Myck Kabongo obviously needs time to get into a rhythm in his return from an NCAA suspension. In his four games back, averaging 37 minutes per outing, he has averaged 15.5 points, shooting 46.5 percent overall and 25 percent on threes, and has four assists against three turnovers.
Except that he doesn’t have much time. The University of Texas is likely down to single digits in games remaining, barring a postseason run off the current 12-15 mark, and their sophomore point guard is on the clock to avoid being locked into the second round. If he chooses to come out for the 2013 draft, patience is not an ally.
Kabongo, in a switch, actually needs the college season. That isn’t usually the case for players with an established portfolio, as was proven in 2011 when Kyrie Irving went No. 1 after being limited to 11 games by injury as a Duke freshman and Enes Kanter was No. 3 after spending his entire freshman campaign at Kentucky in NCAA jail.
The unique difference is that Kabongo has been backsliding for more than a year, since he arrived at Texas as a star recruit projected for the top of the lottery whenever he decided to turn pro. (That would also make him part of the growing Canadian footprint in the NBA, in the wave of Tristan Thompson, Andrew Nicholson, Cory Joseph, Kris Joseph and Robert Sacre, just before Anthony Bennett possibly goes in the top five in 2013 and current high school senior Andrew Wiggins, the phenom on the horizon for years, enters next season as the clear No. 1.) Kabongo can make up ground in pre-draft workouts that can dramatically alter a draft standing, in another sign of how much scouts and executives value entire seasons of college ball, but for now there is doubt whether he can even break out from the NCAA pack, let alone the NBA.
“I don’t know if he’s shown people enough,” one front-office veteran said. “I really don’t.”
And that’s after being very well known coming to Texas and a full season as a freshman of 9.6 points, 5.2 assists and 39 percent from the field. Kabongo was losing draft ground.
The suspension itself for the first 23 games of this season will be irrelevant in NBA minds if it does not show up as a pattern of behavior. The NCAA said in a statement he accepted airfare and time with a personal trainer and then “provided false and misleading information during two separate interviews with university officials,” and if the pros are willing to overlook college games, imagine how willing they are to overlook the college governing body. The part about lying to Texas will be the red flag.
Once Kabongo did come back, Feb. 13, the layoff was obvious. He couldn’t hit a shot and, worse, a point guard known for advanced playmaking skills was sloppy with the ball. Saturday night against Kansas State was more a little more encouraging – 24 points on eight-of-12 shooting, along with six rebounds, although also two assists and three turnovers.