Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Longhorn Basketball: 2003 v. 2008. Who Would You Take?

Drinking the Forty is introducing you to a new series of posts that will lead us up to the Big 12 tournament. Recently (Petrucelli's Kid) and I (Royal With Cheese) began discussing which of the Texas Basketball teams was our favorite: The 2003 final four team, or the current 2008 version of the Longhorns. We have decided to break down the teams and discuss their strengths and weakness, finally arriving at which Longhorn team was the best (at least according to us). We will first discuss the bench players for the respective teams, then the 6th men and finally an individual comparison of each team's starters. By the way, it was pointed out by a friend of mine about how much a despise when ESPN does "Greatest Teams" comparisons leading up to various championship games. I spent a good 15 mins explaining why this is different and I was not being hypocritical. Whatever. I could explain it again, but I am not going to. Let's just take my word that this is totally different and in no way represents everything i hate about popular sports media. With that disclaimer, lets proceed to discuss the 2003 Texas Longhorn Bench.


First, lets take a look at each player on Texas bench (excluding Boddicker as the 6th man) and their season statistics.

Deginald Erskin (Sr) 11.6 mpg/3.8 ppg/1.8 rpg/65% FT
Jason Klotz (So) 12.9 mpg/4.3 ppg/3.0 rpg/0.6 bpg/61 FT%
Terrell Ross (Sr) 9.9 mpg/1.5 ppg/1.2 apg/64% FT/22% 3P
Sydmill Harris (So) 16 mpg/6.2 ppg/77% FT/36% 3P

The biggest contributor off the bench was was shooting guard Sydmill Harris (If you hadn't already heard, his dad is a famous singer in The Netherlands. Just an FYI). Harris was a long ranger shooter, that could, at times, take his man to the basket. But Sydmill's role on this team was as an outside marksman. He hit over 35% from beyond the arc and was solid from the foul line. While Harris was not know for his shut down defense, he was 6'6'' and able to do a respectable job on the defensive end, when spelling Brandon Mouton and Royal Ivey.

In 2003, Jason Klotz was a big body for the Horns that was still coming into his own in the college basketball game. As a Junior and Senior, Klotz was a big part of what Texas did. But as a sophomore, Klotz was used to give James Thomas and freshman Brad Buckman a rest. While Klotz was not considered a liability, Barnes and Co would be glad not to have a big drop off in play while he patrolled the lane. Klotz's biggest contribution was his size on the defensive end. He was not much of a threat to score and rarely was involved in bog plays, but he did just enough in the paint to justify his 13 minutes a game. Looking at his stats, it would appear that Jason did not have a large impact on games, but most of his contributions didn't show up in the box score, as they were hustle plays and high energy.

Deginald Erksin and Terrell Ross were the lone two seniors on this Texas team and, ironically, had the least impact. That is not to be construed as me saying they were unimportant to the team. Deg Erksin was your ultimate "dirt guy" as he would come in to provide some high energy defense and a little inside offensive presence. Erksin could always be counted on to come up with a game altering hustle play or a key rebound. Erkin was a great player to have. He didn't make a lot of mistakes and was an ultimate team player. When getting to Final Four, you can't underestimate the roles of guys like Erksin.

Terrell Ross got maybe the least playing time of any sub, and was forgotten by many Texas fans. Ross looked a little like Brandon Mouton (and wore #23 while Mouton wore #3) , and I had a running joke with a friend that Barnes was always "accidentally" putting in Ross when he really meant for Mouton to get out on the floor. According to us, Ross would fold over his jersey so Barnes would only see the #3 and, with out realizing it, sub him in. Once Rick saw who was out there, Mouton would immediately be back into the game. This story may be lost in time and translation, but it provided us with a lot of personal entertainment during the year. We joked alot, but Ross provided some much needed rest for Mouton and Ivey. He was a solid defender, but not much on the offensive end.

Every team that advances far in the Tourney has great players, but it was Texas' solid bench contributions that enabled them to pull off close victories and big wins. While they may not have filled up the stat line, Each bench player filled a much needed role for Rick Barnes and the Texas team. I would stack these guys up against a lot of benches in 2003 and up until today.

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