POSITION BREAKDOWN FOR TEXAS TECH FRONTCOURT
3 guard – Small Forward | I consider the 3 spot on the court to be more of a function of the backcourt in college basketball even though technically it is part of the frontcourt. I already wrote about this position in my post last week. Click here if you missed it… POSITION BREAKDOWN FOR TEXAS TECH BACKCOURT.
4 – Power Forward | Tubby Smith has nothing to worry about for this position next season. The strongest and best players on our team play this position incredibly well… Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert. I wrote last week about how Crockett has finally earned the right to be considered a cornerman. He should be allowed to split some minutes playing at the 3 and 4 positions. But, I have to say I like Crockett more at 4 than at the 3. If you have watched him blossom from his freshman year, you can appreciate how much his game has developed over the years. He always had the athleticism and strength to hoop it up in the paint, but has really expanded much of his game. Crockett has developed his ball handling and can successfully drive to the rim from outside-in. He has upgraded his shot from being only a scorer from in-close to the basket. He now is pulling defenders out on him because he can hit his mid-range shots and even is an outside threat if left open. His passing has become more efficient as he has a lot of experience and can anticipate where and who the ball should go to. There is a reason he was 1st in scoring and rebounding on the team last season, because he is an incredible player at the 4 postion.
Jordan Tolbert is a beast himself at the 4, as that is where he started primarily during last season. Though after a few minutes into the game Tolbert would almost always slide into the 5 and Crockett would come off the bench to 4. Our team was the strongest for the past two seasons when Tolbert and Crockett were in the game together. The problem at the 4 last season was when Crockett and Tolbert both needed a break or were in foul trouble. We usually had to look to Clark Lammert to fill in during these times. Love the guy and hate to say, but Lammert isn’t the quality player that will make us competitive during Big 12 games, especially at the 4.
No worries now with the depth at 4, as we have a healthy Aaron Ross to step in and help out. It’s just my expectations, but I think (or maybe want really badly) Ross will step in and be the aggressive down low frontcourt player we have been missing. A guy that can bulldoze opponents down low and get ugly buckets and rebounds. Seth made me think with a question in the comments last week about Ross having guard skills for a big guy... I think without watching him play in a Texas Tech uniform he still might be better suited for the 4 spot on the floor with the size he brings. I may be wrong and he might not be the bruiser down low that I envision and be more of a cornerman that moves between the 3 and 4 spots on the floor. Nevertheless he will add depth to the 4 position, and maybe even turn out to be the missing link our team needs to strengthen the frontcourt.
Our depth at 4 just gets even deeper with the addition of Alex Foster. This is a nice grab by Tubby who got Foster to follow him from Minnesota to Tech. While Foster is probably not going to get a lot of time at the 4 with Crockett, Tolbert, and Ross in front of him… he is going to learn a lot from the leadership of these guys. He has been talked about as playing a stretch-4 (cornerman) role, but that should come in time when he develops his outside game much as Crockett has over the years. If we get into foul trouble or somebody needs a breather, Foster can step in and show his stuff. Heck, he may even make a case for himself to get more minutes in the games.
5 - Center |The 5 spot on the court is a debate that many of us close to college basketball like to stir up all the time. Do you use a classic big man center… or do you put in a smaller more athletic guy who has strength to play 5 but doesn’t fit your typical classic center size range? I have an old school mindset on this and would love a huge seven-foot classic center that has some skills that can be worked with and developed over time at the 5 instead of a smaller athletic guy. But, you have to put the best out on the court and work with what you got. Most college teams now play three guards and two forwards with no true center listed in the starting lineup. Tubby Smith is a really good coach, and will be smart in preparing his lineups to adjust to what we are playing against if someone is mismatched against a player. It is going to be interesting with what he does with the 5 spot.
Jordan Tolbert is the best 5 man we have on this team hands down. While Dejan Kravic started most games at the 5, he seemed to lack the strength needed to play down low with the Big 12 guys that played against him at the 5. Tolbert would always slide to 5 and Kravic would usually go out of the game a few minutes into it. Tolbert is comfortable down low and has the power to be effective. He doesn’t have a good mid-range to outside game, but excels down low in the post around the basket. Tolbert had a slow start to the season last year with it being rough on him having his father pass away, but as the season went on he found his game and became the aggressive post getting to the rim like his freshman year.
Kravic has a nice shot on him, and can even handle the ball quite well for such a big guy… but I don’t think he is extremely effective at the 5 all the time. He is fairly inconsistent on defense, but he does well usually on the offense side of the ball.
Kader Tapsoba is the big guy at the 5 that gets a few minutes in games. I actually thought last season Chris Walker should have used Tapsoba more than he did, but there must have been a reason he didn’t. Tapsoba wasn’t an offensive powerhouse, but he seemed to be fairly good and getting some boards and played descent most of the time on defense. When Tolbert got into foul trouble last season we relied on Tapsoba and Kravic to get it done down low at the 5.
As I wrote above, it will be interesting to see who we have at 5 especially when Tolbert can’t be in the game. I’m assuming with a strong group of 4’s maybe Tubby might think about putting in one of those guys at the 5 if needed.