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December 10, 2007

Augustin serves as solid building block

It's one of those fun, over-a-beer-at-the-sports-bar questions that gets asked all of the time about no sport in particular.

We asked it college-hoops style.

If you could have one player in the game today around whom to build your team, who would you take? The mind gets dizzy with the possibilities. Do you go for a certain position? Do you go for best overall talent regardless of position? What about intangibles like leadership?

We asked Rivals.com staff writer Andrew Skwara and Basketball Editor Bob McClellan whom they would choose. Here's what they said:

Skwara's pick: D.J. Augustin, Texas

In a fairytale world, Michael Beasley would be the ideal pick here. Eric Gordon and Derrick Rose would probably be my second and third choices.

But, that trio, along with a handful of other stellar freshmen, will be playing in the NBA next year. You can't build a program around one-and-done players. Just ask Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt. His team is struggling as it tries to recover from losing Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton, who both opted for the NBA instead of staying for their sophomore years.

You need someone who is going to stick around for more than one season.

That's why I chose Texas point guard D.J. Augustin. As a 5-foot-11 sophomore, (Texas lists him at 6 feet) Augustin isn't heading to the NBA anytime soon (provided he doesn't listen to some misguided agent). However, it's not because of a lack of skills or because something is missing from his game.

Augustin is the best player at the position most coaches say is the most important in college. Armed with great quickness and a deep arsenal of moves, Augustin can be a big-time scorer if needed. He's a good outside shooter and uses floaters and fadeaways to score over bigger players around the basket. More importantly, Augustin excels at creating offense for others. He can beat just about any defender off the dribble, draw a crowd and fire a pinpoint pass to an open teammate.

With that package, I won't need to worry about finding other players who can create their shots. Augustin will create shots for them.

As long as I'm building around Augustin, I won't have to worry about much. Just look what happened at Texas when he became the focal point. The fourth-ranked Longhorns, minus perhaps the ultimate one-and-done player (Kevin Durant put together arguably the best season of any freshman ever in 2006-07 before being taken with the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft), are off to the best start of any team in the country with an 8-0 record and marquee wins over top-10 teams UCLA and Tennessee.

McClellan's pick: Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina

I was well aware of Skwara's man-crush on Augustin and knew he'd take him. It's not a bad pick. My first thought was point guard. But I want a tail-kicker, too. I want a guy who gets in the huddle and commands respect, and when he doesn't get it he gets in your face and demands it.

Tyler Hansbrough came to mind for me almost immediately. Then I cheated and called a couple of my friends on college staffs. The first answer two of them gave me was the 6-9 Tar Heels forward.

"Put it like this: You're playing shirts and skins, and you've got first pick," a member of an NCAA Sweet 16 staff last year said. "You gonna let the other team take Hansbrough?"

No, I'm not. The guy is a great college player. He outworks people, and he plays hard all of the time. I don't believe he's going to be an NBA star, but how many of the guys in the college game who are going to be NBA stars can you say that about? If Hansbrough isn't giving 100 percent it's because he's giving the proverbial 110 percent.

Do I really have to justify picking the leading scorer (21.4 ppg) and rebounder (9.6) on the nation's No. 1 team? He has led the Tar Heels in both categories since arriving in Chapel Hill. UNC is 62-15 with Hansbrough.

How could you not follow this guy into battle? Duke's Gerald Henderson hit him with an elbow in the regular-season finale last year that broke Hansbrough's nose. He bled like Chuck Wepner. But did he miss any games? Nope.

Hansbrough feeds off emotion. He plays every possession as if it's his last. He wants the ball in crunch time.

Yep, he's my guy.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.

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