High school forward Kevin Durant has selected the University of Texas, a monumental commitment that suggests all sorts of ramifications, none bigger than this:
Rick Barnes might just finish his career at Texas after all.
Barnes has won big everywhere he's been, from George Mason to Providence to Clemson to Texas, but that's a lot of swimming against the stream. In February and March the coaching grapevine was rampant with talk that Barnes was ready to coach at a school where basketball is king. We didn't get to find out this past offseason, because the best job to open -- Virginia -- was beneath what Barnes has built at Texas.
Barnes has taken the Longhorns to seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments, including the 2003 Final Four, but on the recruiting trail Texas has been more of a regional bully than a national force. With one exception -- 2004 McDonald's All-American Mike Williams of Camden, Ala. -- Barnes has turned Texas into a Big 12 contender without pulling off a signature recruiting coup beyond the state border. North Carolina native P.J. Tucker is a fabulous college player, but as an undersized power forward he wasn't hotly pursued by the ACC schools in his state.
|Rick Barnes gets what Texas needs to jump to the next level. (AP)|
Durant was exactly the kind of out-of-state recruit Barnes hasn't been able to get. Not because Barnes isn't good enough. Not because Texas basketball isn't good enough. But because the typical high school superstar, unless he's from Texas, will lean toward a school like North Carolina and Connecticut, Duke and Arizona, and so forth.
By choosing Texas, Durant skewed the status quo.
"This is clearly (Texas') most significant national recruit that I can remember," says national recruiting analyst Dave Telep of Scout.com. "And I'm talking about the history of their program. Kevin Durant gives Texas street cred all over the country."
North Carolina had been the perceived leader for Durant. The Tar Heels were on track -- and still could be on track -- for one of the best recruiting classes of all time. They've already received commitments from the Class of 2006's top-rated shooting guard (Wayne Ellington) and top-rated point guard (Tywon Lawson). Durant and Lawson are Oak Hill teammates.
Now that Durant has chosen Texas, Telep expects North Carolina to turn up the heat on some of the other best players in the Class of 2006. The Tar Heels join Duke and Kentucky as finalists for 6-10 Brandan Wright, the top power forward in the class. North Carolina also is involved with highly rated big men Darrell Arthur, Bryan Davis and Spencer Hawes.
"They'll see their mail (from UNC) pick up," Telep says.
But will it matter? Hawes is from Seattle, and has long been considered a lock for the Washington Huskies. Arthur and Davis are both from the Dallas area. That's Longhorns territory.
Then again, the commitment of Durant suggests the Longhorns' recruiting territory has grown. Texas just annexed Oak Hill. How much bigger can Texas basketball get? Expect Barnes to stick around and find out.