The best Texas basketball players to round out an all-time starting lineup definitely includes T.J. Ford and Kevin Durant, but who else makes the cut?
Texas basketball has been a staple of the Big-12 conference since it’s inception in 1994. They trail only the Kansas Jayhawks in all-time wins and all-time win percentage. Nationally, they rank 18th in all-time wins and 25th in win percentage among NCAA Division I schools. Their 34 appearances in the NCAA Tournament are 11th most all-time. They’ve made the Final Four three times (1943, 1947 and 2003).
The school saw most of its best years come during the tenure of head coach Rick Barnes who was with the school for 17 seasons. During that time the Longhorns made 16 NCAA Tournaments including 14 consecutive trips. Barnes helped bring in a lot of the most talented players to ever wear the school’s patented burnt orange.
The current head coach, Shaka Smart, has brought in his fair share of blue-chip recruits to Austin in his time but none of those players are on this list. What this list consists of is a mock lineup featuring some of the all-time greats to ever make their way through Austin at one point.
When making a starting lineup there are only five available slots to fill. Given that Texas has had a basketball team since 1906 that leaves an awful lot of people who will be on the outside looking in. There is a fair share of talented players who won’t make this team but out of respect to them, we have placed an honorable mention section before we get started to honor other former Longhorn greats.
Honorable Mention: D.J. Augustin, Ron Baxter, Lance Blanks, Reggie Freeman, Chris Mihm, Johnny Moore, Terrence Rencher, LaSalle Thompson, P.J. Tucker, B.J. Tyler.
SG – Travis Mays
If the name sounds familiar that is because it is, in fact, the same Travis Mays that is the head coach at SMU for the women’s basketball team. He’s also had two stints (2004-07 and 2012-16) with his alma mater. Mays attended the school from 1986 to 1990 and helped to lead the Longhorns to a higher level of notoriety in college basketball.
During his time, Texas was still a member of the Southwest Conference. Mays is part of the famous “BMW – The Ultimate Scoring Machine” trio along with Lance Blanks and Joey Wright — the first letter of each players’ last name creates the BMW acronym — that led the school to the Elite Eight in the 1990 NCAA Tournament. That year, he averaged 24.1 points per game, which included him making 37.7 percent of his 7.9 3-point attempts per game. His scoring punch gave Texas basketball a big boost during his four years with the team.
He is currently the second all-time leading scorer in the school’s history (2,279 career points) and only Kevin Durant has scored more points in a single season than Mays — they are the only players to ever score 700-plus points in one year. His 2,279 points also place him second all-time in the Southwest Conference scoring records. Mays scored double-digits in 100 of his 124 career games.
The sharpshooter was the first-ever player to be named back-to-back player of the year in the Southwest Conference. Mays was inducted into the UT Men’s Athletic Hall of Honor in 2002. His success at Austin shouldn’t be forgotten by anyone who bleeds burnt orange.
C – Myles Turner
Myles Turner was one of a few big-time recruits that Rick Barnes was able to secure over his 17 years as the school’s head coach. He would turn out to be the last one that Barnes secured before he was fired. Turner was a Parade and McDonald’s All-American and also won a gold medal with the Team USA u-18 team in 2014.
Turner was the number two center in his recruiting class (behind Jahlil Okafor) and a Texas native. Getting him to stay home was a huge coup. However, he would only stay in Austin for one season before becoming a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. As a freshman, he was a strong interior force for the team, averaging 2.6 blocks per game while only playing 22.2 minutes per game and starting just seven games.
Though his numbers from his time in Austin don’t jump off the page, Turner would have accumulated several records if he remained at the school for longer than one year. His athleticism was off the charts for a player of his size. It wasn’t just vertical either, he had elite lateral quickness too that helped him defend smaller players on the perimeter at times.
His defensive prowess earned him All-Big 12, Big-12 All-Defense, Big-12 All-Freshmen and Big-12 Rookie of the Year honors after his freshman season. Turner’s team marked the end of the Barnes era in Austin and though they never cut down the nets it wasn’t for a lack of talent.
PF – LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge almost decided to enter the NBA straight from high school. The Dallas, Texas native was ranked as the 16th best player in his high school class. Like Turner, Aldridge ultimately decided to remain in-state for his college years and play for Texas basketball. Aldridge would stay for two years before entering the 2006 NBA Draft where he was taken second overall.
In his sophomore season, the Longhorns had one of their best seasons. They went 30-7 overall and were 13-3 in the conference giving the regular season Big-12 title. His team would go on to be selected as a two seed and make it to the Regional Final in Atlanta before losing to the fourth-seeded Louisiana State. That group also featured P.J. Tucker and Daniel Gibson.
Aldridge’s development throughout his time in Austin helped him become the dominant player that we’ve seen in the NBA for the last 14 years. He went from a bit-player on an average team to one of the key components on a 30-win team. He nearly averaged a double-double (15 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game) and also chipped in two blocks per game. He looked the part of a future NBA All-Star.
He was chosen to the 2005-06 All-Big 12 team, the 2006 Big-12 All-Tournament team, as well as being named to the Big-12 All-Defense team and was voted Defensive Player of the Year in the conference as well. He’s represented Texas well both in his times at Austin and outside of it and was inducted into the Men’s Hall of Honor in 2016.
PG – T.J. Ford
T.J. Ford makes it three straight players from the state of Texas who have made this list. If nothing else, Rick Barnes knew how to keep the talent in his backyard home. Ford was a born winner and in his final two high school seasons, he led his team to a 75-1 record, which included a 62-game winning streak and two Texas Class 5A state titles.
Ford brought that winning with him to Austin where he was able to make an immediate impact for the Longhorns. As a freshman, he led the team in minutes per game (32.4) and steals (2.2 per game) but he also became the first freshman ever to lead the entire NCAA in assists per game (8.27). He helped the team make it to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2002 NCAA Tournament.
However, he followed that up by giving Texas basketball an unforgettable season the very next year. Ford led the team in scoring (15 points per game), assists (7.7 per game [third in the nation]) and steals (2 per game) and the team made it to their first Final Four since 1947. Though the team would ultimately lose to Syracuse — who was led by Carmelo Anthony — the Longhorns have yet to come closer to winning the national championship.
Ford racked up the Big-12 Rookie of the Year, a consensus All-American selection, selected to All-Big 12 in both of his years in Austin and is one of two players to be named national player of the year for the school. He won the Naismith and Wooden awards following his sophomore year. Ford was one of four athletes (Earl Campbell, Roger Clemens and Ricky Williams are the others) in all of Texas athletics to have his jersey retired by the school.
SF – Kevin Durant
Last but not least is Kevin Durant, the player who statistically might have had the greatest freshman season in the history of the NCAA. Durant was viewed by most as the second-best player in his recruiting class (with Greg Oden widely thought of as the top prospect) so getting him to come from Maryland to Texas was a big feather in Rick Barnes’ recruiting cap.
Durant’s class was the first group of high school seniors who were impacted by the new age limit imposed by the NBA where players had to be 19 years old and one year removed from their high school graduating class in order to be eligible to enter the draft. This meant Durant had to spend a year in college and everyone in Austin was honored that he picked their school to do it at. He would ultimately be a one-and-done but he did more than enough to leave his mark on the school.
His 903 points scored remains a record for the highest point total by a single player in a single season. He averaged 25.8 points per game and 11.1 rebounds per game in his 35-game career with Texas basketball. The Longhorns would go 25-10 on the season and finish second in the Big-12 in the regular season and conference tournament. They received the fourth seed in the NCAA Tournament but would be upset by the USC Trojans in the second round, despite a 30-point, nine-rebound performance from Durant.
Durant was the second player in school history to earn national player of the year honors. Durant would sweep the honors (Associated Press, Naismith Award, Rupp Trophy and Wooden Award) becoming the first freshmen in NCAA history to winy any player of the year award and the first freshmen to be a unanimous recipient of the awards.
Durant was also the first freshmen to earn Big 12 Player of the Year honors. He was the third freshmen ever to be named a first-team All-American. Durant’s number 35 jersey was retired by the school in 2009 making him the second men’s basketball player in history to have his jersey hung in the rafters.
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