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Texas Tech's Horrible Frontcourt

Sorry about the shortened Friday Morning Notes from yesterday. Thursday was a very long day, long day at work, Tech loses. Lots of life-force was lost on Thursday and Friday I'm still catching up.

I really started to consider why Tech lost on Thursday and I think that we've all figured out that it came down to lack of defense, Jackson not showing up, etc. But bigger than that what was the real cause of the loss? And what I'm talking about here is not some of the finer points, but if you look at the program as an outsider, what do you think is this team's biggest flaw?

I realize that players are not perfect, for instance, Jackson not doing a better job of getting open. I understand that, I don't like it, but I understand it. It's part of his personality, it's a deficiency in his game that he'll have to improve upon before he plays at the next level, but bigger than that, what bothers you about the state of the program?

My biggest problem is the lack of athletic frontcourt players. I watched about 20 minutes of the North Texas game this afternoon and I couldn't help but think that UNT had a more athletic frontcourt that Texas Tech. A small school that has not experienced huge success ever is doing a better job of identifying players who can play at the major college level. Let's take a look at the frontcourt players on the final roster:

  • Rogdrick Craig: Did not play due to medical issues.
  • Jay Mitchell: Jay played in only 11 games all year. Mitchell was a junior college transfer and the story on him was that he was a minor league baseball player (I think with the Colorado Rockies) and decided to play basketball. I could not be more unimpressed with Mitchell's performance. He simply was uninspiring and unathletic (you'll see me use that word quite a bit). I was expecting a power forward who could help on the boards, had average athleticism and could contribute. That's not what we got. I think it's safe to say that Mitchell will not be a successful collegiate player and he's certainly not a Big 12 athlete.
  • Trevor Cook: Cook is a transfer from Texas State University. Cook sat out this year as part of the NCAA's transfer rules and Cook averaged 6.7 points per game as a freshman at Texas State, so he can probably compete. What Cook has going against him is this program's track record when it comes to recruiting frontcourt players. If I had to wager whether or not Cook will be a legitimate Big 12 athlete I'd probably have to say that he won't. That's not based on anything about Trevor's game, but a statement about this program in general.
  • Michael Prince: Played early, especially at the time that Knight was gunning for 880. He seemed to be a vital cog in what Knight was trying to do. He wanted someone who was willing to do the small things in order for Tech to win. That was early in the season and I think that Tech was able to lean on Jackson, Zeno and Burgess to a point to carry the load. Once conference play started it was evident that Prince just wasn't aggressive or comfortable enough to score on his own. Prince settled for jump shots. In fact, Prince only shot 38% from the field. You would think that a player who might be in and around the basket would shoot a higher percentage, but he didn't. I like what Prince brings to the table, but he needs more confidence and he really needs to work on his offensive game. He could be an incredible asset in Knight's offense, but he's got to get quite a bit better. The jury is still out.
  • Tanner Ogden: Tanner was okay, but obviously one dimensional. He did not meet a shot he didn't like and had supreme confidence in his ability to score. The fact that he only played 11 games tells me that he just didn't have enough to play at such a high level. Ogden was a transfer from Seminole JC (I think). Just looking at playing time alone, I do not believe that Tanner was a Big 12 athlete.
  • Jon Plefka: I really expected Plefka to play at a higher level, but I don't think Jon was ever dedicated to doing what needed to be done to succeed at this level. If Plefka had focused solely on rebounding and defense I think he would have been a much more successful collegiate player. Plefka has an adequate outside shot, but the fact that he didn't have a decent post move was evident to everyone. In fact Plefka's post move was to fake until he got fouled and he could go to the line and shoot free throws. Less than shocking state, Plefka only averaged 6.6 points per game. That's just not enough. Success is such a difficult thing to determine, but quite simply Plefka is not a Big 12 athlete.
  • Esmir Rizvic: For whatever reason, Knight was intrigued with Rizvic and when Esmir was healthy Knight regularly started him, despite it being obvious to me that he had a low basketball IQ. He just didn't seem to understand how to play the game. I think that Rizvic improved mightily, but during the OU game, Longar Longar swung an elbow and fractured Rizvic's orbital bone. Rizvic will be a senior next year and assuming he's still healthy, he still has a lot of basketball to learn. Rizvic's size alone might make him a Big 12 athlete, but his athleticism and know-how is barely junior college level. It's his 7 foot size, something that Knight hasn't really ever had that is appealing, but in terms of his pure athleticism, he's not a Big 12 athlete.
  • Damir Suljagic: Damir was off and on all year. He would have stretches of really good games where he was productive and rebounded, but it was apparent that Damir just cannot shoot the ball. He's really only competent directly under the basket. There were a number of times this past year where I remember Damir missing very short jump shots, badly. From a defensive standpoint Damir can play. He doesn't have the quickest feet, but the Red Raiders will depend on him heavily next year simply because there aren't any options. Damir is the most difficult player for me to figure out if he's a Big 12 athlete, and I liken him to UT's Atchley or A&M's Pompey. Obviously, Pompey is more athletic, but in terms of what they can offer to a club, it's not a bad alternative. However, if pressed to choose one way or another, I don't think that Suljagic is a Big 12 athlete.
  • Darryl Dora: One of the biggest enigma's in Tech's recent history. When Darryl was recruited I think the coaches saw a gifted athlete with some decent perimeter skills and they probably felt that he would develop into a good player. What the coaches could not have predicted was that Darryl, up until the last game, made the same mistakes he made as a freshman. It was what was between the ears for Darryl that was the most frustrating. There wasn't any doubt that he had the offensive skills to succeed, but Dora fell in love with the jump shot and I think his own opinion of his game was much higher than the coaching staff's. There isn't a doubt in my mind that Dora is a Big 12 athlete, but in this particular case his mental mistakes make it almost impossible to believe that he could succeed on another Big 12 team.

Collectively, look at this lot of players. Not too impressed? Neither am I and that's what's scary. We've never seen De Bem play, but from all accounts he seems to have some sort of game. The problem as stated above is that this coaching staff's record in recruiting frontcourt players is not good, so I certainly have my doubts.

I plan on devoting quite a bit of time to each significant player (remember, it's a long off-season and I've got a lot of time to fill) and looking into the things that a player needs to do to improve, what a player meant to this team, etc. Essentially, I want to take a global look at each player, and not focus on stats, but what my eyes and your eyes saw throughout the season.