COLUMBIA, MO - JANUARY 28: Marcus Denmon #12 of the Missouri Tigers battles Javarez Willis #5 and Luke Adams #13 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders for an inbound pass during the game on January 28, 2012 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
"Five" is a series of five things, players, thoughts or whatever I think will fill a post.
*I should also note that this will most likely be the last post on the basketball team for a bit as I try to catch up and prepare for football season. If something comes up I'll cover it, but I think that at this point I'm starting to repeat things over and over like the additional height and the addition of highly rated players and the addition of point guards. You can find all of these offseason articles in the 2012-13 section. Pretty sure I've written this more than once during the basketball offseason. I need to quit while I'm ahead and hope that I've somewhat satisfied those that enjoy Texas Tech basketball. I'm eternally hopeful about this coming season.
1. Significantly More Height. Last year there was just one player taller than 6-7, and he's graduated. We've talked a bit before about the added height, but consider that Dejan Kravic (6-11), Kader Tapsoba (6-10), and to an extent, Wannah Bail (6-8) and with the thought that Aaron Ross is closer to 6-8 than 6-7 and can guard some post defenders. That is a significantly taller team and it goes without saying that teams with more height will at the very least give this team the ability guard better, maybe get some easier baskets and certainly reduce than rebounding margin that plagued this team so much last year.
2. Highly Rated High School Players Are More Likely to Have Success. without getting into the debate if stars matter, all you have to do is look at the recruiting classes for each year and traditionally the team with the best players win the most games. It's not as if the players prior to this year did not have accolades, but rather I cannot recall a time when this program had three top 150 players all arriving in the same year. A point guard in Josh Gray that can score from anywhere on the court, pass like few in this program have seen and at 6-2 he has legitimate height and shouldn't be exposed defensively. A true swing forward in the aforementioned Bail, who has the length and mid-range game at 6-8. Athletically, perhaps Bail best compares with Corey Carr, except that Bail is 3 inches taller. And Ross is maybe that slightly undersized power forward that utilizes his powerful frame to create shots inside.
3. More Options For Playmakers. Last year Javarez Willis, Ty Nurse, and Kevin Wagner were asked to be playmakers and it was not pretty. I have already detailed how bad this team was passing the ball and with turning the ball over. It was really bad and now Gillispie has given himself three or four different option. Prior to Gray committing, I was sold on Daylen Robinson being this team's point guard, but now I am not so sure. Gray is by far the most dynamic of any of the options, but he accomplished all of this in high school and there is no guarantee that it will translate to the college game. I picked Robinson because he had excellent numbers playing JUCO ball and it would surprise me to see Robinson have similar success at Texas Tech. And prior to Gray committing, Trency Jackson proclaimed that he wanted the starting point guard spot and that he played the off-guard spot last year, but feels like his best position is point guard. And then you add Jamal Williams, who had the worst numbers of the bunch, but apparently he is going to be more of a two guard rather than a point and more defensive oriented.
4. More Matchup Problems. There are reasons why certain NBA players are better than others. Most of the time, I tend to think that certain players are simply athletic freaks and as a result are difficult players to guard. And I don't necessarily mean every player has to be an off-the-charts type of athlete, but rather there must be a certain trait that causes an opposing defender problems. Take Tim Duncan or Dirk Nowitzki, neither are athletes like Kobe Bryant or Lebron James are, but both are dominant players in their own right. Sometimes it is pure athletic talent, sometimes it is a unique physical trait, sometimes it is having a high basketball IQ, and sometimes it is a combination of these traits. I think this team has its athletic freaks in Bail, although I think that Bail creates significantly more issues because of his mid-range game combined with his longer arms and hopefully he will develop an outside shot to make his game even more dangerous. But it is Bail's height combined with his ability to handle the ball that makes him so special. Gray is supposedly heavy on basketball skills and high on basketball IQ. Ross is another player that has dominated play by being able to take opposing power forwards off the dribble and create matchup issues because of his handle. And Kravic is a unique player in that he has some excellent guard and passing skills that is rare for a player his size.
One other interesting skill is Tapsoba's ability to block shots. While at Tyler J.C., Tapsoba blocked 3.46 shots per game. That's a really high rate and although Tapsoba's minutes per game isn't available on the NJCAA site, those 3.46 blocks per game would have been good for 6th in the nation. Again, sometimes a skill isn't something that is about scoring, sometimes that skill can translate to something else, but that's an impressive number and maybe it's a skill that will benefit this team if Tapsoba will get enough time. I'd also add that Tapsoba was a bit more highly recruited than his Tyler J.C. teammate, Jaron Nash, with offers from Duquesne and California. This doesn't even address the players on the team and some the improvements they can make. Fingers crossed.
5. Billy Clyde Has Done This Before. Sometimes year one for Gillispie's can be rough. In fact, the situation that might be most similar to Texas Tech was Gillispie's first coaching stop at UTEP, where his team was a dismal 6-24 overall and 3-15 in conference play. The very next year at UTEP Gillispie's team went 24-8 overall and 13-5 in conference play. At Texas A&M, Gillispie had some good talent in College Station and his team went 21-10 overall and 8-8 in conference play with the next season Gillispie getting to 22-9 overall, 10-6 in conference play and the following year a mark of 27-7 overall and 13-3 in conference play. You could certainly argue that Gillispie didn't improve significantly at his time in Kentucky, but still had an overall record of 40-27 in his stop in Lexington, but with Wildcat fans this simply wasn't a fast enough turn around. He wasn't bad by any means, just not good enough. The overall point is that Gillispie wins and his first year can sometimes be rough, see UTEP, but his teams have proven to be better, for the most part, after that.
I've noted how Gillispie and the way that he has brought in additional players, which has forced other players to transfer. I'm not fond of this sort of roster maneuvering, but it is an aspect of college basketball that isn't going away any time soon. Last year was Gillispie's mulligan and I'm okay with that. He has too good of a track record over the years not to believe. #trustingillispie