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A Retrospect of Knight's Recruiting Classes at Texas Tech

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At the beginning of the week I said that I was going to take a good look at the state of the basketball program. I wasn't real sure where to start, but I thought that a good place to begin was to look at the recruiting classes and who stayed and who left and what happened to some of these guys.

Let me get this out of the way first. I am not a Texas Tech basketball historian. I'm not even much of a recent Texas Tech basketball historian. Seasons and players tend to fade away gently into the night in my tiny brain and although I'd love to tell you that I know everything about every recruit, non-recruit and also-ran, I don't. I know, shame on me. If I've gotten something wrong, please correct. It was difficult to find information on some of these players so any help is good help.

Let's take a look at the recruiting seasons:

Update [2008-1-31 7:35:38 by Seth C]: DTN reader Stroot noted that 2001 was Knight's first class and has provided some good detail in the comments. Big thanks to Stroot.

2002

Player Comment
John Ofoegbu, 6-9/225 Transferred to Idaho State and averaged 8.9 points and 4.5 boards a game.
Josh Washington, 6-3/200 Ended up transferring to TAMU-Corpus Christi and averaged 12.8 points for the Islanders his senior season.
Robert Tomaszek, 6-9/250 A Juco guy who ended his career at Texas Tech. Solid, but not spectacular.

Knight's first class and the only player that stayed with the program was Tomaszek. One Juco and two transfers, both of whom seemed to have some success elsewhere.

2003

Player Comment
Rashaun Bryant, 6-9/250 Don't think he ever made the team.
Drew Coffman, 6-1/196 Contributed only the 2005-2006 season.
DeVonne Giles, 6-8/228 Another Juco who ended up being a solid contributor for the Red Raiders averaging 11 points his senior year (2005).
Jay Jackson, 6-1/185 Four year player for Texas Tech, perhaps Knight's best recruit.
Curtis Marshall, 6-6/175 Another Juco recruit that was pretty good his senior year (2005) averaging 6.7 points a game.
Mike Travis, 6-9/210 I don't think he made the team.
Joseph Works, 6-6/220 Again, I don't think he made the team.
Darryl Dora, 6-9/250 Again, solid, but not spectacular. Averaged under 10 points a game for his career and only 5.0 a game his senior season.

A fairly productive class. The two Juco's had a good impact on the program and Jackson was Knight's best recruit. Of the players that stuck around all four years, only Dora and Jackson had a somewhat significant impact which means that four of the eight recruits just didn't pan out in any meaningful way. Not to slight Coffman, but I think he was a minor player off the bench.

2004

Player Comment
Phil Harbaugh, 6-8/200 I don't think he made the team.
Ike Ofoegbu, 6-8/210 Ditto, I think played at SMU, but not sure.
Damir Suljagic, 6-8/215 Contributing this year. Currently a junior and starter. Would consider him a project.
Martin Zeno, 6-5/190 My favorite player and perhaps Knight's second best recruit at Texas Tech.

Not real sure what happened to Harbaugh and Ofegbu, although I've speculated above. Suljagic and Zeno has both been good players for the program and in my opinion, Zeno is Knight's 2nd best recruit at Texas Tech. Missed on two of four recruits.

2005

Player Comment
Jeremy Buttell, 6-7/220 Played 1 year and transferred to Illinois-Chicago and is currently 4.3 points and 5.0 boards a game.
Dior Lowhorn, 6-6/220 Transferred from Texas Tech after 1 year and currently a sophomore forward for San Francisco averaging 20 points a game.
Terry Martin, Jr., 6-6/190 Again, transferred from Texas Tech after 1 year to LSU and is averaging 8.5 points a game.
John Plefka, 6-9/237 Juco who graduated last year and was, again, was just okay. Not very athletic.
Michael Prince, 6-7/205 Currently a junior who sees little to no playing time.
Dazzmond Thornton, 6-7/245 Played 1 year and transferred to James Madison. Currently averaging 5.5 points a game.
Alan Voskuil, 6-2/190 Currently a junior, a starter and solid contributor averaging 12 points a game.
Justin Wilkerson, 6-8/175 Contributed very little and ended up transferring to East Central University (Ada, OK) and is averaging 11 points a game while shooting over 50% and grabbing 7 boards.

This is the class that hurts the most. Buttell, Lowhorn, Martin, Thornton and Wilkerson are all contributing at programs other than Texas Tech. Right now, this should be the backbone of the current class, upper classmen who have played a number of years under Knight. Unfortunately, all that's around is Voskuil and Prince. Plefka did graduate, but he was a Juco so his time to contribute was only two years. Of the eight recruits from this class only three had any long-term impact at Texas Tech while there were five transfers. Disappointing.

2006

Player Comment
Charlie Burgess, 6-1/180 Juco and occasional starter that I wish was better than he is, averaging 5.7 points a game and shooting 41%.
Rogdrick Craig, 6-6/235 Heart ailment slowed his progress, but currently sees little to no playing time.
Jay Mitchell, 6-8/240 Juco that played one year and then transferred to Kennesaw State.
Esmir Rizvic, 7-0/250 Juco that is currently a spot starter who was slowed with broken orbital bone last year. Receives minimal minutes.
Benny Valentine, 5-7/180 Transferred after one year to Eastern Washington, seemed too short to compete at Big 12 level
Decensae White, 6-6/185 Played one year and transferred to Santa Clara. I thought he was going to be a star for Knight.

The biggest problem with this class was that Knight needed to go after a quick fix due to the numerous transfers the year before. That quick fix was in the form of Juco's Burgess, Craig, Mitchell, Rizvic and Valentine. The only four year recruit was White, who only lasted a year at Texas Tech. The other problem with this class is that I don't think that Mitchell and Valentine were Big 12 caliber athletes. Burgess, Craig and Rizvic only play small parts, and again, they were short-term fixes to the transfers the year before. I realize that I haven't included Trevor Cook, but he was technically a part of this class as his first year was 2007-2008.

2007

Player Comment
Ricardo De Bem, 6-10/240 Juco that I think has better skills that what we've seen, and feel like he's wasting away this year.
John Roberson, 5-11/165 Currently the third best Knight recruit. Plays the point incredibly well for a true freshman.
D'Walyn Roberts, 6-7/185 I think Roberts has the most potential of the group because he's got height, length and a decent outside touch. Just needs to add weight.
Mike Singletary, 6-5/210 Efficient and like Roberts has great potential, especially in this offense.

Right now, this is Knight's best class. I think Roberson, Roberts and Singletary all have a chance to be special players at Texas Tech and for the first time in two years, Knight recruited more four year players than Juco's. Short-term this means that there is a very good chance the Red Raiders struggle, but long-term, this is much better for the program. Knight had to stop signing the Juco's. The short term success (NCAA tournament birth, but no tournament wins) didn't match the long term aspirations of what Knight is trying to build at Texas Tech, both for himself and for his son, Pat.


Some numbers to ponder. Of the 33 recruits at Texas Tech there have been 10 transfers and 10 Juco's. Of those 10 transfers 5 of the occurred in 2005 and of those 10 Juco's 5 of them signed in 2006.

In the first three recruiting classes, Knight only picked up three Juco recruits, which meant that he was probably filling in some spots, but was trying to build the program. 2003 was a pivotal year and the problem is that of eight recruits only one had a serious impact on the program, Jay Jackson. Dora was okay, but again, not really having an impact unless playing Kansas.

The killer class was the 2005 class. Buttell, Lowhorn, Martin, Wilkerson and Thornton are all contributing at other programs. Granted, only Lowhorn is having a really nice season, that's sort of besides the point. I think that the biggest issue is that five players from this class transferred. That's a lot of players to lose in one year and makes the 2006-2007 season all that more impressive. The five transfers in 2005 led to Knight taking five Juco's in 2006, essentially trying to keep the program afloat until he could get a solid freshman recruiting class, which was last year's class.

So this begs the question, what happened in 2005? There are different reasons for transfers, whether it be homesick or difference of opinion with the coaching staff, the fact of the matter is that it happened and that is a problem. I know that Knight is a true teacher of the game and he graduates players all the while running a spotless program, but that doesn't mean that he's without fault.

Perhaps 2005 was a wake-up call for him in that he might have to change a little in order to keep players around. Again, the 2006 year was perhaps his most impressive to date. Knight took a team with really only two players (Jackson and Zeno) who had good talent and took them to the tournament. There was absolutely no real talent in the frontcourt or rebounding on that team and I think that ultimately it was the team's downfall.

I think that much has been made of the lack of being able to develop a decent big man, but I think that the bigger part of that is that when you have five players transfer, some of whom are post players then it's going to appear that you can't develop post players. Additionally, when you recruit five Juco's then you aren't going to have the time to teach as much as you'd like. I hope I'm not trying to provide Knight with excuses here, but trying to, more or less, point out what's happened and try and explain why this program is currently struggling.

So what's next? I'm not sure. So long as the 2007 freshmen players stick around and Knight continues to go after freshmen with the occasional Juco, then the program is going to be just fine. I still believe that in any given game, Coach Knight has the ability to beat you just based on his coaching. I know, it's a bold and somewhat silly statement, but I really believe it. I think Knight is that good. There is no reason why Texas Tech should have beat Kansas and the Aggies twice last year. Those teams had multiple first round talent and Knight had a guy who didn't get drafted.

Do I think that Knight is on the right path? In a word, yes. If I had to build a team, I'd get my point guard (Roberson) and talented wing players (Roberts and Singletary) first. The next recruiting class, I'd get me a couple of big men who are versatile (Lewandowski and Ray) and can give you options in the frontcourt. I tend to think that frontcourt players tend to have an easier time adjusting to NCAA play than guards. The frustrating thing for fans is that it might take a year or two for things to click, but I think this is the right path, just so long as the players stick around to see it.

Thoughts, comments and ideas appreciated.