October 12, 2007

Rick Barnes talks Texas hoops

The Texas Longhorns basketball team begins its season today with the first practice of the 2007-08 campaign. Texas, picked to finish second in the Big 12 by the coaches, returns several key members of the 2006-07 team in D.J. Augustin, Justin Mason, A.J. Abrams, Damion James and Connor Atchley, among others.

On Thursday in Austin, Texas conducted its annual media day. Head coach Rick Barnes fielded questions for more than 25 minutes on this year's team and Orangebloods.com was on hand to take in every word. In the first of a five-part feature covering media day, Barnes talks about a few of the players individually and shares some thoughts on the team.

The first question comes on the heels of the media release informing the public that Gary Johnson has been cleared for practice.

What about Gary Johnson? What are your feelings? Optimism or any idea?

I'm excited about the fact that he's been cleared to practice. He's looked good. He hasn't disappointed us at all as far as what we recruited when we recruited him. Like the statement said, at a later date and time the decision will be made about when he can play. He's gone through everything from the weight room with Todd (Wright) to upstairs (in the gym). He's one of those guys that puts a lot of time in on his own. He's really hooked up with D.J. (Augustin) and Justin Mason, two guys that are over here (facility) all the time. Gary's been smart in the fact that he's attached to those guys and so he's put a lot of work in above and beyond what he does with us.

What do you expect from Gary Johnson if and when he finally hits the floor?

A lot. He is very tenacious in the way he plays on both ends. With the ball, he's always had a great knack to score it. Defensively, like most guys coming in, he'll have to learn to do that with more efficiency than he is right now. He'll rebound. He'll find a way because I've said all along he's one of the hardest playing high school kids I had seen for a long time. He's very competitive.

How will Damion James's role be effected by Gary Johnson's playing status?

I think versatility. There is no doubt, last year we played with five perimeter players, so if it happens with Gary, Damion and he can play with D.J., A.J. (Abrams) and Justin. We can go the other way where we obviously have more depth than we've had in a long time with out front line.

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