The basketball season is almost upon us. In fact, Texas Tech has even released the 2011-12 prospectus for the season and believe it or not, the first game is merely a week or two away, November 11th against Troy (although there are two exhibition games prior to that, one on November 3rd and another on November 5th). With the season right around the corner, I am ready to leave the hand-wringing about the roster attrition until next year and focus on this year's team.
I also started to think about how head coach Billy Gillispie assembled his team, which in retrospect I thought was fairly interesting.
THE HOLDOVERS | There were more than just these three players, PG Javarez Willis, SF Jaye Crockett and PF Robert Lewandowski, that were supposed to return. You also had in the mix, SG Jamel Outler, PG Mike Davis, PF Paul Cooper, SF Theron Jenkins, and SG Marshall Henderson. All of those players slowly but surely found a home at another university, for the most part, and the three players that Gillispie retained, Willis, Crockett and Lewandowski were obviously hand-picked players that Gillispie knew he wanted to keep and that I think had earned his trust. I haven't gotten much into Gillispie's psychology as a coach, but I do think that Gillispie, like most other coaches, want players who are fully on board and I'm guessing that Willis, Crockett and Lew were those types of players. It doesn't hurt for Lew and Crockett to be the best players on a returning team, but I'd like to give these three some credit due to the fact that I think that they probably also knew what they were signing up for in terms of playing for Gillispie.
THE HAND-PICKED | It was almost immediately after Gillispie was hired that he hand-picked three players from the junior college ranks: PG Ty Nurse, SF Jaron Nash and C Kader Tapsoba. Nurse was from nearby Midland College and is the definition of a point guard in that he's not a scorer, but he's a winner and he can distribute the ball. Nash and Tapsoba were both playing at Tyler J.C. and much like Nurse, their statistics last year aren't going to make anyone think that Gillispie has recruited future All-Americans, but there's no doubt that Gillispie had his eye on all three players as he and Texas Tech danced and waited for him to be Texas Tech's head coach. Nurse and Tapsoba will each have two years to play, while Nash will have three years to play. And something else to chew on, Nash did average over 11 points a game as a redshirt freshman. I like the fact that he's demonstrated the ability to score as a newcomer at TJC and that he's got three more years to hone that ability under Gillispie.
THE FORMER COACH'S COMMITS | It was a little bit strange, but of Pat Knight's recruits, Gillispie kept almost all of them: PG Kevin Wagner, SG Toddrick Gotcher, SF Terran Petteway, and PF Jordan Tolbert. The only player that didn't end up signing was PF Hershey Robinson, who I think may not have qualified. In any event, it was truthfully too late for Gillispie to sign any other high school players to the class due to the fact that most, if not all of the players up for grabs were already taken. I'd still guess that Gillispie made his way to see and meet all of these players. If you made me choose, I think I like the upside of Gotcher, Petteway and Tolbert. Gotcher should see a lot of time at shooting guard (because there really aren't many his size on the team, but Gillispie could go in a different direction), while Petteway was a small forward and scoring machine for Galveston Ball, a traditionally tough district with talented players. He's unconventional, but effective. And Tolbert, if he just grows just a little bit could be a really nice option at power forward, probably not this year, but in years to come.
More, after the jump.
THE FLYERS | It wasn't until after the official signing day that Gillispie added three additional players to this year's roster: SG DeShon Minnis, SF Cameron Forte, and PF/C Dejan Kravic. You could argue that Minnis is really a point guard (he is) but he has the size of a shooting guard on a team that lacks size at that position. In any event, I think these are the flyers on the team in that he's taking a chance on Minnis and Forte for sure, and I'm guessing that Kravic wouldn't be at Texas Tech wasn't a guy that he intended on being here next year and the the year after. Minnis is from the Philadelphia area, coincidentally, so is associate head coach Chris Walker. I'm sure that's not a coincidence and I'm also sure that Gillispie probably told Walker that he needed another scholarship spot and asked if there was another player that he knew that was over-looked in the talent-rich Northeast and pegged Minnis, who had just a few offers, but probably fits the mold of what Gillispie wants in a player: tough, takes the ball to the basket and involves his teammates. I have no idea how Forte didn't get more looks, although when we looked at him as a player when he signed with Texas Tech, he was an outstanding scorer in high school, one of the nation's leading scorers (I think #6 in the country last year) but had very few offers. Forte has deficiencies in his game, but he's worth a look for sure. As mentioned before, I'm envisioning that Kravic isn't necessarily a "flyer" as I don't think that Gillispie would have given him a scholarship this year as a transfer and then cut him next year, but he doesn't fit in any other category. Kravic is most likely the guy that will replace Lewandowski next year and BCG wanted a player that could be involved in practices, be part of the program and learn that to play, he's going to probably going to need to be more physical.
THE NEW STAFF | Other than Bubba Jennings, Gillispie was fairly slow in retaining a coaching staff. Gillispie's first hire was Associate Head Coach Chris Walker from Villanova. I can't give you much, if any information on Walker other than he's from Houston, but has spent a considerable amount of time in the Philadelphia area, playing at Villanova and then coaching there for a number of years. I like the fact that he probably has contacts in the Northeast recruiting pipeline and also in the Houston area. I'm also guessing that Gillispie has the North Texas area. The final hire was Jeff Kider from Indian Hills C.C. Kider has a sterling record as a junior college head coach and he's been coaching in the junior college ranks for a long time. That's his contact, which is that Kider probably knows every junior college coach worth his salt and don't be surprised to see Gillispie go to the junior college well, as he has already done with 2012 commit in PG Daylen Robinson. As far as Jennings is concerned, I think he's a likable guy and I think his ties to the program are important. I'm guessing that Gillispie and Jennings are probably still trying to figure out how he fits into the program, but I think he's a good asset to have.