A few days before the start of the NCAA tournament last March,
Texas coach Rick Barnes looked on as reporters fired questions at
guard Brandon Mouton, most of which were a variation on one
theme: "You play so well during the season, but then you
disappear in the tournament--what's up with that?" Barnes pulled
his agitated player aside and said, "Brandon, I've heard all
those questions. I know you don't choke. But if you don't play
well in this tournament, that's what I'm going to tell the world
Well, that really made Mouton mad, but more important, those
words sharpened his focus. In contrast to the 2002 tournament,
when he scored 7.3 points a game and shot 28.1% from the floor,
Mouton was the Longhorns' leading scorer in three of their five
tournament games in '03, including a 25-point night in the 95-84
loss to Syracuse in the Final Four semis. "After our little talk,
he flipped a switch quick," says Barnes, "and he hasn't looked
Mouton maintained that focus through the summer. "I felt like I
really had to work on my total game this off-season," he says. "I
have dreams of the NBA, and I can't just rely on my jump shot to
get me there."
Says Barnes, "He might have improved as much as any player that
I've ever coached. And he has become an iron man."
Stamina will be an asset for Mouton, the undisputed go-to guy
following the departure of point guard T.J. Ford, who left for
the NBA after two spectacular seasons in Austin. Ford's
playmaking will be difficult to replace, but at least in Royal
Ivey, who moves to the point full time, the Longhorns have a
member of the Big 12's all-defensive team. A deep and talented
frontcourt, led by rebound hound James Thomas, will be among the
best in the nation.
"Getting to the Final Four was a great experience, but we're not
satisfied with that," says Mouton. "It gave us a taste of what
could be." Now all they need is for someone to make them
2002-03 RECORD: 26-7 (13-3, 2nd in Big 12)
TOURNAMENT: Lost to Syracuse in Final Four
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
PF Brad Buckman 6'8" Soph. 5.3 rpg
C James Thomas 6'8" Sr. 11.0 rpg
SG Sydmill Harris 6'5" Jr. 6.2 ppg
SG Brandon Mouton 6'4" Sr. 14.8 ppg
PG Royal Ivey 6'3" Sr. 7.9 ppg
an opposing coach's view
"I'm sure glad T.J. Ford is gone. When the shot clock is winding
down, I don't know who's going to create offense for them....
JAMES THOMAS is not going to windmill-dunk on you, but he's going
to work his butt off on every play.... BRANDON MOUTON is kind of
a streaky shooter. He's not going to stand out there and knock
down shots all the time, but you don't want to let him get on a
roll.... Forward BRIAN BODDICKER really causes matchup problems
because he shoots the three so well.... BRAD BUCKMAN will be more
of a focal point this year. Can he handle that responsibility?
... SYDMILL HARRIS is a guy you cannot leave open. He's got deep
range and a quick release."
Wins, without a loss, when Texas gave up fewer than 70 points
last season. The Longhorns were 8-7 when they allowed 70 or more.