Texas junior guard Isaiah Taylor has a decision to make over the next month. Should he tread into the NBA waters and see if he can land a guaranteed contract?
Or will he return to the Longhorns and try to get Texas out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008 and continue to grow under coach Shaka Smart?
Before Joe College Basketball fan screams “stay in school!” remember that an NBA contract is worth a lot money, and if Taylor can land on a roster, more power to him. He certainly is talented enough to play in the NBA.
But is he ready? Can he look up at Norman, Okla. and say “that guy stayed, and now he’ll probably be drafted in the NBA Lottery.”
Yes he can. But Texas has a mixed bag when it comes to players jumping early in terms of success and failure.
Here are 10 players who left early to remember, and yes sometimes it worked, other times it didn’t… looking at you, Myck.
Chris Mihm, at Texas for three seasons, 1997-00
Brought to Texas by Tom Penders, the local product (Westlake High School) went on to become the Big 12 all-time leader in block shots until Kansas senior Jeff Withey broke his record. Mihm’s final season at Texas under coach Rick Barnes saw the Horns finish second in the Big 12 with a 13-3 record, a 24-9 overall record and an NCAA Tournament appearance. Mihm’s junior season is one of the best single season by a Longhorn not named Kevin Durant. He averaged 17.7 points, 2.7 blocks and 10.5 rebounds. He also shot better than 50 percent from the field. He was taken seventh overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He never became a star, but did play in the NBA Finals. He played for four teams and with his longest stretch being with the Lakers.
If he stays at Texas, he pairs with a dynamite freshman class of Brian Boddicker, Royal Ivey and Brandon Mouton.
T.J. Ford, at Texas for two seasons, 2001-03
In two seasons at Texas, Ford led the Longhorns to the Final Four, won every major player award in college basketball and was the eighth pick in one of the greatest NBA drafts ever (1984 or 2003, take your pick as the greatest ever). Ford was almost never healthy in the NBA, starting in his rookie year where he averaged 7.1 points 6.5 assists in 55 games (not bad for a rookie playing the league’s toughest position). In his second and third seasons he played 72 and 75 games and each year his scoring average improved. He was getting better. Those were the only two seasons he played more than 70 games before retiring in 2012.
Had Ford stayed for his junior year, could he have been the No. 1 overall draft pick had he continued to improve? Probably not. Pretty sure Dwight Howard was going to STICK at No. 1 in that draft.
Kevin Durant, at Texas for one season, 2006-07
If we need to explain why this was the logical move for Durant, then you don’t like basketball anyway. The second or third or (if you really don’t like LeBron James or Stephen Curry) best player in the world made the right choice after one of the greatest college basketball seasons ever for a freshman. He also just pronounced himself the best player in Texas history.
LaMarcus Aldridge, at Texas for two seasons, 2004-06
The 2006 Big 12 Defensive Player the Year was the second player chosen in the draft and was an NBA All-Rookie team member. It’s not a stretch to call Aldridge the second-greatest Texas product to play in the NBA.
He’s a five time All-Star with a career average of 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds. He started his career in Portland and signed with the San Antonio Spurs this offseason.
Don’t think about what would have been had he stayed for his junior season and paired with Durant, Longhorn fans.
Don’t do it!
OK, do it.
Did it make you feel good or sad?
The answer is sad. It’s always sad.
D.J. Augustin, at Texas for two seasons, 2006-08
Durant’s freshman running mate, Augustin wasn’t as good as Durant, but may have been one of the five or 10 best freshmen in the country that season. Which is saying a lot considering who was in that class. After averaging 16.2 points per game his freshman season, he went for 19.2 as a sophomore along with 5.8 assists and 1.2 steals. He was a consensus All-American and few thought he would be staying for his junior season. Texas was lucky just to get two seasons from one of the best point guards Rick Barnes brought to Texas.
In the NBA, Augustin has had a rocky road. He was drafted by the dreadful Charlotte Bobcats (now the Hornets) and his first coach was Larry Brown, who is legendarily hard on point guards. It didn’t pan out in Charlotte despite a good rookie season where he averaged 11.8 points per game. He left as a free agent in 2012 and has played with five different teams since.
If he stays at Texas, he joins a Longhorn team that went 23-12 and lost to Duke in the second round.
Avery Bradley, at Texas for one season, 2009-10
Bradley’s one-and-done season saw him average 11.6 points per game, 1.3 steals and 2.1 assists. Those numbers aren’t bad, and in fact they’re pretty good for a freshman. But good enough to get drafted in the first round?
The 2010-11 Longhorns could have used him, and he would have paired with next two guys on this list to make a pretty talented group.
Tristan Thompson, at Texas for one season, 2010-11
He was always going to be a one-and-done player at Texas. Thompson was the top Canadian recruit ever a few years before Andrew Wiggins arrived.
His stop in Austin was very brief, but while he was here, he averaged 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks and won the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award.
Thompson’s pro career has worked out well. He was taken fourth overall, third highest selection in Texas basketball history. After some up-and-down early years, Thompson proved that he was one of the best rebounders currently playing basketball last year in the playoffs.
J’Covan Brown at Texas for three seasons, 2009-12
Brown led the Big 12 in scoring in 2012 at 20.1 points per game his junior year. He also averaged 3.8 assists. He had a fine season. The best on his team. Then he left for the NBA.
And he wasn’t drafted.
More than two years later, he was at the center of an academic issue at Texas that led to an investigation. He currently plays overseas with the AEK Athens of the Greek Basket League
Had Brown stayed he would have helped what was a bad Texas team that was missing the next player on this list for 23 games.
Myck Kabongo at Texas for two seasons, 2011-13
Probably the worst-case scenario for Isaiah Taylor’s possible “I’m going to NBA” future. Kabongo flashed some brilliance at Texas, but he played in only 11 games his sophomore year because he was suspended 23 games for contact with an agent. He averaged 9.6 points his freshman season and 14.6 his shortened sophomore season. He was a McDonald’s All-American and viewed as a top-10 recruit.
After that disappointing sophomore season, he declared for the NBA and stunned many people who couldn’t believe he was leaving. Including, apparently, NBA general managers who didn’t draft him. That’s right, he went undrafted and has never played in the NBA. He’s played for four different NBA Developmental League teams, including the Austin Toros (Spurs).
Failed. To. Make. The. Canadian. National. Team.
Had he stayed, he might taken minutes away from freshman Isaiah Taylor but he also might have helped a Texas team that overachieved in 2013-14.
Myles Turner, at Texas for one season, 2014-15
A lot of people probably disagreed with him leaving. Turner didn’t live up to all of his hype at Texas and wasn’t taken in the top five of the draft, something that seemed unfathomable when he chose Texas while wearing that burnt orange bucket hat.
But here’s the thing: Turner’s skill set was probably always going to be a better fit in the NBA, where coaches know how to develop and use a “stretch four” better than college coaches. It’s what they do. Turner has been one of the best NBA rookies this year and him slipping to the low end of the lottery helped him fall to the Pacers, a well-run organization with an established superstar (Paul George).
Had Turner stayed with the Longhorns, the team is probably unbelievably good. But since Turner is averaging 10.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks and playing 25 minutes a game, he’s clearly on his way to a solid pro career.
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