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Kevin Durant is unarguably one of the best athletes from the University of Texas, but does he top the list of best Texas basketball players of all time?
We continue The Horn's Top 10 series with the best Texas basketball players of all-time.
The Longhorns rarely are pinned as a basketball prolific university, but with the late rise of stars like Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge, perhaps Texas isn’t so inept on the hardwood.
In continuation of “The Horn’s Sports Top 10,” this week we bring you the Top 10: Texas Basketball.
10. P.J. Tucker (2004-2006)
Precisely embodying a power forward in a small forward’s body, Tucker was quite the “glue guy” for a roster that featured A.J. Abrams, LaMarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson and Ken Paulino. He was most known for his physicality on the glass, as it took some time for his offensive capabilities to match the rest of his game. As his numbers steadily increased with his seniority, Tucker put up a memorable 2006 campaign as he was a catalyst for the Longhorns Elite Eight run. As a junior that season, Tucker claimed Second-team All-American honors as well as Big 12 Player of the Year. Never quite heralded as a superstar, Tucker definitely played himself into the argument as one of the Top 10 Longhorns.
9. LaSalle Thompson (1980-1982)
A two-time First-team All-SWC player (1981-82), Thopmson is just one of two Longhorns to post 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his career. The Cincinnati product is one of the best center prospects ever to come to Austin, and his size alone led to a load of productivity. His 11.8 rebounds per game over his career is tops in the program as well as his 55 double-doubles. As a 1982 First-team All-American, Thompson would be the best Texas big man until the arrival of Chris Mihm in 1998.
8. Chris Mihm (1998-2000)
Mihm arrived at Texas via Austin Westlake High School and presented a natural fit as a 7’0” big man. While he never was a bona fide offensive player, Mihm ranks high in several defensive categories all-time for the Longhorns. The Wisconsin native is the all-time leader in blocked shots, second in double-doubles and third in rebounds. Before getting drafted seventh overall in 2000 by the Chicago Bulls, Mihm put in a heck of a junior season, receiving consensus First-team All-American honors at center. He also claimed First-team All-Big 12 recognition in 1999 and 2000.
7. D.J. Augustin (2007-2008)
If there are any positives to be taken from the displacement of thousands of people from Southeast Louisiana because of Hurricane Katrina, Augustin’s move to Hightower High School in Missouri City gave the point guard some additional exposure, and the Longhorns did not hesitate to throw an offer his way. Playing with the likes of A.J. Abrams, Kevin Durant and Damion James, Augustin developed into an excellent leader and offensive engineer for the Horns, picking up a plethora of awards in 2008 just prior to entering the NBA Draft. The New Orleans native often was pinned as undersized—a description still stuck to him today—but his ball-handling skills and knack for getting to the basket make him another valuable Texas product.
6. Travis Mays (1987-1990)
Mays’ two SWC Player of the Year selections in 1989 and 1990 top his list of recognitions, but his talent went much farther than that. As an elite scorer, Mays was the first Longhorn to top the 2,000 point plateau and currently sits second all-time in points scored with 2,279. His 1990 season, which included a Second-team All-American selection, was headlined by an Elite Eight appearance as part of the trio with Lance Blanks and Joey Wright—more commonly known as the “BMW Ultimate Scoring Machine.” After being named the SWC Freshman and Newcomer of the Year in 1987, Mays’ accomplishments hardly halted there as he would be one of the more successful backcourt players since the 1970s when Texas boasted the likes of Jim Krivacs and Johnny Moore.
5. Terrence Rencher (1991-1995)
With 2,306 points, Rencher ranks first on the all-time scoring list for the Longhorns, a position that may have been relinquished to J’Covan Brown had he stayed for his senior season. In a pre-Big 12 era, Rencher was a catalyst for a Texas team that made three NCAA Tournament appearances while claiming three Southwest Conference championships. From his freshman to senior year, Rencher consistently made impressions. In 1992, he was named Dick Vitale’s National Freshman of the Year as well as the SWC Freshman of the Year. In 1995, Rencher became an All-SWC player as a senior.
4. LaMarcus Aldridge (2005-2006)
One of Texas’ true big man products followed in the footsteps of T.J. Ford. Aldridge, a Dallas native, nearly went straight from Seagoville High School to the NBA, but ended up running two years with the Longhorns before being selected second overall in the 2006 NBA Draft. Aldridge brought impressive size to the Longhorns’ frontcourt, but never truly dominated until he developed a jumper while in the NBA. Still, Aldridge picked up Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors and First-team All-Big 12 recognition in 2006. With Ford having increased visibility for the Texas program, Aldridge did the Longhorns another solid by developing into a true star.
3. T.J. Ford (2002-2003)
It’s no surprise that we have gotten this far without mentioning one of three Longhorns who have had their numbers retired. But coming in at no. 3 is none other than T.J. Ford, a Houston native who decided to stay in-state and rose to prominence by carrying Texas to a Final Four appearance in 2003 after a 56-year absence. Ford’s first season at Texas was riddled with influence. The speedy point guard led the team in steals and minutes per game, but he also became the first freshman in NCAA history to lead the country in assists per game with 8.3. It was this type of offensive ingenuity that allowed Ford to push the Longhorns to the Final Four, only to lose to a Carmelo Anthony-led Syracuse team. Ford recently retired on March 12, 2012.
2. Slater Martin (1946-1949)
Though he may not be a household name to many, Martin demands such recognition. As one of three Longhorns with their names and numbers in the rafters at the Frank Erwin Center, Martin is the only one in the Basketball Hall of Fame, though that could change with a certain superstar manufacturing his own brand of success. Martin is widely considered one of the best defensive players ever to play the game, and it all is rooted with his achievements at Texas. As a sophomore, Martin led the Longhorns to a Final Four appearance in the 1947 NCAA Tournament. He also claimed All-American honors in 1949 and All-SWC recognition in 1948 and 1949. As a member of the Minneapolis Lakers and the St. Louis Hawks, Martin won five NBA Titles throughout the 1950s. But there is only one who can top the 5’10” point guard.
1. Kevin Durant (2007)
Incontrovertibly the best basketball player in Texas history, Durant posted inspiring numbers throughout his one and only season for the Longhorns, securing seven awards as the 2007 National Player of the Year. The lanky forward out of Montrose Christian School in Maryland picked up national recognition by becoming the first freshman in NCAA history to claim the Naismith Award, the top honor given to college basketball’s top player. Durant averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game while shooting 47.3 percent from the floor and 40.4 percent from behind the arc. At a slender 6’9”, Durant effortlessly showcased the ability to score in a multitude of ways. He could make plays in transition or as a target without the ball. While his full abilities may not have been realized until he reached the NBA, Durant truly was a five-tool player for the Longhorns. And when it comes to discussing the best of all-time, there is no question that it is no. 35.