Augustin and Abrams Are Gone, What Now?

Sophomore point guard D.J. Augustin and junior shooting guard A.J. Abrams both announced that they're headed to the NBA. So what now for Texas? Who do the Horns have coming back and who takes over the vacant point guard position?

D.J. Augustin officially put his name up for the NBA Draft on Wednesday, forgoing his final two seasons of eligibility on the 40 Acres.

No surprise there.

The consensus All-American point guard Bob Cousy Award winner is projected as a first-round pick in June 26th's NBA Draft. The surprise came when his back-court mate, A.J. Abrams, also threw his name into the hat.

Neither have hired an agent, leaving open the possibility of a return, but Augustin's announcement was much more definitive, saying, "I have dreamed of playing in the NBA since I was a little boy and I am ready to start living this dream."

Abrams, on the other hand, is much less definitive in his announcement, saying, "Right now, I have the opportunity to test the waters to see where I stand. If I'm comfortable with where I feel I'll be drafted, I'll stay in the draft. If not, I'll be back for my senior year."

But assuming both stay in the Draft, the Horns will be down a pair of starters from last season when they gear up for their 2008-09 run. The biggest hole will be at the point guard position.

It's difficult for a team to get far in the NCAA Tournament without a solid point guard and Texas is looking at three different options.

1) Justin Mason

The soon-to-be junior guard was Augustin's primary back-up at the point. That may not sound like much considering that Augustin played a whopping 37.3 minutes per game last season, but often times when both were on the floor, Mason would take ball-handling duties.

Mason was second on the team in assists (3.0 per game) and was Texas' do-everything player last season, taking on any role the coaches asked, from point guard to third post to lock-down defender. Mason's shown the flexibility and ability to become a full-time point guard if he applied himself to it.

2) J'Covan Brown

Brown, the only member of Texas' 2008 recruiting class, is a 6-2, 175-pound combo guard from Port Arthur. His scoring ability is apparent, having put up 29.9 points in 11 games as a senior. But during his junior year, in which Brown averaged 27 points, he also averaged six assists per game.

He's got experience running the point, but he's such a dangerous scoring threat (Brown put up a career-high 50 on Spring Westfield) that he may be best used as a shooting guard, assuming there's a point guard present who could get him the ball.

3) Dogus Balbay

Don't forget about Dogus Balbay. There's a point guard already on the roster in the 6-0, 176-pound Turk. Balbay was supposed to be Augustin's back-up but redshirted in 2007-08 due to a knee injury in pre-season.

Before coming to Texas, Balbay attended Brewster academy in New Jersey and averaged 13.5 points and a team-best seven and a half assists per game during his senior season. Balbay is the only Texas player who was recruited specifically to play point guard and will play a role at the position, but whether or not he'll be able to grab the starting spot remains to be seen.

Initially the answer may be "all of the above."

One thing is for sure, the line-up as a whole will get bigger. Texas returns all of its posts and Gary Johnson will likely be able to assume a starting role on the team as he continues to develop. This will allow Damion James to establish himself at the three and potentially become the main scorer for the Longhorns, working as an inside-outside combo player.

Connor Atchley, after a break-out junior season, should initially be the starter at center, but Dexter Pittman had a strong tournament and he could end up playing a lot at center, allowing Atchley to move in to the four.

The post is where Texas will be deepest this upcoming season. Sophomore center Matt Hill will return to the line-up to compliment a front-court bench that already has Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene. The back-court will be a bit thinner. Coming off the bench at guard will be Harrison Smith and whomever doesn't take one of the starting guard spots out of Balby, Brown and Mason. We project Brown and Mason to initially start at guard, but the line-up is far from set.

Texas projected starting line-up:

G - J'Covan Brown
G - Justin Mason
F - Damion James
F - Gary Johnson
C - Connor Atchley


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