Early last season, when the only W's in Austin were in the
governor's name, new coach Rick Barnes sat down for a talk with
his struggling 7-foot sophomore center, Chris Mihm. "Do you have
any idea how good you are?" Barnes asked. Mihm shook his head.
"Well, there's not one thing in basketball you can't do." Duly
informed, Mihm became the Big 12's best player, averaging 13.7
points and 11.0 rebounds a game and helping the Longhorns shake
off their 2-7 start to win the conference title.
Now the scary news: Already imposing in the post, Mihm is
improving his range. All summer long, he worked on facing the
basket, driving and kicking, and shooting the three. "Last year I
was getting double- and triple-teamed whenever I had the ball,"
he says. "This year's going to be harder, so I need to be able to
Barnes has also had numerous sitdowns with forward Gabe Muoneke,
who led the Longhorns in scoring (16.5 points a game) but had a
disturbing tendency to throw sucker punches at foes and whine to
officials. Muoneke had his own epiphany, though, during a tour of
Greece with a college all-star team. He was on the bench when a
teammate, angry at a call, grabbed the European ref's whistle and
flipped it in the official's face. Muoneke turned to his coach
and criticized the player, only to be told that's how he behaves.
"I'm a grown man, but I've been a baby," says Muoneke. "That's a
habit I want to lose."
Blessed with a talented frontcourt, Texas should improve on last
year's 19-13 record as long as its guards, Ivan Wagner and
William Clay, cut down on their turnovers and bad shots. If that
happens, Muoneke's temper might be one of the few Longhorns
losses this season.
COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL Capitol offense Mihm wants to make like a guard and move outside this year.
POS. HT. CLASS KEY STAT
SF Gabe Muoneke 6'7" Sr. 16.5 ppg
PF Chris Owens 6'8" So. 6.1 ppg*
C Chris Mihm 7'0" Jr. 13.7 ppg
SG William Clay 6'2" Sr. 8.1 ppg
PG Ivan Wagner 6'1" Sr. 3.9 apg
1998-99 record: 19-13 Final rank (coaches' poll): unranked
Returning starter *As freshman at Tulane