It’s not official yet but all sources are reporting that injured guard Varez Ward is leaving the Texas basketball program. The sophomore from Montgomery, Alabama only played 3 games last season before tearing his quadriceps in pregame warmups. If he transfer to another Division I school he would have to sit out one season but his injury may force him to miss time this season anyways.

This news is not surprising if you follow him on Twitter (@vward50) as he’s been hinting at needing to move on since the middle of last basketball season. Orangebloods is reporting that he wants to be closer to home due to some family health issues.

Rumors are that he’s headed to Auburn, but I’m not sure if even he knows where he is headed as according to him “need a drink… i need to get in somebody school asap.” To me that tweet means that if he is headed to Auburn he may still be waiting for the academics to be sorted out.

Good luck to Varez. I hope he gets healthy and gets it done in both the classroom and on the court wherever he ends up.


Posted March 11th, 2010 by Ross
Filed under: Basketball, Feature

WTH?! (What the Heck?) Moments are attempts to find the memorable and the off-beat perspective on Longhorns sports. Here are some interesting moments from the Texas’ Men’s Basketball Season.

Rick Barnes' Texas basketball team collapsed midseason.

Rick Barnes' Texas basketball team collapsed midseason.

Pre-Season WTH Mr. April?! April is the month when most high school basketball players sign their letters of intent. Coach Rick Barnes, Mr. April, has out did himself by coming up with an incredible freshman class that includes McDonald All-American Avery Bradley (6-2, 180), Jordan Hamilton (6-7, 226) and J’Covan Brown (6-1, 185) to go along with highly touted transfer Jai Lucas(5-10, 150). These additions with three seniors Damion James (6-7, 225), Justin Mason (6-2, 195) and Dexter Pittman (6-10, 290) had this team starting the preseason ranked #3. An ESPN article reported that Barnes would rather develop players for the NBA than win an NCAA championship. I believe this is a misinterpretation because Mack Brown finally shed his stigma as Mr. February with his national championship, let’s hope that Coach Barnes does the same soon.

Nov. 25th WTH Practice?! The season was starting fast with a win over highly ranked Pittsburgh 78-62, but during pregame warm-ups Varez Ward right knee gave out ending his season. “We not talkin’ bout a game – we talkin’ bout practice” nod to AI. Who knew his backcourt experience (only as sophomore) would be sorely needed throughout the year?

Dec. 22nd WTH DJ?! Damion James was making claims early in the season for player of the year honors with back to back 20+ points and 13+ rebound in wins over #10 North Carolina (103-90) & #9 Michigan State (79-68). DJ also established himself as UT’s all time leading rebounder by surpassing James Thomas. The problems of poor foul shooting and any lack of a half court game was covered up by the Horns posting 17 straight wins through mid-January.

(more …)


It looked awkward but not too bad when it happened, but the pregame injury Texas guard [tag]Varez Ward[/tag] suffered Tuesday night turned out to be season ending. He went down hard during layup drill sand had to be taken off the court on a stretcher and the university announced Wednesday that Ward has ruptured his quadriceps tendon.

From the university:

Statement from Athletic Trainer Eric Fry
MRI results showed that Varez Ward ruptured his right quadriceps tendon. He is scheduled to undergo surgery early next week and will miss the remainder of the season.

Statement from Head Coach Rick Barnes
We all feel for Varez. Everyone within our program understands how much time and hard work Varez has put in, and he has been the most improved player on our team from the end of last season. He means a lot to this program. There is one thing for certain, he will be back.

Dogus Balbay loses the ball to a Duke defender. (

Dogus Balbay loses the ball to a Duke defender. (

A few missed free throws, a couple of missed rebounds, at least two awful foul calls and Texas’ 2009 basketball season came to an end.

After a good showing and victory over [tag]Minnesota[/tag], Texas faced [tag]Duke[/tag] in the second round. Duke has owned Texas since [tag]Rick Barnes[/tag] has been on campus winning games by over 20 points three times. On Saturday night in the second round of March Madness Texas at least made a game of it.

[tag]Dexter Pittman[/tag] continued to be unstoppable in the paint. In tournament play (Big 12 and NCAA) Big Dex has taken his game to another level. Big guys that demand the paint are a dying breed in basketball, especially at the college level, and with one year left in college the Texas staff and fans should be excited about the return of what could be the most dominate low post presence in the nation next year.

Another bright spot in the first two rounds of the tournament was the play of freshman point guard [tag]Varez Ward[/tag]. Texas has struggled at the point guard position all year, mostly because all of their players who have the ball handling skills to play the 1 do not possess the scoring skills to make opposing defense’s respect them on the perimeter. Ward does not have a great shot, but unlike [tag]Dogus Balbay[/tag], Ward isn’t afraid to shoot it on occasion. Ward may have replaced [tag]Justin Mason[/tag] as the best on ball perimeter defender on the team, and he attacks the basket and makes good decisions. With the loss of [tag]AJ Abrams[/tag] to eligibility Ward will be huge even with the talented freshman class coming in.

Speaking of Abrams, the Texas fan base will have no idea how much he meant to this team until he is no longer on campus. There have been message board rumblings that Texas would be better off without the sharp shooter from McNeil high school. All Abrams was for Texas was the best perimeter shooter in school history. It is amazing that on a team that struggled to score so much for most of the season that the one guy who could score at will was taken for granted so much. When AJ was making shots this team could beat anyone in the nation, when the other Longhorns on the floor were so inept that opposing defenses could shadow Abrams every time down the floor and he was taken out of games, Texas would go long stretches with no points. Thank you AJ. I needed to say that.

It was an on and off season for [tag]Damion James[/tag] and [tag]Gary Johnson[/tag] and the two rounds of the NCAA tournament was a perfect microcosm of their season. James was Jekyll and Hyde, sometimes in the same possession, so much so that there is talk around campus that he may come back for his senior season. It was expected all year that James was a sure fire lottery pick because of the lack of top flight talent in this draft class. However, James hasn’t adjusted the perimeter game as easy as some thought, and he may need another year to prove he can be a small forward.

Johnson on the other hand struggled down the stretch. In the mid part of the season it looked like the former Mr. Texas would emerge as the number three scoring option for this team. Instead, the sophomore fell in love with his mid range jump shot. It will be important for this team to get Johnson’s aggressiveness up in the offseason. A front court of Pittman, Johnson, and prep star [tag]Jordan Hamilton[/tag] could be the best in the nation if Johnson can demand attention at the power forward position. He isn’t as good of a rebounder as he should be, and that should be a number one priority in the off season.

In the end the game was lost because of free throw shooting. Texas had every opportunity to win the game against Duke, and while some will blame the referees and some will blame the coaches, it really came down to wasting points at the charity stripe. Coming into the season many felt it would be this team’s Achilles heel, and in the end it was.

The Longhorns performed well though, in a game most gave them no chance of winning. Most fans will look at this season as a disappointment, but the 2009 team went further than Kevin Durant’s squad did. People must remember that this team and offense was built for a scoring point guard to dominate the ball and set up the other talent on the floor. That plan went out the window when [tag]DJ Augustin[/tag] went to the NBA after his sophomore season. This is the same team, minus Augustin, that went to the Elite 8 and was given a two seed in the tournament.

College basketball is a guard dominated game. A point guard dominated game. Texas came up short on that all year, and they weren’t good enough at three point shooting and/or rebounding and defense to make up for their personnel deficiencies.


The 2008-09 Texas Longhorns were far from a perfect team, but Saturday night the team showed a ton of heart but came up short in the final minute in a second round loss to [tag]Duke[/tag]. Despite being overmatched in some areas, the victim of some bad bounced (and calls), and unable to knock down free throws the Horns still had their chances to come up with a huge win. Watch highlights from the game below…

Share interview from [tag]Varez Ward[/tag]:


Posted March 19th, 2009 by Brian
Filed under: Basketball, Feature, Live, NCAA Tourney

Follow along below with our live thoughts and analysis during tonight’s opening round game versus [tag]Minnesota[/tag] on CBS. We’re live now, join us below.

We’ll also be embedding Twitter posts from @40AcresSports and with the hashtag #UT right in with the other notes. Feel free to leave comments and questions using the live tool, but not all comments will be published. Read below for more notes on comments and how the live blog will work. Hook ’em!

Text only archives available here.

Notes: Comments on the article itself will be turned off till after the game. The Writer can view all comments sent to them but only they can publish your comments for everyone to see. The “autoscroll” feature ensures you’re always shown the newest content without having to refresh or scroll your screen. Subtle sound effects alert you to new content as the writer publishes it. You can turn these features on or off by using the controls at the bottom of the Live Blog.

Gary Johnson has become one of the team's most consistent scorers.

Sophomore forward Gary Johnson has become one of the team's most consistent scorers.

The Texas Longhorns scraped by a game [tag]Iowa State[/tag] ball club to win their conference opener 75-67. The game came sandwiched between a loss to Arkansas and a looming Big Monday showdown in Norman against the top-ten ranked Oklahoma Sooners. All of Texas’ losses have come away from the Erwin Center.

The Longhorns continue to struggle from the perimeter. Teams are proving that [tag]AJ Abrams[/tag] can be taken out of Texas’ half court offense and the guys around him do not have the skill set to consistently knock down three-pointers. Texas ranks last in the Big 12 in three-point shots made.

It is likely that Abrams and the other Horns will regain confidence in their outside shot. As conference play begins guys like [tag]Damion James[/tag], [tag]Conner Atchley[/tag], and [tag]Justin Mason[/tag] will get better as they play familiar foes. The problem that appears to not have an answer on the roster is at point guard. Abrams doesn’t have the ability to play there against high level opponents and Mason for all his strengths is not getting it done. Bench players like [tag]Dogus Balbay[/tag] and [tag]Varez Ward[/tag] are not consistent enough yet to be counted on. Balbay has an even worse jump shot than Mason and Ward doesn’t play the defense Barnes expects for an on ball defender.

The disadvantage of not having an explosive point guard has been evident in the late part of Texas’ losses. All three losses were determined in the last minute of the game, and all but maybe [tag]Notre Dame[/tag] could have been won with better offensive execution. The Longhorns can’t get easy shots. They can’t get them for themselves and they can’t get them for their teammates. With all the good things this team does it won’t mean much come March if the point guard doesn’t become a factor for this team.

The saving grace for this team and the one thing that makes them dangerous come tournament time is their ability to match up and play on ball defense like no other team in the country. Damion James playing at the three has not paid off completely on the offensive end, but it has vastly improved the total team defense for this team. Last year Mason was guarding small forwards, he now guards the point guard. The length James adds to the lineup at the three position helps with tip balls, help defense, and rebounding on both ends. Texas does a great job with help defense for the most part. The negative that comes out of that is they occasionally find themselves out of rebounding position. Texas allows too many put backs.

Over the last few games [tag]Gary Johnson[/tag] has emerged as a weapon. The sophomore is sliding into the role James abandoned when he moved to the wing and he is quickly becoming a major factor on offense. Lately, Johnson has been the go to guy and the most consistent player on the offensive side. He rebounds with ferocity and hustles at all times. Barnes will rely on him more and more because of the emergence of his mid-range jump shot. Johnson has a high release which allows him to get it off every time without the threat of a rejection. He will have to be huge on offense and defense against Blake Griffen for Texas to have any chance against Oklahoma.

Another player that needs to step up in the middle is [tag]Dexter Pittman[/tag]. The big man is a mismatch for everybody on the court. The work he has done in the weight room cannot be understated, but he has to avoid the cheap fouls that prevent him from finding out how many minutes he can play. When he is on the court he opens up the outside, shots that will eventually begin to fall. The Longhorn outside shots are not going to come from drive and kicks, they will come from the post. The more attention that has to be paid to Pittman, Johnson, and James the more space Abrams will have.

No doubt this is a down year for Texas. And by that I mean their ceiling isn’t as high as teams of the past. But it says a ton about the program, coaches, and players that a down year fields a conference championship contender, a top-ten ranking, and a good shot at going to another Sweet 16. We just watched a football team overachieve for a full year, maybe the basketball team will do the same.

A great Texas defensive effort wasn't enough

A great Texas defensive effort wasn't enough

The Texas Longhorns lost their second game of the year Saturday afternoon 63 – 67 to [tag]Michigan State[/tag] in Houston. The Horns led most of the game, but without a point guard capable of creating for himself and his teammates the team struggled to score down the final stretch. Once leading 60 – 58, the team scored only three points over the last five and a half minutes. [tag]Justin Mason[/tag] had a couple of chances to win or tie the game in the final minute of the game but missed two three-point attempts.

Starting guards [tag]AJ Abrams[/tag] and Mason combined to score only 12 points in the loss, and backups [tag]Dogus Balbay[/tag] and [tag]Varez Ward[/tag] went scoreless despite getting more minutes than normal when Mason went down for an extended period with an injury in the first half. Abrams in particular struggled to find his shot throughout the game, held to a season low eight points and without a three-point field goal for the first time this year.

One bright spot in the loss was the play of [tag]Gary Johnson[/tag] in a return to his hometown of Houston. Johnson had a game-high 20 points on 8-12 shooting from the floor and 4-4 from the free throw line.

The last game for Texas of 2008 will be this Tuesday night on ESPN2 versus [tag]Wisconsin[/tag].

Game Statistics

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Posted November 19th, 2008 by Mike
Filed under: Basketball, Feature

Dogus Balbay could soon be the team's starting PG

Dogus Balbay could soon be the team's starting PG

One of the major strengths for Texas this year will be their bench. The amount of depth the Longhorns possess, especially in the front court, allows Rick Barnes’ team to play the up tempo, physical style that he feels they need to play with in order to be successful. Here is a look at the main bench contributors headed into the season.


Texas will rely heavily on the trio of [tag]AJ Abrams[/tag], [tag]Justin Mason[/tag], and even [tag]Damion James[/tag] in the back court. The main contributor off the bench will be Turkey product Dogus Balbay. The other guys will have to show some major qualities to earn playing time later in the season.

[tag]Dogus Balbay[/tag] – The speedy Turk missed all of last season with an injury before getting to play this summer for his home country’s under 20 squad. Balbay likes to penetrate from the point. His jump shot is not where it needs to be yet. Teams will look to play underneath Balbay until he proves he can knock down the mid range jumper. Balbay plays with intensity and isn’t afraid to mix it up on the defensive end. With Texas lacking a true point in A.J. Abrams and Justin Mason don’t be surprised for Balbay to start receiving more and more minutes.

[tag]Varez Ward[/tag] – Not much was expected of Ward coming into the fall as the freshman came in under the national radar. Since practice has begun however Barnes has grown to love Ward’s ferociousness on the defensive end. Barnes likens him to a young Justin Mason, and in Barnes’ book that is a major compliment. Ward is not polished on the offensive end, but he can come in and help on the boards and in defense. He has a decent jumper and an above average first step. Ward could be the surprise player of the year.

[tag]Harrison Smith[/tag] – Smith is now a junior and it’d be hard to think he is going to receive any more than clean up duty. Smith has shown some ability, but has not been consistent enough on defense for Barnes to rely on him. Maybe early in the season Smith can make an impact and force Barnes to play him. Without that or an injury Smith’s chances will likely be limited.


This is where Texas’ depth will be an advantage. While the back court will remain the same for much of the game, Barnes will look to wear out opposing big men by sending waves of player’s their way. [tag]Connor Atchley[/tag] will get the majority of minutes at center, so look for most substitutions to come at the four position.

[tag]Gary Johnson[/tag] – Johnson will be the team’s six man, and will most likely earn the most minutes at the position even if he isn’t technically the starter. He gives Texas toughness on the inside. The Longhorn staff is hoping for a come out year from Johnson in the likeness of Damion James’ sophomore season. There is no doubt Johnson can play defense and rebound, but his ability to score is what could make him key for this team. Texas is going to need to get points from Johnson off the bench, and his ability to consistently produce will be a major factor this season.

[tag]Alexis Wangmene[/tag] – The sophomore from Cameroon had a tough off season. He suffered a major family tragedy and has had a hard time, understandably, refocusing completely on basketball. Having Matt Hill back will help UT as Wangmene gets back on track. He has unbelievable upside, and hopefully will get his mental state back in order to show it off.

[tag]Matt Hill[/tag] – Everybody’s favorite afro is back after missing last year’s season with an injury. The hair might not be the same, but his play should be. Hill did very well when he was healthy enough to play. He possesses some good low post moves, and his length makes him a playmaker on the defense side of the board. He hustles very hard, but needs to improve his rebounding skills. A lot of times a year off’s exactly what a player needs, and it is certain that Hill is eager to get back out there and play basketball.

[tag]Dexter Pittman[/tag] – I’m going to admit off the bat that I’m a huge fan of Pittman’s. He has come into the program and busted his tail to get his weight under control enough to get on the floor. Pittman is never going to be thin, but he has gotten in better shape each year and is posed to be the number one guy at center off the bench. Pittman’s goal is to be able to play over 20 minutes a game. His ability to do that without getting into foul trouble would allow Texas to play Mason at point, Abrams at two, James at three, slide Atchley to four, and play Pittman in the middle. Texas has been killed late in tournament by not being able to match up with the length of teams like Syracuse in the Final Four, and Memphis last year. Pittman gives them a chance to do that as long as he plays smart and stays in shape.

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