October 16, 2006

Different look in the frontcourt

The Texas Longhorns frontcourts under head coach Rick Barnes have earned the reputation as a rugged, hard-nosed group with depth. Since the 2001-02 season, Texas has out rebounded its opponents by more than five boards per game including a nation's best +10.6 margin last year. Each year, the Longhorns have put at least two interior players on the floor with the ability to grab double digit rebounds on any given night. The 2006-07 Longhorns will have a different look than teams of the past few seasons.

This year, the Longhorns bring back only one frontcourt player from the 2005-06 roster. Sophomore Connor Atchley returns after averaging 7.7 minutes as a redshirt freshman. While Atchley stands 6-foot-10, his game is not that of a traditional post player. Offensively, Atchley is more of a face up player with the ability to step out to 18 to 19 feet and knock down a jumper. A skilled player, he struggled as a freshman when the play became physical in the paint.

With an off-season under Todd Wright behind him, Atchley has gained strength. The ability for him to stand up to the physical play under the basket is key this season. In 7.7 minutes of action last year, Atchley averaged 1.4 rebounds. With the average minutes going to more than double in 2006-07, the ability to rebound becomes key.

Joining Atchley in the frontcourt will be three freshmen. Combo forward Damion James and centers Matt Hill and Dexter Pittman will make the frontcourt.

James, 6-7, 227, is a physical defender and rebounder in a small forward's body. The versatile forward has a strong and powerful build that will allow him to defend big men. James brings athleticism to the frontcourt defensively that the Longhorns have wanted for some time. He brings sneaky shot blocking ability to the program as well as toughness needed to compete in conference known for physical play.

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