The mood was considerably lighter at the Texas men’s basketball banquet this year after the Longhorns posted a 24-11 record and reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Players were joking with each other, and coach Rick Barnes looked relaxed. Now, all the Longhorns have to do is keep their momentum rolling. Nobody will overlook this group next season. Instead of begin picked to finish eighth in the Big 12, the Longhorns might be first or second.
“What does it matter?,” Barnes said. “I’ve said it before, you go back and look at preseason polls every year, they never play out the way people say it. The bottom line is that you have to do it.”
As for possibly being included in a preseason top 10, veteran leader Jonathan Holmes said: “We didn’t listen to that. So, we’re not going to listen to any of the hype.”
Several players talked about working on specific things during the offseason. Point guard Isaiah Taylor wants to work on his mid-range jumper. Demarcus Holland wants to improve his 3-point shooting. Cam Ridley wants to improve his footwork and quickness.
“I think everybody on this team wants to be the most improved player,” Holland said. “Not for an award, just for the team. That’s the best part about it. Everybody has the things they want to work on, and on this team, everybody will get it done. They won’t just talk about it.”
Taylor said: “We knew that after we took that loss (to Michigan), we knew there was a lot more left in the tank.”
Several Longhorns said they were truly moved by a visit from NBA legend Bill Russell, who was in town for last week’s Civil Rights Summit.
“He kept saying stuff toward me,” Ridley said. “He asked questions like who was the leading rebounder, and everybody pointed toward me. He cursed me. He said, ‘You need to use that (butt) for something.’ He called me ‘Behemoth.’
“It was just a great honor to meet him,” Ridley said. “He told jokes pretty much the whole time he was meeting with us.”
Here is a complete list of individual honors given out Monday night at the Texas men’s basketball banquet:
Slater Martin Award: Commander Mark McGinnis (U.S. Navy Seal)
Mike Wacker Comeback Award: Javan Felix
Coca-Cola Solid Citizen Award: Connor Lammert
Jack Gray Award sponsored by the Texas Exes: Tarale Murry
Athletic Director’s Scholar-Athlete Award: Javan Felix
Jay Arnette Award: Damarcus Croaker and Prince Ibeh
Hard Hat Award: Demarcus Holland and Kendal Yancy
Earlene Fulmer 3-Point Attack Award: Javan Felix
Assists Award: Isaiah Taylor
Blocked Shots Award: Cameron Ridley
Field Goal Percentage Award: Cameron Ridley
Free Throw Percentage Award: Martez Walker
Rebounding Award: Cameron Ridley
Hustlin’ Horns Award: Demarcus Holland
Spirit Award: Danny Newsome
Outstanding Defensive Player: Demarcus Holland
Most Improved Players: Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley
Most Valuable Player: Jonathan Holmes
Team Captain: Jonathan Holmes
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