With last season’s historic collapse of
the Texas men’s basketball team, the offseason focus for head coach
Rick Barnes has been team chemistry. But will this “chemistry”
produce a stable reaction or the explosive meltdown we saw last
“Chemistry” was a popular word last
The term found its way into many
articles about the Texas hoops team because talent was clearly not an
issue for the 2009-2010 Longhorns. Widely acknowledged as one of the
most talented teams in country, Texas entered the season ranked No. 3
in each poll. The Horns quickly proved the pollsters right, dominating
the early competition and moving up into the top slot. Despite this
talent, Texas suddenly reversed course and became the first team to
be ranked No. 1 and then fall out of the polls entirely in the same
If it wasn’t talent, it much have been
chemistry. Of course, writers referred to chemistry in its
figurative sense, meaning the rapport between teammates and their
coaches. But the Longhorns’ season went through an explosive
combustion worthy of literal chemistry.
Chemistry, in its literal
sense, is the science of matter and the changes it undergoes. The Longhorns went through violent changes last season, going 17-0
over the first half of the season and 7-10 over the remainder, ending
with a first round exit from the NCAA Tournament.
Texas seemed to take on a sort of
chemical chaos, kicking off free hydrogens (turnovers) and dissolving
once strong covalent bonds (defensive breakdowns), with free radicals
rampaging amok through what should be an organized system (players
not listening and making poor shot selections).
Two NBA first round picks (Avery
Bradley and Damion James), as well as a second rounder (Dexter
Pittman), are gone from the Texas roster and the Horns are working
with potentially less talent this season, but as the 2010-2011 season
approaches Longhorn coach Rick Barnes believes he’s got the chemistry
of much more stable system.
“I have enjoyed being with this group
as much as any group I have been with for a long time because of they
have really bought into the fact that it is about the team…In terms
of our chemistry, I’m really pleased and happy where we are right now
with our basketball team,” said Barnes.
The operative word is “team”. Texas wasn’t much of a team down the stretch last
season. But the sense of team has been strong this year, according
to Barnes, and a strong indicator is how well the new elements are
mixing the old.
“The older guys have really embraced
(Tristan Thomson) and Cory (Jospeh) and helped them, let them know
what lies ahead as much as they can right now,” said Barnes.
Thompson was a big addition for Texas. Continuing along this pedantic path we’ve taken, he’s a big addition
in both senses, standing at 6-foot-9 and possessing a wingspan of
Durantuan proportions (7-2). But what Barnes is most impressed with
is the attitude he brings to the gym.
“Tristan has really worked extremely
hard, in some regards maybe as hard as anybody on our team,” said
Barnes. “I just think if he will continue with the type of effort
he is putting in right now and with the focus that he’s giving us, he
has got a chance to have an outstanding year.”
The lanky Canuck (Thompson was born in
Brampton, Ontario) is ranked as the No.
10 overall hoops prospect for 2010 by ESPN and could be the most
talented player on the roster, but the new addition who may be the
most important to team chemistry is Joseph.
Point guard is a key to any Rick
Barnes-coached team and Texas lacked consistent play from the
position. Joseph, ranked No. 16 overall in the nation, has the
balanced skill-set necessary to lead a team and make plays happen on
his own. The issue will be how quick he’ll mesh with his teammates,
or if he’ll mesh at all. Regardless, Barnes is happy with the depth
he’ll have at the top of the key.
“With Dogus (Balbay) being able to
get back and with the addition of Cory Joseph, I feel that we are
going to be fine there,” said Barnes.
Barnes is approaching his 300th
win as Texas coach (294-120) and his coaching seat may not be hot,
but an audible clicking of the gas starter can be heard. A repeat of
the tribulations of 2009-2010 and that burner might ignite. Barnes
is aware of the team play necessary to avoid a repeat collapse and
his players are too.
“I think (the players) truly are
making a conscious effort to do everything the way we want it done,”
said Barnes. “And I think they understand that the key for us to
have the kind of season that we have to have is togetherness.”
For Texas to be successful, the Horns
will need to be as the rigid of cast iron and less like the
tumultuous ionized gas of a team the last go-around brought.
…Or perhaps all that is amok is this
metaphor, but based on the chaos of last season, the constituent
elements of the 2010-2011 Horns are less important than how those
For a complete breakdown of the
upcoming season, see Inside
Texas’ 2010-2011 Season Previews:
2: The Defense
3: The Schedule
4: The Past
5: The Future
6: Jordan Hamilton
7: J’Covan Brown
8: Gary Johnson and Shawn Williams
9: Clint Chapman, Matt Hill and Alexis Wangmene
10: Dogus Balbay and Jai Lucas