.

What do you think?

Blackwell For Commissioner
by Mike Blackwell
Inside Texas Magazine Editor
June 19, 2007

Kevin Weiberg has decided to give up his gig as Big 12 commissioner to become vice president of the Big Ten's start-up television network. His salary will be cut in half, but so will his headaches.

Clearly Weiberg was ready for a "new challenge" that would mean less time listening to whiny coaches complain about referees, marketing efforts, the lack of marketing efforts, negative recruiting, instant replay, referees, all-conference voting, big-school favoritism, budget inequities, gender inequities, the fact that Tuesday comes before Wednesday each week and, of course, referees.

I'd like to toss my name onto the "short list" of possible replacements for Weiberg, and if the league decides against hiring me, I'd at least like to pass along a few suggestions to the poor sap who gets to sit rather uncomfortably into Weiberg's hotseat. Weiberg made $500,000 a year as commissioner, and I'll gladly accept half that amount, saving the league about what it costs to host the conference meeting/golf tournament each year in Colorado Springs.

Before the league dismisses me as a serious candidate, I'd like to present these proposals for consideration:

*Big 12 Championship game – As commissioner, my first act will be to get rid of this nonsense. Nothing positive comes from this game, other than stuffing a few more dollars into each school's pockets. If you're in the top five in the country entering this game and you lose or even play poorly, you've cost the league a chance to play in a national championship game. If you don't accept my proposal to drop the game entirely, then make this game winner take all: the winning school gets all the proceeds. Never again will we allow Iowa State, Baylor and others to profit from a game in which they will never play.

*Hire an Ambassador to Oklahoma – We'll set up a permanent office in Norman, sharing a cubicle with Barry Switzer, so that we can have direct contact with all things Sooner. We'll hang out at local car dealerships, and we'll monitor phone calls to recruits daily. Any student-athlete wishing to test drive a Lexus must return the car within a span of 24 hours, and must pass the same credit check subjected to those of us who cannot run a 4.39 40-yard dash. The Ambassador to Oklahoma will report directly to the commissioner's office each day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

*Hire a ‘focus coach' at A&M – Texas A&M's football program will be required to hire a ‘focus coach.' This coach's main duty will be to ensure that all Aggie football players, coaches and fans (especially the fans) are aware of the fact that games are scheduled each year both before and after the game against the University of Texas, and that those games actually count when compiling the final won-lost tally. This coach will be especially valuable to the program every eight years or so when the Aggies beat the Longhorns on the football field.

*Hawk training – Colorado coach Dan Hawkins will be required to lead fellow league football coaches in a two-day seminar titled, "Embrace the Meltdown." Last year a parent wrote him a letter complaining about the lack of time off for players, and he flipped out, screaming, "It's the Big 12!" and adding, "Go play intramurals, brother!" This classic outburst should be duplicated by all coaches as often as possible, and Hawkins deserves a chance to share his passion with the other coaches in the league. Each coach will be required to "role play" with a mock press conference meltdown at the end of the seminar. Each coach will then be required to orchestrate at least one meltdown during the actual season, or be subjected to fines and possible suspension.

*Television – Please change the current television agreement with ABC, ESPN, FSN, VERSUS, ESPN2, ESPN-U and TBS and whomever else. I'm tired of trying to find TBS each year when Texas plays Oklahoma State. Create a Big 12 channel so fans will know exactly where to tune when they want to see a ballgame. The only time I want to watch TBS is when I have a hankering for the colorized Wizard of Oz.

I look forward to meeting you for an interview at your earliest convenience.

What do you think?

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