Longhorn Legends Faceoff: Hoops, Homers & Olympians Region – First Round
The list of Longhorn Legends reads longer than a Lord of the Rings novel, but who is the ultimate Texas Longhorns ambassador? That's what Horns Illustrated aims to determine in our Longhorn Legends Faceoff and the answer lies in your hands.
The Mound and Rebounds Region is devoted mainly to UT's iconic baseball, basketball, and track athletes, with a wild card. Who will survive a field that includes Kevin Durant, Roger Clemens, and Brooks Kiescnick? That's up to you.
Voting for the first round closes at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, June 14 and you can vote once a day for your favorite Longhorns. So get to it!
Kevin Durant vs. Ricky Brennes
KD cut the nets with his silky smooth jumper from the moment he stepped into the Frank Erwin Center. The forward only stayed with Texas for a season, but that's all it took for him to make his case as the greatest individual scorer in school history. Durant became the first ever freshman in the 2006-2007 season to be named Naismith College Player of the Year. He droppped 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game and won pretty much every award you could dream of, including the John R. Wooden Award. Durant's single season at Texas was so impressive that the university retired his number a week after he was drafted in the NBA by the Seattle Supersonics.
A discussion of Longhorn Legends would lack merit without mention of Bevo, the university's mascot, and the same sentiment goes for the Silver Spurs, the honorary student service organization responsible for the care and transportation of the iconic figure. Ricky Brennes represents the face of the Silver Spurs, having made the wise choice to become a Longhorn after meeting Bevo at the age of five, and therefore earns the honors for helping to ensure that the Longhorn steers clear of trouble on his many journeys throughout the season.
Burt Hooton vs. Roger Clemens
Pundits have described Burt Hooton as one of the immortals of Texas baseball. Texas' first-ever three-time baseball All-American gained the nickname "Happy" but left hitters frowning on way to a 35-3 record with 386 strikeouts, 13 shutouts and 1.14 ERA in his career. Former Texas baseball head coach Cliff Gustafson, a total authority on Texas baseball, once described Hooton as the greatest college player he ever saw, and that should be enough for anyone to recognize his greatness. The pitcher still holds the school records for ERA (1.14), opponent batting average (.158) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.94) and had his number retired in 2009.
Before he became known as "The Rocket" or "Rocket Man", Roger Clemens punished batters with his combo of intensity and power pitching. He threw the winning game against Alabama for the 1983 Texas team that won the NCAA College World Series and found his groove while at Austin, and constantly improved his game as he piled up a 25-7 record. Clemens' pitching was often downright untouchable, proven when he threw 35 consecutive scoreless innings, a college record until 2001. The University of Texas honored Clemens' speed and swagger by retiring his jersey, a first for a Texas baseball player. On top of that, in 2004 the Rotary Smith Award, given annually to America's best college baseball player, was changed to the Roger Clemens Award, honoring the best pitcher.
Slater Martin vs. Terrence Rencher
While he didn't inspire any hip-hop dances, and we'll forgive him since he played a bit before the movement, Slater "Dugie" Martin debunked the myth that size matters as one of the greatest small men ever to hit the hardwood. Martin shined as a sophomore on a 1947 team that went to the Final Four. While he set a school scoring record with 49 points in a game, Martin built his reputation as a shutdown defender. NBA Hall of Famer Bob Cousy once said that Martin was the only defender he would ask for help against. Martin also holds the distinction as the only Longhorn to gain induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and had his jersey number retired in 2009, which makes him the second Texas basketball player to ever receive the honor.
Terrence Rencher balled out as a four-year starter with Texas. The elite shooting guard from the Bronx scored in double digits 111 of 124 games he played and capped off his collegiate career as the leading scorer in Southwest Conference history. The future pro made a living out of slashing to the hoop for the "Runnin' Horns" and UT basketball fans remember him as one of the more exciting players to come through the program. Tom Penders, head coach during Rencher's run, stated that he was part of the greatest guard tandem in the country in 1993, along with B.J. Tyler, so that gives a little bit of insight as to how impressive Rencher's game was.
Brooks Kieschnick vs. Keith Moreland
Many baseball experts have made the case for Brooks Kieschnick as the greatest all-around player in University of Texas history, and you'd have to make one heck of an argument to prove them wrong. "The Tool Shed" was named Baseball America National Player of the Year in 1993 and won the Dick Howser Trophy twice, a feat no other college player has accomplished. Kieschnick's stats still stand in the school's Top 10 as both a hitter and pitcher. He knocked the seams off the ball at a .360 career clip with 43 Home Runs, 215 RBI, a school record .676 slugging percentage and 140 Walks, and matched his batting numbers by pitching for 34 wins, 7 shutouts, and 268 strikeouts. Kieschnick embodies the traits of a do-it-all player.
Keith Moreland flat out raked the ball while playing for the Longhorns. The third baseman posted a .388 career average and received three All-American selections, while also leading the Longhorns to three College World Series appearances. To add to his impressive hitting record, Moreland served as co-captain of 56-6 national championship team in 1973 and did his best Joe Dimaggio impersonation in 1975, hitting .410 over a 62-game stretch. So yeah, he could swing the stick a little bit. Moreland also worked as a color analyst for Texas Longhorn football and baseball radio broadcasts before heading to work with WGN-AM and the Chicago Cubs Radio Network.
T.J. Ford vs. Travis Mays
T.J. Ford represented everything you could dream of in a point guard. He led by example, blew past defenders with his quicksilver speed, and seemed to hit his teammates with a perfect pass every time. The buzz over Ford's play at Willowridge High (who won 62 games in a row) created mountainous expectations and somehow the six-foot general climbed even higher. He conducted a symphony on the court and became the first freshman player in NCAA history to lead the nation in assists. For his encore, Ford led the team in scoring, assists and steals as a sophomore, and carried Texas to its first Final Four since 1947. The performance earned him a First Team All-America selection, the Naismith College Player of the Year and John Wooden awards. He also became the first basketball player to ever have his jersey retired, joining the likes of Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, and Roger Clemens.
The first-class scoring guard marked his collegiate career, from 1986-90, as the first player in SWC history to garner back-to-back Player of the Year honors and a three-time All-SWC selection. One of the members of the "BMW Ultimate Scoring Machine," alongside Lance Blanks and Joey Wright, Mays became the first Texas hooper to record more than 700 points in a season (Only Kevin Durant has reached that number since.) and cross the mark of 2,000 points in a career. He also led the Horns to an Elite Eight appearance in 1990, averaging 24.1 points per game.
Huston Street vs. Greg Swindell
In 2005, when TNT introduced the TV show "The Closer", our first question was, "Why isn't Huston Street starring in this?" Okay, that's a slight fabrication but it illustrates our belief in Street's abilities as classic closer. The son of fellow Longhorn Legend James Street mowed down batters and helped the Longhorns bring home a national championship in 2002. Street felt no pressure as a freshman and recorded a save in every one of the Longhorns' wins in the College World Series that year. The All-American would go on to set CWS record for saves and belongs on the list of greatest closers in college baseball history.
If you had to select one starting pitcher to dominate a game, you could make a great case for Greg Swindell, a three-time All-SWC and 1986 All-American selection. The leftie owns a 43-8 record with two no-hitters and a 1.92 ERA in 77 games at Texas, also setting a school record for strikeouts (501) and college record for shutouts (14). Swindell shined as a sophomore, rocking a 19-2 record, 1.67 ERA, 15 complete games, and 204 strikeours in just 172 innings. For his absolute display of domination, Swindell received Baseball America's National Player of the Year Award. The Longhorns retired Swindell's number, which he shared with Roger Clemens, in 2009.
D.J. Augustin vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
No point guard since T.J. Ford pushed the tempo at Texas like D.J. Augustin, who constantly attacked the basket without fear. The 5-10 All-American and Big 12 First-Teamer received the Bob Cousy Award in 2008 and became only the second Texas Longhorn basketball player to earn first-team Academic All-American honors after earning a 4.0 GPA in the 2007 fall semester. Augustin's aggressive play and high basketball IQ energized the Longhorns as they raced to the Elite Eight, ultimately falling at the hands of one Derrick Rose and a stacked Memphis Tigers squad.
Aldridge possessed so much athleticism as a youngster that he nearly entered the NBA Draft straight out of high school. Fortunately for Longhorn hoopaholics, the gifted big man came to Austin and showed off his insane skill set on both ends of the court. The All-Big 12 First Teamer led the charge on 2005-2006 squad that fell one game short of a Final Four appearance, averaging 15 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Aldridge made the leap to the pros at the end of the season and the Portland Trailblazers eventually grabbed him, through a trade with the Chicago Bulls, with the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft. Now if he had just stayed one more season, he would have teamed up with Kevin Durant. Imagine the possibilities.
Trey Hardee vs. Leo Manzano
Trey Hardee appears to possess few weaknesses as a decathlete. The Silver Medalist in the London 2012 Olympics actually landed at UT through a bit of luck, when Mississippi State, the college Hardee began his career with, dropped its indoor track and field program. The Bulldogs' loss was the Longhorns' gain and the track & field sensation took the NCAA decathlon championship in 2005. He would then go on to set a NCAA decathlon record for points in 2006. Hardee's success becomes more intriguing when you consider that he didn't even compete in track and field events until he was a junior in high school. Better late than never.
Leo "The Lion" carries the honor as the most decorated athlete in Track and Field at the University of Texas. While at UT, Manzano won five NCAA National Championship titles, was selected as an All-American nine times and still holds four school records. Not one to rest on his laurels, Manzano became the first U.S. Olympian to medal in 44 years when he rallied to win the Silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics in the 1500 meter event. What we're telling you is that Leo Manzano is a middle distance running maniac.
Image Credits: Kevin Durant/Bleacher Report, Trey Hardee/Treyhardee.com, Leo Manzano/T-Association, LaMarcus Aldridge/Oregonlive.com, Travis Mays/Bleacher Report, Terrence Rencher/Drinking the Forty, T.J. Ford/University Co-Op, D.J. Augustin/Zimbio, Greg Swindell/Hookemreport.com, Roger Clemens/Huskreport, Burt Hooton/Fanbase, Keith Moreland/Chicagiradioland, Ricky Brennes/Longhorn Network, Slater Martin/dallasnews.com, Huston Street/http://alt.coxnewsweb.com, Brooks Kieschnick/collegebaseballhall.org