AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — If A.J. Abrams were an old-time gunfighter, Texas' sharp-shooting guard would be the fastest draw in the west.
His catch-and-release can produce a 3-pointer in the blink of an eye, and when his shots are falling — like they were in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament — the Longhorns pile up points about that quickly.
Texas' career leader in 3-pointers with 277, Abrams connected on 12 and averaged 26 points as No. 2 seed Texas beat Austin Peay and Miami in the first two rounds of the South regional. The Longhorns (30-6) play No. 3 Stanford (28-7) Friday night in Houston.
A wispy 5-foot-11 and 155 pounds, Abrams' job is to constantly be on the move, bobbing and weaving his way through defenses to find the open space or cut behind screens. When he catches the ball, defenders have almost no time to recover before it's on the way to the basket.
"He's so clever, so evasive, when he starts moving … He doesn't need much separation," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "A.J. is as smart as any player we've ever coached."
The quick release is born of necessity and long hours spent training with his father Andy, who at 6-foot-4 was a bodyguard for former Texas governors George W. Bush and Ann Richards.
An undersized player in a sport that demands height, he needed the quick release to prevent bigger players from blocking his shot. The soft arc it takes to the basket is the result of hours of shooting over a cardboard box his father attached to a broom handle to block his view of the rim.
"I'm usually guarded by bigger guys," Abrams said.
Abrams set a Big 12 record with 120 3-pointers last season and has connected on 111 so far this season. Miami coach Frank Haith, who recruited Abrams when he was a Texas assistant, watched Abrams befuddle his Hurricanes in the second round.
"He's got a tremendous motor. He keeps coming off screens, he keeps working, and he's got a great release," Haith said. "He gets his body aligned with the rim very quickly even though he's a little guy."
Already a weapon from the outside, Abrams was determined to develop a scoring touch closer to the basket. He's tried to model his game after Allen Iverson — like A.I., he wears the No. 3 and a sleeve on his shooting arm — and has shown flashes of it with drives to the basket and a soft mid-range floater.
The 3-pointer remains his specialty, however, and more than half of his 208 field goals this season come from beyond the arc.
But like all pure shooters, there are games when the shots don't fall. They key is maintaining a shooter's confidence and to keep launching shots.
Abrams was stuck in a slump when he made just 14 of 51 shots over the final three games of the regular season and the first game of the Big 12 tournament. He snapped out of it with seven 3-pointers in a win over Oklahoma in the conference semifinals.
"I don't think I lose my confidence," Abrams said during the season. "My teammates do a good job of telling me to keep shooting it, and I'm not going to let them down."
Even when he wasn't making shots in bunches, he still managed to hit key baskets to help his team win. He was 1-of-13 and misfiring from everywhere before coming up with two big shots to beat Oklahoma State in the regular-season finale. The win clinched a share of the Big 12 regular season title.
Abrams hasn't missed many lately, shooting 58 percent in the Longhorns' two NCAA tournament wins.
"He likes drama," Barnes said. "We want A.J. to shoot it. That's his role he has to play."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.