It's always incredibly popular to write basketball posts in the middle of the summer, but it should be noted that I probably won't write many more basketball posts until later in the fall. In any event, I had a few thoughts rolling around in my head, and although I agree with the majority of you, the 2010-2011 season is the season where Pat Knight is going to either keep his job or the very real possibility of Texas Tech looking for another basketball coach.
Why Is 2010 So Important? This is pretty simple, and although it may be a tad bit unfair, this is the life of a coach. First, I've never read a quote from PK where he doesn't understand that he's under pressure to win to keep his job. He almost always mentions that his job is to win games and he understands that if he doesn't do so then he's not going to have a job for very long. PK may be a lot of things, but I don't think he's hiding his head in the sand and he too knows that if you win, he'll stick around and if he doesn't, then he won't. I hate to give kudos to a guy that readily admits the reality of his situation, but I do appreciate the no-nonsense attitude that PK has in regards to his future employment.
The biggest reason that 2010 is so important is that the 2010-2011 version of Texas Tech will return 78% of minutes played, 78% of their scoring, 77% of their rebounding and 79% of their assists from 2009-2010. Quite simply, sans PF Darko Cohadarevic and SG Nick Okorie, essentially the entire team returns that finished 9th in the Big 12 Conference in 2010.
Herein lies the rub, which is that the same team essentially returns that finished in the latter half of the Big 12 Conference. Attrition is a part of every program more than a handful of other Big 12 teams, but Texas Tech has experienced very little, if any attrition. That's typically a good thing. I'm usually incredibly optimistic, and in this case, I do think that there's something to be said for a team that's played together for at the very least a full year, and for a handful of the to-be-seniors, almost three years, but this team must improve. If this team is going to hang it's hat on the thought that with so much returning talent and the fact that this group has played together for such a long time, that this team should be in the top half of the conference next year.
More basketball stuff after the jump.
The downside is, of course, the fact that this squad has six scholarship to-be-seniors on this team and in the 2011-2012 season, you can expect quite a bit of overhaul. More on the 2011-2012 season a bit later.
For the 2010-2011 season, the only reasonable goal for PK and the entire team is to make the field of 68. Although the progress has been slow, there has been progress with this team and despite the high expectations before conference play, last year's team fizzled after a terrific start. The fact that the team played well in the NIT is a small consolation prize, but perhaps this is the carrot that the team needed to motivate them to improve next year. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that this is a make-or-break season for PK and I'm guessing that he's fully aware of the implications that this season holds. I truly believe that if PK and this version of the Texas Tech basketball team makes the field of 68, he stays around at least for a few more years. If he can't get it done with this group then I'm not confident that PK can get it done. It would be silly to try to diagnose the problems at this point (especially since we're talking about something that hasn't happened), but if PK cannot make the field of 68 then it would be really tough for the athletic department to justify bringing him back. If for not other reason, than the fact that the cupboard will be virtually bare in 2011 and PK or the new coach will have to undertake almost a complete overhaul of the entire roster.
Looking at 2011-2012: With the departure of six seniors, and if Texas Tech, PK will be looking to plug at least six scholarships (although I think that there are restrictions on the number of scholarships that can be handed out in a given year). PK has done a couple of things, which may or may not pay off in the long run.
First, Javares Willis, committed to Texas Tech when he was merely a 2-star player that was headed off to prep school to hopefully improve his grades and his game. After a year in prep school, Willis is now a 4-star player that will look to receive significant minutes in 2011-2012. Willis not only improved his game, but he's apparently impressed a handful of folks, especially considering Willis is rates as the 74th best player in this year's recruiting class and he has the potential to make an immediate impact with his shooting and scoring, something that this team desperately needs.
Q. What about two or three "sleeper" recruits you think can make an impact as freshmen?
A. Look out for Javarez Willis, who will be at Texas Tech next year. Wills, a 5-10 guard from Humble (Texas) Christian Life Center, just might be the best shooter coming into college basketball next season. In Pat Knight's motion offense at Tech, Willis could be lethal coming off all those screens.
Not to mention, I think it would be in PK's best interest not to play John Roberson 36 minutes in 2010. Last year, Mike Davis backed up Roberson, but if Willis is as good as advertised, I could easily see Willis advancing in front of Davis. Davis gave good effort, but he wasn't spectacular and he didn't demonstrate much of an outside shot or real ability to score. Willis is supposedly an ace from the outside and this team actually needs more consistent outside shooting, especially in trying to replace Okorie. Quite a bit hinges on Willis being able to replace Roberson and step into a back-up role immediately.
PK then secured his future shooting-guard in Marshall Henderson. The biggest problem with Henderson is that he comes with a certain amount of baggage. He is apparently a very confident individual (i.e. cocky), and although this has been pointed out a handful of times, he was the player that shoved/punched a BYU player last year that led to a one game suspension. Henderson does have talent, as he averaged over 11 points a game as a true freshman. There's the thought that by the time he dons the scarlet and black, that he'll have another year under his belt in terms of maturity, and he'll hopefully add to that 175 pound frame where he could be a legitimate shooting-guard in the Big 12. Henderson improving on his freshman year and being able to walk into the starting shooting guard role for Texas Tech in 2011 is going to be a huge part of that year's success.
The downside to all of this is that I'm surmising that Henderson took the scholarship of SF Corbin Ray, who had a concussion in the early part of the 2009 season and it is my understanding that he's had to effectively end his basketball career. You never like it when a player has an injury that keeps him from playing, but this is the hand that PK was dealt. Prior to the most recent signing period, PK went after a power forward from Findley Prep who later decided to play at Loyola-Marymount rather than Texas Tech.
I'm also guessing that PK took a look at his 2010 recruiting class and after the incredibly lackluster effort that PF Paul Cooper put forth during his sophomore year at Gulf Coast C.C., PK decided that he needed another big man. Truthfully, PK still needs another big man and PK probably decided that he wouldn't find a basketball talent like Henderson waiting forever and if a coach has the opportunity to add talent, then add talent. This means that PK will be forced to sign at least 3 or 4 post players once all of the 2010 seniors graduate. The 2011 season will only have Robert Lewandowski and Paul Cooper as seniors and the only true post players on the roster. PK is going to have to sign a mix of high school players and more than likely some JUCO's in order to field a somewhat competitive team in 2011. As stated above, the backcourt is in place, it's the frontcourt that is going to give this team fits.
The Other Recruits: There's one player from the 2009 recruiting class that we didn't see in 2009, Jaye Crockett (6-6/186). Crockett is a small forward type, one of the best players in the state of New Mexico after his senior season, but he redshirted last year. Personally, I think that this was the absolute best thing for Crockett. He was a slender 186 pounds as a freshman and it's my hope that he can develop as a true small forward in the sense that he maintained enough quickness to guard perimeter players, but is also to play some inside due to his length. The truth of the matter is that Crockett is the only option for that small forward position currently on the roster after 2010.
SG Jame Outler is an unknown to me, although he apparently is a true shooting guard with a pretty decent offer list. When Outler committed to Texas Tech, this was his ESPN scouting report:
Outler is a true shooting guard that attacks from the wing in transition and in the half court. He runs the floor and can beat his defender off the dribble for an acrobatic layup. Outlet can get to the rim and elevate over smaller defenders and score with his good athletic ability and length. He goes to the defensive glass and can initiate the fast break as well. He is a good mid range shooter off the catch or dribble but must be more consistent from beyond the arc. Outler must work on his shot preparation. He seems to always be straight legged when he catches the ball and is open to knock down a jumper off the catch. He is a good on ball defender and plays with energy and effort. He is a good ball handler that can help break pressure from the wing or attack from a ball reversal pass against the press. One to watch to see how much he will improve his game this summer.
Outler averaged 15.3 points a game as a senior, on a team that was loaded with Division I talent. I think that right now, Outler should be redshirted, especially with all of the returning talent for the upcoming season.
The Knight Influence: I'm not naive enough to think that Bob Knight doe not have some influence regarding the direction of the basketball program. The only reason why PK is the head coach is because of his father and I don't think that PK has ever denied this. The question I have is how much of an influence does Bob still have with the direction of the program? If PK doesn't make the NCAA Tournament and assuming that Gerald Myers is still the athletic director, does he have the stones to let PK go? Much has been made about the fact that Gerald and Bob are good friends and their friendship brought Bob to Lubbock. But that friendship may eventually get in the way of a successful basketball program and that bothers me. There's the prevailing thought that Myers won't be the athletic director by the time this question is raised, but that doesn't give me any sort of assurance that the right thing will happen.
I don't necessarily think that PK is a bad coach, but the problem has been that there just hasn't been enough talent in Lubbock to compete at the Big 12. I made plenty of excuses for PK early in his career about how PK couldn't recruit the players he wanted because of his father's influence. After having a couple of recruiting classes under his belt, I'm getting less and less confident about this group's ability to recruit when you compare Texas Tech to their peers. Missouri, Texas, Kansas and Baylor had a top 25 recruiting classes in 2010 while Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Baylor and Kansas St. also had top 25 recruiting classes in 2009. I will say that if there's one thing that shouldn't go unnoticed is the fact that Pat Knight and his staff don't play the AAU recruiting game. PK doesn't hire coaches close to high profile AAU players and that may be to his detriment, but truthfully, I hate this aspect of recruiting and I'm glad that PK is above this practice.
Without a doubt, 2010 is going to be an interesting year and I believe that it's the year that Pat Knight must make something happen because his job is on the line.