Sports

Rothstein Files: Five Observations From The Legends Classic

Jeffery Taylor (credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Jeffery Taylor (credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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By Jon Rothstein
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1. “FRESH” OUTLOOK

There will be many times this season when Texas’ youth will test Rick Barnes’ patience — but the long term result of this team’s growing pains could be huge. Even though the Longhorns have six freshmen in their rotation, the upside of this group is instantly obvious.

Myck Kabongo is as talented a first-year guard as there is in college basketball and Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis are two capable wings who will be quality players in the Big 12. However, the most ready made product in this first-year class could be power forward Jonathan Holmes. A skilled passer at 6-foot-7, Holmes is an excellent distributor at the high post and has the ability to be a factor as soon as this season. If Barnes can keep this core together, the Longhorns can be a special a year or two down the road.

2. A TANGIBLE TURN

Under former NC State coach Sidney Lowe, the Wolfpack had a reputation for lackadasical practice habits and a lackluster work ethic. Against Texas under first-year coach Mark Gottfried, NC State didn’t falter when facing a double-digit deficit and outscored the Longhorns 25-9 to close the game en route to a come from behind victory.

The win is a major sign that this program is showing much more mental stamina than it did under the previous regime.

3. J’COVAN’S JARGIN

J’Covan Brown was far and away the best player on the floor in Monday night’s game between Texas and NC State — but he made one awful decision.

With the Longhorns ahead 65-52 with just under eight minutes remaining, Brown was whistled for his fourth personal foul and then was immediately disqualified after he picked up a technical for yelling at an official. If Texas is to surprise in the Big 12 this season, Brown will have to lead them — something he doesn’t seem capable of right now.

4. LOCK UP

Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham came into Monday night as maybe the hottest player in college basketball after scoring 37 points in the Beavers win on Saturday over Texas — but then he ran into Jeffery Taylor.

Vanderbilt’s versatile small forward showed why many believe he’s a first-round pick in next June’s NBA Draft with suffocating defense for nearly 40 minutes. Taylor’s length stifled Cunningham, who was held to just nine points while committing seven turnovers.

5. BEAVER BELIEF

If the Legends Classic proved anything, it’s this — Oregon State is for real. The Beavers have a dynamic athlete in Cunningham and a solid power forward in sophomore lefty Devon Collier. If the Beavers can get Ahmad Starks to be more consistent from the perimeter, Craig Robinson could have a team that breaks the top half of the PAC-12.

BY THE NUMBERS

16

The number of points for NC State shooting guard Scott Wood, who was playing in his first game back from injury.

9 and 9

The numbers of points and rebounds for Vanderbilt’s burgeoning power forward Lance Goulbourne.

THEY SAID IT

“It hurts when your older players do that. He needs to grow up. This is what’s stopping him from getting to where he wants to go,” – Texas coach Rick Barnes on J’Covan Brown’s technical foul in the 2nd of the Longhorns loss to NC State.

“He’s doing a better job of not letting the last play affect the next play. In this game, we all need to have a little amnesia,” – Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings on the mindset of Jeffery Taylor

“He’s a marked man now and he knows that,” – Oregon State coach Craig Robinson on Jared Cunningham.