A.J. Abrams Returns to Texas With PG in Mind

Longhorn guard A.J. Abrams officially withdrew his name from the 2008 NBA Draft on Monday, the last day in which early entrants may do so. Abrams will instead return for his senior season at Texas and said he fully intends to compete for the starting point guard position.

It was a tough decision for A.J. Abrams, but from the beginning he knew he was probably going to return to Texas.

"I just took advantage of the system. You can do this two times, so either way it goes I was going to have to do it the following year," said Abrams. "I went to some workouts and got my name out there early."

The Texas guard worked out for a pair of NBA teams, the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, and got a great deal of feedback before officially returning to the 40 Acres. During the process, he compiled a list from scouts of things for him to work on as he goes into his final season of college basketball.

"On the defensive end, being more active and offensively playing more on the ball and going off the dribble and being more of a vocal leader," said Abrams as to what NBA teams would like him to work on.

Specifically, those are all qualities of a great point guard, but point guard is not where Abrams has spent most of his time at the University of Texas, instead playing out on the wing at the two-guard position. However, with Texas point guard D.J. Augustin leaving his name in the draft, there's now an open competition for the starting job at the position. Abrams said he plans on being in that competition.

"I think I have the tools to be a great point guard, I just have to show it," said Abrams.

Texas head coach Rick Barnes said on Monday that Abrams is fully capable of playing point guard, but stopped short of definitively saying the now-UT senior would make the move.

"He can play the point. I watch him every day in practice and sometimes we'd match him up against D.J. and I've seen him do some great things with it," said Barnes. "There's no doubt he can do that and he didn't learn anything (from NBA scouts) I didn't tell him. I told him it's a position he's going to have to embrace at the next level. But, that said, the way he puts the ball in the basket, he doesn't want to get away from that either."

Abrams said he's confident in his ability to play the spot, but it's not something that's been guaranteed to him.

"I don't expect to be handed anything," said Abrams. "I have to go out there and show I can play the point guard position. For us to win, we have to put people in the right spots. Hopefully I can go out there and show what I can do, but if not I'm willing to do anything to help the team win."

Abrams' primary competition at the spot will be redshirt freshman Dogus Balbay, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, and junior Justin Mason, who occasionally moved over to the position to spell Augustin. Also in the mix will be incoming freshmen guards J'Covan Brown and Varez Ward. Brown and Ward's collegiate positions have not been determined yet, but each has experience in high school running the point.

Also present for Abrams' announcement was former Longhorn teammate and NBA Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant. Durant is in Austin taking summer classes and believes Abrams' decision to put his name into the draft so he could workout for teams was a wise one.

"Next year, once this stuff comes back around, he's going to know about it, he's going to know what to do. He worked out for two teams, so he's going to be kind of a vet in that area, as far as working out," said Durant. "But coming back, he's doing a lot of things for the team and for himself."

Durant also added that he's confident Abrams will eventually join him in the NBA.

"I know he's good enough to play in our league," said Durant.

Abrams said he's glad to have his friend's support and even joked with Durant on the decision to withdraw from the draft.

"I'm pretty sure he's happy with my decision. I don't think he's ready for me to beat him in the NBA yet," said Abrams, smiling.

Abrams is the all-time career leader at Texas in three-point field goals made (284) and with 109 career games, he is on pace to break the UT record for career games played (134, shared by Brian Boddicker and James Thomas, 2001-04). Abrams averaged 16.5 points per game for last season's Elite Eight team.

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