By Harrison D. Sanford
The Texas men's basketball team lost a late lead on Saturday, falling to UCLA 65-63. What was more telling was how the Longhorns lost it, consecutive possessions that resulted in turnovers as the Bruins turned up their defensive intensity.
“That's been our problem, its our guys being careless with the ball,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “We just mishandled the ball, had turnovers … On a couple of them I'm not sure, to be honest with you, what the thought process was.”
Much of the blame typically falls on the point guard, in this case it would be Javan Felix. Before the season started, Barnes didn't even expect the New Orleans native be the one with the ball in his hands late in games. Ideally, that would be Myck Kabongo.
“He played 38 minutes,” Barnes said. “That's probably about 23 more than we expected when the season started this time of year. Really, if you look at it a lot has been dropped on him.”
Kabongo was has not been given clearance to play after an NCAA violation. The issue stems from a trip to Akron paid for by Cavalier forward Tristan Thompson. The two have a relationship stemming from their AAU days with the Canadian-based CIA Bounce program. Thompson's brother claims that Kabonogo's brother has reimbursed him for the trip.
“Did I pay for him? Well, yes and no,” Thompson said to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. ”You know, I actually had to pay for it and then had his brother reimburse me, which is totally fine with the NCAA, we discussed that. Again, we want to respect the process. I think everything’s going to work out. I don’t see no eligibility issues, but that’s for the NCAA to work out.”
The NCAA has yet to reach a final judgment. The bigger issue is that the NCAA is investigating the relationship between Kabongo and agent Rich Paul. One would have to assume, he will suit up at some point in the season as long as Texas is being up front with details.
In the meantime, it will be up to Felix to shoulder the heavy load. That won't come any easier in the next two weeks with contests against No. 20 North Carolina and No. 19 Michigan State. Right now, wins in those contests seem unlikely but it can be the exact training ground Felix and team need.
“More has been expected of me,” Felix said. “I'm ready to take that challenge on. I feel like I'm getting better with it and growing. I just have to keep listening to coach Barnes and keep being positive about everything.”
The experience gained in these match-ups can prove to be profitable for the Longhorns, especially if Kabongo gets cleared.
Scouts impressed by Ridley
A couple of NBA scouts were in attendance Saturday to evaluate UCLA's highly-praised freshmen class, which features Shabazz Muhammad. One player on the other side of the ball, Cameron Ridley, also gained some interest. A scout who spoke of the condition of anonymity said that the freshman has “true 7-foot size and length.” However, the scout did note it’s hard to have a true evaluation of the big man without the services of top notch point guard Kabongo