By all accounts, Myck Kabongo failed to live up to the hype as a freshman at Texas. Without a first-round guarantee, he returned to school to boost his draft stock and develop into a point guard teams will covet in June 2013.
But Kabongo was forced to miss the first 23 games as a sophomore for receiving impermissible benefits, and Texas' season was flushed down the tubes before Kabongo's even began.
While ineligible, the Longhorns lost eight of the team's first 10 conference games. Since Kabongo's return, Texas has won four of seven, including two in overtime in which Kabongo played a big hand.
He's already into draft-stock rejuvenation mode, showing noticeable improvements from where he left off last year.
Before laying out the blueprint he needs to ultimately follow, it's important to point out where he struggled as a freshman.
As a high schooler, Kabongo had the freedom to do whatever he wanted with the ball in his hands. Defenses weren't quick enough and the offense had no script.
Making the transition from the loose high school courts to the methodical college game was a hurdle that Kabongo just couldn't get over.
He struggled adjusting to the speed of the game, not knowing when to pull back and facilitate or when to look for his own offense. Kabongo finished the year shooting 39 percent from the floor and 32 percent from downtown, along with a 5.2-to-3 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Kabongo was inefficient, and frankly did nothing to differentiate himself from his direct positional competitors.
But in just seven games so far as a sophomore, Kabongo has made visible strides as an orchestrator and it's made Texas a better team.
Kabongo needs to continue running the show while balancing playmaking and scoring efficiently.
Everything starts in the half court with recognizing opportunities.
Kabongo needs to think of himself as a traffic controller directing the offense. It's the simple plays he needs to recognize when to make.
For example, finding his shooter coming off a down screen.
Texas was down four with more than a minute to go in the game against Oklahoma; watch how Kabongo sees his man running his route and hits him in rhythm for the catch-and-shoot three-pointer:
It sounds simple, and it is. But a timely pass that arrives in the shooter's comfort zone can be the difference between three points and zero points. Recognizing what routes his scorers are running and what time they'll be arriving is an important aspect of a point guard's job.
The pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop is another tool Kabongo needs to get used to working with.
In the example below, Kabongo runs the pick-and-roll, allows another shooter to drift toward space before hitting him for the spot-up jumper in rhythm:
Executing off ball screens is a must at the next level, and he won't get floor time until he proves he's capable of using them proficiently.
One of Kabongo's most glowing strengths is his ability to create off the dribble. But he's got to be careful and not overuse it. Recognizing when to use each trick in the bag is just as important as having them in the first place.
Here's an example where Kabongo uses his quick dribble to attack the rim after recognizing the spacing he has to work with.
Below, the floor is spread and there's nobody home inside for Oklahoma to help or contest an attacking guard.
Notice how once Kabongo gets into the lane there isn't anyone standing at the rim. This was an opportunity that Kabongo recognized and seized using his strengths as a ball-handler.
Here's the play at full speed:
At the next level, it's extremely important for point guards to shoot off the dribble. Kabongo will see a good amount of ball screens designed to create space for him to either pull up or attack the rim.
Kabongo didn't really stand out as a shooter last year, getting little elevation and showing minimal outside range.
But he rarely showed a confident stroke like this one as a freshman:
Considering how much point guards have the ball in their hands, it's more important they prove they can shoot off the bounce, rather than just off the catch. He has to improve at stepping into mid-range jumpers and taking advantage of any space defenders give him.
NBA Draft Stock
In Texas' win over Oklahoma, Kabongo led his team back after being down over 20 earlier in the game. Showing NBA scouts he can put an offense on his back will help them remember why he was so coveted out of high school.
To really rejuvenate his draft stock, Kabongo will have to continue recognizing opportunities and strike when the time calls. Sometimes it's the simple play; at other times he needs to be aggressive.
Without a full year to showcase his improvement as a point guard, another year at school would be in his best interest as a prospect. It's unlikely he'll receive a first-round guarantee this year, yet he's got the skill set and potential to earn one after his junior year.
However, college hoops isn't the most ideal setting for his particular game and he might decide that his time at Texas has run its course.
Either way, NBA teams will give him looks based on his reputation as a coachable kid and his talent level.
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