Who’s Got Next?

Jan 05, 2013; Waco, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns guard Javan Felix (3) dribbles during the game against the Baylor Bears at the Ferrell Center. Baylor won 86-79. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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There’s an ongoing obsession in sports to identify the next big thing. ESPN even has an entire website devoted to this quest. And oftentimes, the criteria by which these identifications are assigned are almost comically elementary. Keith Van Horn was the Next Larry Bird because he was a white small forward. Hal Sutton was the Next Jack Nicklaus because he had floppy blonde hair. Rick Mirer was the Next Joe Montana because they wore the same jersey number at Notre Dame.

And from the moment he gave his verbal commitment to Rick Barnes, Texas freshman point guard Javan Felix was expected to be the Next D.J. Augustin.

Like Augustin, Felix is a New Orleans native who, like Augustin, was displaced during Hurricane Katrina. Like Augustin, Felix is a sub-six foot guard whose game is more controlled craftiness and change of pace than it is blinding quickness and blazing speed. Like Augustin, Felix rocks a thin mustache with sporadic chin fuzz.

And now, like Augustin, Felix is being asked to carry a Longhorns team that’s as young and inexperienced as he is.

That’s quite a challenge, especially when you consider that, unlike Augustin, there’s no Kevin Durant—or Damion James or A.J. Abrams or even Connor Atchley—riding shotgun. With a suspect jumper and a muffin-top midsection, Felix wasn’t nearly as college-ready as Augustin was upon his arrival in Austin, and Felix’s initial job description reflected that—get in shape, play hard for 10-15 minutes a night and prepare yourself to take over for Myck Kabongo whenever Kabongo bolts for the NBA.

Everything changed, of course, once Kabongo misled Texas compliance officials about a summer trip/workout and was suspended for three-quarters of the season. As the only true point guard who’s eligible and in uniform, Felix has been forced to the forefront, averaging an absurd 36.4 minutes per game (Augustin: 35.6) and assuming the role of single, most irreplaceable player on the roster. The Longhorns go as he goes, and their 8-8, even-steven record is reflective of his up-and-down performance. His poor shooting from the field (33.5%) is (occasionally) offset by his effective production at the line (76.7%). Despite dishing out a solid 6.3 assists per game, he still struggles with the costly turnover in crucial situations. And while on some possessions he helps orchestrate a coherent college-caliber offense, on others he does nothing but work on his dribbling. All in all, it’s about what you’d expect from a freshman who’s enduring an unexpected baptism by fire—moments of brilliance chased with moments of frustration.

In his Big 12 debut a couple of weeks ago against Baylor, though, Felix also gave UT fans a moment of hope. On the road, in a hostile environment and matched up with the talented senior Pierre Jackson, Felix singlehandedly kept Texas in the game, working the high pick-and-roll and stop-and-starting his way to 26 points, nine assists and just one turnover. It was undoubtedly Augustin-esque, and after he splashed another pull-up midrange jumper, not even color analyst Fran Fraschilla could resist from making the comparison.

But once the Bears regained control, and Texas ultimately fell in overtime, Longhorn Nation was unfortunately reminded that there’s still a need for patience. Despite the tremendous effort, Felix isn’t quite there yet, and his star potential—as well as this Texas team’s collective promise—is still deserving of another label that’s as thrilling as it is bittersweet:

Next season.

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You can contact Brent Stoller at [email protected]

Topics: Basketball, Big 12, Texas Longhorns

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