Austin, Texas McDonald’s All-American Myck Kabongo seriously considered playing college basketball at Kansas University.
“Look at the tradition they have. They’ve won championships. Lawrence is a great town. They worship the basketball players there. As a player, that’s what you want,” said Kabongo, the University of Texas’ 6-foot-1, 169-pound freshman point guard.
He played three years at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J., and his senior season at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.
“I was close with coach (Joe) Dooley. We have a great relationship. Their (KU coaches) relationship with coach Hurley (Dan, St. Benedict’s) was really good. Kansas is a great school. So is every other school in the Big 12,” Kabongo added.
In search of immediate playing time, Kabongo committed to the Longhorns and has averaged 10.0 points, 5.8 assists and 28.9 minutes per game heading into today’s 3 p.m. Big 12 battle between unranked UT (12-6, 2-3) and No. 7 KU (15-3, 5-0) at Erwin Center.
“Kabongo will be a pro,” KU coach Bill Self said, and acknowledged, “we recruited him. He’s fast. His numbers have been good assist-wise. He’s got a great personality. He’s a great leader. He’s doing a real good job for them.”
Today Kabongo will be matched against one of his friends — KU senior Tyshawn Taylor, who attended St. Anthony High in Jersey City, N.J.
“I know Tyshawn well, from back in the day,” Kabongo said. “When I was a freshman, he was at St. Anthony. We practiced there.
“When I was younger, I was so small. I know he remembers how small I was,” Kabongo added, laughing. “It’ll be fun on this stage playing against him.”
Taylor does indeed remember Kabongo’s stature.
“Yeah, he was little and skinny, but he was fast. He kind of plays like me, reminds me of me a little bit,” Taylor said. “He’s a lot taller now, a lot faster, stronger. I talked to him at Big 12 Media Day and exchanged numbers. I texted him a little while ago. It’s going to be fun playing against him.”
Kabongo has committed just 58 turnovers. He’s made 49 of 117 shots for 41.9 percent, including 12 of 40 threes for 30 percent.
He’s expected to someday be in the same mold as former UT standout point guards T.J. Ford and D.J. Augustin.
“He’s somewhere in between those two,” Texas coach Rick Barnes told ESPN. “He’s extremely fast like T.J., but T.J. would pace his game. Myck is a more full throttle. Forget the cruise control. He’d be great at Talladega. He can beat everyone down the floor with the ball, but he’s going to learn to change his pace from time to time so our team can get into a flow.”
Also ... “I’ve never seen him in a bad mood,” Barnes added.
The outgoing Kabongo did some research on the KU-UT series after signing with Texas.
“I saw last year what J.B. did to them. We came to their house and took the energy out of the gym,” Kabongo said of the day J’Covan Brown scored 23 points in UT’s 74-63 victory over KU in Allen Fieldhouse, the game that snapped KU’s school-record 69-game homecourt win streak.
“They played us in the (Big 12 Tournament) championship. It didn’t go too well for us,” Kabongo added. KU stopped the Longhorns, 85-73, in the finals in Sprint Center. Brown, a 6-1 junior from Port Arthur, Texas, who leads the Big 12 in scoring at 19.2 ppg, had 17 in that game. Brown scored 28 points — 26 in the second half — in a 80-68 loss to KU on Feb. 8, 2010 in Austin.
“If he played against Kansas every game, he’d be the national player of the year,” KU’s Self said. “He’s killed us. I don’t think you can limit his touches. I think you can limit his good touches a little bit and his shot off the catch, but it’s hard to keep guards from catching the ball. We’ve got to do a real good job on him and how we’re going to guard ball screens and things like that.”
Of Texas, Self said: “One thing we’ll have to combat is their speed.”
Self has a 8-5 record versus Texas as KU coach (Barnes is 6-12 versus KU), but a 1-3 mark in Austin, a city Kabongo has grown to love.
“Texas is different. It’s hot. It’s country. It’s nice,” Kabongo said. “I’m not complaining about the weather. It’s a great campus, 50,000 students. I’m happy.”
Robinson anniversary: Today, as reported earlier in the week, is the first anniversary of the death of Thomas Robinson’s mother, Lisa.
“I’m amazed at how well he’s done,” KU coach Self said of Robinson’s adjustment to life without Lisa the past year.
Robinson, of course, has emerged as a national Player of the Year candidate.
“He’s a remarkable kid and deserves things that are coming his way,” Self added.
Self was asked about the recruitment of Robinson, who played high school ball at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H.
“He was a very raw, energetic and an active guy when we recruited him and we thought he had a chance to be really good. I think a couple things we didn’t know at the time that turned out to be as good as it is, are his hands,” Self said. “If he gets his hands on a ball, more than likely he’s going to get it. Also, you don’t know that his body is going to continue to develop like it has. He has a want-to inside of him and a focus right now that’s about as good as anybody that we’ve had since I’ve been here. Right now he’s pretty driven and pretty focused. Coaches get way too much credit when they come to a place and do well because you can’t help but get better if you have a ball in your hands every day for three hours a day. I think the real testimony should be going to the players that want to get better, and he’s a guy that wants to get better.”
This, that: KU, which has won four of the last five meetings, leads the all-time series, 18-7. KU and UT have met in four of the last six Big 12 Championship title games. KU won them all: 80-68 in 2006 in Dallas, 88-84 in OT in 2007 in Oklahoma City, 84-74 in 2008 in KC and 85-73 in 2011 in KC. ... KU is 4-5 vs. UT in games played in Austin, including 3-4 in Erwin Center. ... Since the inception of the Big 12, KU is 14-6 against UT: 10-5 mark in the regular season and 4-1 record in the Big 12 tourney. ... Five of the last seven games have been decided by 10 points or less.