• Texas prepares for last game before Myck Kabongo's return as Oklahoma State visits the Erwin Center

    As a freshman, Myck Kabongo averaged 9.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. The NCAA is probing Kabongo’s eligibility with agent Rich Paul as well as his eligibility. Kabongo has not been declared ineligible. 
    As a freshman, Myck Kabongo averaged 9.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. The NCAA is probing Kabongo’s eligibility with agent Rich Paul as well as his eligibility. Kabongo has not been declared ineligible. 

    Myck Kabongo's comeback is near.

    And with all the talk surrounding the suspended point guard's return next Wednesday against Iowa State, you'd think the Longhorns had forgotten about tomorrow's crucial matchup against Oklahoma State, who bring a 16-5 record to the Erwin Center, having won five out of its last six.

    "We're taking it one game at a time," guard Julien Lewis said Friday. "Javan [Felix]'s our point guard right now and we'll be ready for Myck next week when he steps in."

    Head coach Rick Barnes spoke about the possibility of playing both of the point-guards when Kabongo returns, emphasizing that Javan Felix could become more of a defensive force with Kabongo taking control of the offense. According to Julien Lewis, both guards haven't had much playing time together, as Felix plays with the starters and Kabongo runs the practice squad. Lewis thinks they can play together, though, saying it "would be fun to see." For Felix, Kabongo's return will naturally affect the role he has with the team, but he was adamant that the thought of Kabongo coming back wasn't taking away from his preparation for tomorrow's game, and whatever role Barnes has in store for him he would embrace

    "As long as we win, I'll be alright," Felix said.

    As for Oklahoma State, both the players and coach Barnes said that Texas' recent success against this team wont be a factor, even as both teams are going in different directions.

    "I don't think our guys think about the past too much, they stay present," Barnes said, "It's not going to be on their minds."

    Felix echoed Barnes, saying it hasn't affected their preparation at all. Much of the talk of the Cowboys centered around the freshman combo of Marcus Smart and Phil Forte, who Felix called "good players" — Forte being a "knock-down shooter" while Smart "makes everything go." Lewis agreed, but cautioned that Smart is prone to charging, and that would be something to focus on while on the defensive end.

    "All of these games are must-win now," Barnes said.

    Even though a "new season," according to Lewis, starts next week when Kabongo is back in the starting lineup, it may not make much of a difference in the long run if Texas doesn't win tomorrow and keep its slim chances of an NCAA tournament berth alive for at least another week.

  • Kobe Bryant: The air apparent that is

    The Kobe Bryant-Michael Jordan comparison that raged on for years has seemed to die down a bit recently. And even though it might never be a great time to bring the conversation up because every fan has their own very strong opinion on the matter, that’s what I’m here for. 
     
    You either assume Michal Jordan is the best basketball player that ever graced the game with his presence, you believe Kobe Bryant is the better of the two or that Kobe is quickly approaching that status. There rarely is any middle ground.
     
    But as fans of basketball, why do we even have to have such a comparison? Has sensationalist sports media really forced fans into a corner like this? Can we as fans, players, coaches and practioners of the game of basketball not subjectively appreciate what each has done for the game? Or, is Kobe Bryant actually the closest thing to Michael Jordan we will ever see?
     
    Even if Kobe Bryant never reaches the pinnacle of the sport, and he never achieves what many believe is his ultimate goal in being better than Michael Jordan, us as fans must appreciate who he is and what he has done.

    It’s astonishing to sit and watch tape of Kobe Bryant side by side with those of Michael Jordan. The footwork is the same. The post moves are the same. The spots on the floor the players choose are the same. The confidence is the same. The clutch gene is the same. The titles and game winning shots are celebrated the same. And even the badgering and belittling of their teammates is the same (it’s no secret that Michael Jordan was one of the harshest leaders to grace the hardwood). It’s eerily ironic how many similarities both players really share. They were both even coached by the same guy: Phil Jackson. It’s almost as if the basketball gods wanted to play a sick joke on the fans and send us a replica version of Michael Jordan.
     
    And even with so much in common, according to many fans and media personalities Kobe Bryant has always been the villain for wanting to be Michael. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Kobe Bryant shouldn’t be villainized for his blatant imitations of Michael Jordan; he should be celebrated.
     
    Maybe when it’s all said and done Kobe’s story will have a different narrative. Maybe at that point in time the basketball community will appreciate what he did for the game, and who he was as a player.
     
    In the here and now Kobe is simply the Michael Jordan want to be. The goat that never was, and the selfish superstar that copy-catted the NBA’s greatest winner.
     
    But why is that? I’m sure many of you remember the film “Like Mike,” starring Lil’ Bow Wow. The title speaks for itself. Any young player growing up wanted to be Michael Jordan. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve played basketball with that wore Jordan apparel and even tried to stick their tongues out just like Mike did. Somehow it’s understandable for these players to idolize Michael Jordan in hopes of becoming him, but for Kobe Bryant, it’s villainous.
     
    Michael Jordan entered the NBA in 1984, and that would mean that Kobe Bryant (who was born in 1978) would have been around six years old upon Jordan’s arrival. Michael Jordan did not win his first NBA title until 1991, and at that point in time Kobe Bryant was roughly thirteen years of age. And for those of you who at one point were 13-year-old basketball players, you remember how much you idolized star NBA players.
     
    For the 13-year-old version of me, I wanted to be Allen Iverson. I bought his shoes, I bought his arm bands and I even tried to make my own signature Allen Iverson sleeve (which has quickly become one of the worst fashion trends in pick-up basketball and beyond). So, on this real time scale it’s easy to see how Kobe Bryant would have grown up idolizing Michael. He grew up watching all of Michael’s titles, and he studied him. He studied him to the core; to the point where Kobe Bryant even barked orders at teammates and assumed himself superior to anyone that ever stepped on the basketball court. Don’t believe me? The proof is in the footage.
     
    In the above video Kobe Bryant is getting ready for his first All-Star game, and an All-Star starter at that. He is 19 years old, and even more noteworthy is the fact that Kobe wasn’t even a starter for the Los Angeles Lakers at this point. Kobe received a lot of media scrutiny, and even scrutiny from players around the league for being an all-star starter. So amidst all the pressure, the spotlight and all the scrutiny Kobe Bryant is facing; what does he say when he’s asked about Michael Jordan sending him a message in the All-Star Game?
     
    “Maybe, but I want to send him a message that I don’t back down from anybody,” he said at the time.
     
    Remember, this was the 1998 season; the same season Michael won his sixth title. At this point Michael was tied with Magic Johnson for NBA titles, and was essentially the great Michael Jordan we know him as now. And this 19-year-old kid, who’s not even old enough to legally buy a beer, and isn’t even a starter for his own team seriously has the audacity to challenge Michael Jordan?
     
    You can’t hear the quotes and look at Kobe’s attitude and tell me he didn’t learn that from studying Michael. Kobe not only studied his style of play, but he even adopted Michael’s competitiveness. And then Kobe challenged him.
     
    If I’m allowed to tie up my laces and dream of being “Like Mike,” then why can’t Kobe? And why is Kobe villanized for such when the rest of the nation that wishes the same isn’t?
     
    Maybe it’s because he played for the Lakers, one of America’s favorite teams to hate. Maybe it’s because the basketball world beloved Michael so much that they couldn’t stand that anyone would attempt to step on the foundation he built. I mean, how dare any competitive, professional basketball player challenge Michael, right? Or maybe Kobe is just misunderstood.

    Not only has Bryant allowed another generation to see the closest form to Michael Jordan there has ever been, but he has spent countless hours studying, and mimicking his game to resemble the idol he grew up watching. Regardless of how much you hate the guy, or hate his team, it does astonish me how many people don’t respect him. How many players in the league study the game of basketball to the extent that Kobe has?
     
    Fast forward to the year 2013, and Kobe Bryant is on the verge of the end of his career, and his Lakers can’t seem to catch a break. Their season has been plagued with injury, and now Dwight Howard is firing jabs at Bryant, and rumors of Howard’s departure from LA are starting to emerge. Kobe Bryant may not win that sixth title, and he will never be Michael Jordan, but as fans of basketball he deserves to be appreciated for what he has done. And hopefully fans realize that before they turn on their television and the closest thing to Michael Jordan is gone.
     
    Remember: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

  • KU's McLemore, KSU's McGruder among five Big 12 point guards to look out for

    1. Ben McLemore, Kansas

    Prior to attending college in Lawrence, McLemore wasn’t seen as a “high talent” player, on the national level that is. It seems as if none of that matters to Kansas head coach Bill Self after McLemore’s best game of the season on Jan. 9, when he scored 33 points after taking only 12 shots and going 6-for-6 from three-point range. Not too shabby for a young redshirt freshman? Averaging 16.3 points per game with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, McLemore is clearly a perfect fit for the guard position and is making a smoother than expected transition into a lineup with the other four men on the court being fifth-year seniors. Look for “Air McLemore” to be a top prospect in the 2013 NBA Draft.

    2. Rodney McGruder, Kansas State

    Aside from being named preseason All-Big 12 for the past three years, this senior wildcat is looking for a little more. In Kansas State’s most recent win against Texas Tech, McGruder is a part of a cast that sees rebounds as a very important aspect of the game. “Coach has been stressing that day in and day out, practice and our past games, since we’ve been emphasizing that we’ve really been trying to attack the boards hard,” McGruder said. McGruder is averaging 14.6 points and is truly a force to be reckoned with. Rodney McGruder is gradually starting to elevate his level of play and is out to prove that he will be one of the more dominant players in not only the state of Kansas, but in the Big 12 Conference in its entirety.

    3. Markel Brown, Oklahoma State

    Starting all 34 games his freshman year, averaging 6.4 points, and tying for fifth in the Big 12 in blocks was only the beginning for this promising Cowboy. Now a junior, Brown is averaging 15.3 points per game along with averaging 4.4 rebounds. Brown is the perfect combination of speed, strength, and athleticism even temporarily having a higher 3-point percentage than his teammate Keiton “Pawnee Pistol” Page. It’s now clear to everyone that Brown has the hot hand saying, “my teammates found me in spots and I made a lot of shots that I didn’t think I was going to make. I don’t think that I’ve ever made that many threes in a row before.” This kid is definitely a top prospect in the 2013 NBA Draft.

    4. Will Clyburn, Iowa State

    Former Utah standout Will Clyburn surely does not regret his decision to leave Utah for Iowa State just two years ago. His ability to play well regardless of where he is or what conference he is in is a true testimony not only to the young man’s resilience, but ability as a basketball player. Just last week Clyburn was named Big 12 Rookie of the Week and is averaging 15.2 points per game. After transferring from one Division I program to the other, Clyburn was forced to sit out the 2011-2012 season and is surely making up for lost time. Will Clyburn starved for an entire year and now he’s eating like a king.

    5. Pierre Jackson, Baylor

    Not only is Jackson leading the Big 12 in scoring, he is continuing the success of former Bears that were selected in last year’s NBA Draft (i.e. Quincy Adams, Perry Jones III). Pierre Jackson is conserved to be one of the best returning college players for the 2012-2013 season. Leading the Big 12 with 19.3 points per game, this standout will once again lead his team to the NCAA tournament once again, in hope of achieving every College Basketball player’s ultimate dream.

  • Friday funnies: Rockets make up for pain of watching Matt Schaub, but Astros sure won't

    Us sports fans are a spoiled bunch.

    Any day of the week an athlete can lead his or team to victory and inspire others, news can break about a scandal, an announcer can drool over someone in the crowd at an event or the power can go out at the Super Bowl.

    No one could have foreseen just how awesome the Super Bowl turned out to be, even if that meant watching Shannon Sharpe fumbling to refresh everyone’s knowledge on how electricity works. The Superdome may never host a Super Bowl again, but what a way to go out — a great game and freak power outage made for easily the most riveting NFL game in recent memory. It’s no wonder broadcast rights for NFL games are as high as they’ve ever been.

    It’s always tough to say goodbye to the NFL. For the first few weeks it's gone you still find yourself logging on the computer to adjust a fantasy lineup, only to be hit by a wall of disappointment when you can’t claim anyone on waivers. Thankfully, other sports exist to fill in the time spent no longer watching football for hours on end every weekend in the fall.

    College basketball is as crazy as ever. For the fifth straight week the No. 1 team has been upset and February has just began. With first-round action of the NCAA Tournament coming to the Erwin Center March 22-23 there’s a chance to get a closer look at some of the nation’s best teams. The Longhorns don’t have their dancing shoes on this year but whichever YMCA team they face at the end of the year probably has one or two players worth keeping an eye on, too.

    The NBA has its usual glut of storylines, and though the Spurs lead the league in wins, another Texas team is staking claim to "NBA's most exciting." The Rockets are starting to awake from the post-Yao period and have a terrific crop of fresh faces that have been scoring in bunches. James Harden and his beard have brought hope to a city that still clings to memories of a World Series appearance eight years ago. Remember that song Chamillionaire and a few other Houston rappers released in 2005, Astros fans? To quote the song, "Turn It Up," “Couldn’t win the Series is what they thought, so now we provin’ it.” There’s irony somewhere in there, but Houston has suffered enough just by having to watch Matt Schaub play quarterback so Chamillionaire gets off easy this time. Something tells me he won’t make an Astros-themed song ever again.

    Speaking of the Astros — whose opening day payroll is set to be around $25 million: they have some work to do. However, it’s work that should have been taken care of before now. Trades and smarter draft picks have started to replenish the team’s farm system, but there’s no immediate help on the way. This can only mean one thing: free games! Seriously, the Astros don’t have any room to charge admission to watch a team that is collectively paid less than some individual players like Alex Rodriguez, Johan Santana and Cliff Lee. At the very least fans should be allowed to bring their own beer, pets and other forms of entertainment into Minute Maid Park. Being the worst team in baseball isn’t easy, but here’s to the Astros — good luck making any headway in the AL West this year.

    There’s never a shortage of entertainment in the wide world of sports, and if you’ll join me I’ll try to bring you the most interesting, funny or perplexing news each week along with some thoughts of my own.

  • The use of PEDs wreaking more havoc across baseball landscape, further tarnishing integrity of the game

    Once again, the use of performance-enhancing drugs has been dominating the MLB headlines lately. Records from now-closed, Miami-based clinic, Biogenesis, have recently been released, linking multiple baseball stars’ names to buying PEDs from the clinic.

    The two biggest names mentioned so far are superstars Alex Rodriguez, of the New York Yankees, and Ryan Braun, of the Milwaukee Brewers. This is neither player’s first encounter with PED accusations. 

    In 2009, Rodriguez admitted to taking PEDs from 2001 to 2003 while with the Texas Rangers but added that he had not used them since. Alex Rodriguez has already tainted his reputation and severely decreased his chances of being elected into the Hall of Fame because of his steroid use. As seen in this year’s BBWAA Hall of Fame vote, any suspicion of steroid use can severely stain a career. This year, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa didn’t even come close to receiving the required percentage of votes for induction to Cooperstown because of PED links and scandals. Like A-Rod, all had legendary numbers and should have been shoe ins, but with how rampant PED use is in the game today, one of the few options left for baseball authorities to try and eradicate the problem is to treat suspicion as guilt.

    These allegations could not come at a worse time in Rodriguez’s career, as he is coming off a hip impingement, which required surgery in early January. Doctors say he should be back by the All-Star break, but the chances he’ll return as even half the player he was in his prime seems unlikely. The Yankees have already signed Kevin Youkilis to play third base for the Yanks this season. In other words, A-Rod’s career in pinstripes, or career, in general, could be over.

    The second superstar linked to Biogenesis is Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. Coming off a National League MVP in 2011, Braun was slated to be suspended for the first 50 games of last season but was  reinstated before the season began, as a result of winning an appeal for his positive test for elevated levels of testosterone. Braun is no doubt one of the most consistent, all-around players in baseball, so this is unfortunate for the game and for the all-star, especially if he is clean. Braun insists that his name is listed under a ‘moneys owed’ category in Biogenesis documents because his attorneys used Anthony Bosch, the clinic operator, as a consultant, and that any tie to Biogenesis is merely “over a dispute over compensation for Bosch’s work.” Like last year, Braun claims innocence and “will fully cooperate with any inquiry into this matter."

    Other names involved in the Biogenesis mess are former Toronto Blue Jays’ outfielder Melky Cabrera (also his second PED scandal); Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta; Baltimore Orioles third baseman Danny Valencia and New York Yankees catcher, Francisco Cervelli, among others.

    In 2009, after Alex Rodriguez admitted to “juicing,” President Obama gave his opinion about the dark shadow PEDs are casting over the game in his first primetime press conference. He stated, “If you’re a fan of Major League Baseball, I think it tarnishes an era, to some degree.” That was 2009. Now, in 2013, the words “think” and “to some degree” can be deleted from the latter part of the president’s quote. As one can see, PEDs have tarnished the game and extensive use continues to rear its ugly head.

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