"I think what I'll remember most is the fact that the seniors and J'Covan had their best years that they've had since they've been at Texas," Barnes said. "You looked out there a lot, and we saw four freshmen that played a lot of minutes and got a lot of experience and the fact that we got back to the NCAA Tournament with where we were a year ago at this time is something that this team should be proud of.
"Obviously we want more, but when you think of those things, we did some good things," Barnes said.
The fact that Texas wants more isn't a surprise. And while the banquet was about celebrating the accomplishments of the 2011-2012 team, it was also a team to look forward.
A year ago at this time, the Longhorns had just three scholarship players — seniors Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene and junior J'Covan Brown, none of whom were returning starters — going through workouts. This spring, Barnes was quick to point out that things were "totally different." The Longhorns have five scholarship players returning, all freshmen heading into their sophomore years. And those freshmen combined to start 90 games, the equivalent of three full-time starters in a 34-game season. And those players are now putting in the work to become a good basketball team, Barnes said.
"There's not a guy in our program that hasn't gotten better," Barnes said.
Those workout numbers should be even more swelled when a six-man recruiting class, ranked No. 7 nationally by Scout.com, joins the fold in the summer. The group, which includes late additions Cameron Ridley and DeMarcus Holland, includes a size upgrade at nearly every position, from Holland's 6-foot-3 height at the point to Ioannis Papapetrou's 6-8 at small forward and three post players standing 6-8 or taller, with Ridley and Prince Ibeh topping 6-10.
This year, the coaches are allowed to work with the players during summer school, and with the roster additions, Barnes said it would be a leg up.
"With the rule changes, you start thinking about how you want to play," Barnes said. "We know what we've been good at here and the one thing that we've really worked a lot this spring is individual improvement with our guys."
Barnes said the Longhorns would likely go back to playing more inside-out, defending people and rebounding the ball. He said the specifics were unknown, though he said the length upgrade could allow the Longhorns to play a bit more zone. While he said the Longhorns would start, as always, with a man-to-man base, he added, "I could see us using some zone."
While size is the obvious improvement, Barnes also said at the banquet that the Longhorn staff went out looking for intangibles.
"We wanted to recruit guys who understand winning," Barnes said.
That includes Holland, the latest addition to the Texas class. Holland committed to the Longhorns on Easter Sunday, the only Horn signee to pick Texas in the late signing period.
"We watched him all year," Barnes said. "He was very intriguing all year long and we weren't sure what we wanted to do with a couple of those scholarships. He's a great worker, he continues to work hard and he does the things that we want in a player because he comes from a winning program. We're just excited."
Ridley also signed late, but was actually the first player in the class to commit.
Barnes said that the spring and summer would be used to take a look at leadership — panning "We want a lot of leaders; we don't just want one leader — and to gauge competition. It's in the latter aspect that Barnes feels the Longhorns can make a major gain. And it's why Barnes said he wasn't necessarily worried about replacing three of his top scorers, including Brown's 20.1 points per contest.
"I think the best thing we've got, we're going to have great competition with what we have coming back and what we have coming in. I think that's one of the best things that you can do for a player is to put them in a position every day that he has to compete and just earn everything he gets.
"I think with that, the scoring and all of that will take care of itself," Barnes said.
Texas coach Rick Barnes called the Longhorn 2011-2012 basketball season "unusual" at the annual Men's Basketball Banquet Monday night.