March 15, 2011

Future Horn ready to make impact

It almost went all wrong. The crown jewel and biggest need for the 2011 UT recruiting class almost got away. At one point, it looked like Rick Barnes could possibly lose one of his most treasured Canadian imports. For a brief time five-star point guard Myck Kabongo opened up his recruitment after being a long-time Texas commitment. Longhorn fans panicked, but the UT coaching staff didn't because of the relationship it built with the 6-2 playmaker. Before any other school could swoop in, Kabongo was once again a UT commitment.

"I've built a great relationship with them over the last two years," said Kabongo of Barnes and his coaching staff. "I've always been a Longhorn. I knew that was going to be the spot for me. They're great people. I like to associate myself with people that are real. That's the vibe I get from the coaches at Texas. They want me to be great, and I'm up for the challenge."

After signing his letter of intent, Kabongo took an official visit down to the 40 acres, along with his friend and newest UT commit Kevin Thomas. Despite a loss to Kansas State, the visit was everything the thought it would be.

"It was great," stated the point guard. "It was a blast. Hanging out around the program and the players was awesome."

It should come as no surprise that Tristan Thompson served as Kabongo's host. The future Longhorn, and member of the AAU Grassroots Canada team, holds a special bond with Thompson as well as Cory Joseph.

"It's great," said Kabongo of his relationship with his Canadian brothers. "I talk to Tristan and CJ (Corey) every day and they tell me they're always in the gym. It's like a real team because they're all playing for each other. They're all gym rats. We all live in the gym. It shows that it pays off. I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised one bit at the season they've had. I know they've worked really hard. That's something that we came from and played for at Grassroots Canada."

Despite being rated as one of the best point guard prospects in the entire country for the 2011 class, the Findlay Prep standout is still hard at work to improve his game.

"I've worked on everything, and it's going to show," Kabongo stated. "I've been in a gym a lot of hours with Coach [Todd] Simon and all of the coaches. I started lifting weights for the first time ever this year. I'm always trying to work on my strength and improve my play as a point guard. You can never know enough. Just working with my team to figure out how to get better is something I do."

As for Kabongo's game, one UT player that some have compared him to is T.J. Ford, a player that the future Longhorn is well aware of.

"I look up to T.J. a whole lot," said the 6-2, 160 pound McDonald's All-American. "He's one of the reasons why I considered Texas because of Coach Barnes developing point guards. He's an unbelievable player that did great things for that program. I want great things for the University of Texas next year. All I know is that I'm going to work hard as soon as I get there."

Sometimes you've got to make sacrifices in order to excel at something you love. With his move to Findlay Prep, Kabongo had to sacrifice being away from his family, but he's grateful for the opportunity basketball has given him.

"Family's been tough at times," Kabongo said. "I've been away from home. It's a sacrifice I had to make. Basketball has done so much for me; it took me out of a tough situation and gave so much for me. I'm blessed to be able to play basketball at a high level. I try to talk to my family every day. I really value that relationship."

Speaking of making the move to Findlay Prep, there was even a transition period for a player as talented as Kabongo. Regarded as one of the best floor generals and leaders in the 2011 class, Kabongo eased his way into a leadership role during his season at Findlay.

"I respect my teammates for letting me lead them," stated the point guard. "I was at St. Benedicts [before Findlay Prep] and for them to embrace me and listen means something. I let my play do the talking at first, but after a while you see where you can talk and help out. Most definitely I took a leadership role. All the seniors did."

His high school career isn't over yet, and you can bet this stud guard wants to go out on a high note before making the jump to Austin. Findlay Prep will compete in the ESPN Rise National Invitational, and Kabongo is also eyeing a certain record at a certain All-American game.

"I'm blessed (to be a McDonald's All-American). I thank God for it. I'm just going to go out there and beat that assist record. I'm going to try to get my name up there. When I'm playing with talent I can rack up the assists. I'll do my research," said Kabongo of the McDonald's All-American assist record with a laugh. "I've got so much homework, so I'm slacking on my basketball research."

For the record, Jacque Vaughn holds the record with 13 assists in 1993. Don't be shocked if Kabongo makes a run at him.

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