This is a two-part series, the first part is who might be back next year and the current commits or signees. The problem with this sort of exercise is that we don't know exactly who is going to stay and who is going to be off the roster next year. So this is going to be tough to speculate, but at the very least, we have a pretty good idea who is going to be here next year because they have committed or signed, but we should keep in mind that not all committed players will qualify, so this somewhat adds to the speculative part of this process. Much thanks to DTN's Dan Swany for his thoughts on these players as well.
Who Are The Locks
From everything that I've read and heard, mostly from the repeated questions that Double-T 104.3's Chris Level answers on the portion "Ask Level" about the roster, there are three players that are most likely going to be here next year that are currently on the roster are C/PF Dejan Kravic (6-11/230), C/PF Kader Tapsoba (6-10/215) and SG Toddrick Gotcher (6-3/195). Gotcher is the only one of those three players who has played this year, while Kravic is sitting out the year as he was a transfer and should have two years to play, while Tapsoba, I'm assuming is redshirted this year, so he should also have two years to play.
SG Toddrick Gotcher (6-3/185)
Gotcher averaged 7.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.6 APG and 1.4 TPG while shooting 48.8% from the floor, 54.5% from the three-point line and 72.0% from the free throw line. Gotcher mainly played at the shooting guard spot before being injured for the year and I think he can eventually transition to a combination guard where he is capable of playing the point and shooting guard spot. I never thought that he had the ability to be a play-maker as a point guard as I didn't really notice that he was setting up his teammates all that much, but he does have a nice handle and he almost had an assist to turnover ratio of 2:1, which is more than respectable. Gotcher does play fantastic defense and that was one of the reasons he was seeing so much time as a true freshman, plus the thought that there weren't really any other bigger guards on the team.
Dan Swany's Thoughts: Gotcher looked good to me in the non-conference games, but nothing stat wise was that impressive. He seemed pretty consistent, and played his roll as point guard and shooting guard well. The one thing I absolutely loved with watching him was his intensity and encouragement on the court when he or other players would make shots, or big plays. He seems like he will be a leader for this team someday, and if BCG wants him next year I’m all for it. I can picture him as being a true red raider that can lead the team especially in his later years, but I don’t expect him to be in the spotlight on a national level, it might be only Tech fans that hold him high and truly respect him for what he brings to the team. Since he didn’t play in Big 12 games after he got hurt, I am going to be somewhat skeptical of him and he is one that will have to prove to me what he is made of, because I do have some high hopes for him. I think BCG does to and that’s why he will stick around.
C Dejan Kravic (6-11/230)
Kravic is a transfer from York University in Canada and is a forward that can handle the ball, put the ball on the floor and drive past his man, has a nice mix of inside moves, can shoot from the outside and is actually quite athletic. He also has a nice feel for the game and in looking back at his highlights, he's quite adept at passing the ball. I think he's similar to what Robert Lewandowski was this year, but with more athleticism and better court vision. The biggest thing that Kravic will need improve on, which helps that he's been with the team all year as a transfer, is adjusting to Big 12 play and probably needing to toughen up his game. He appeared to be a man amongst boys in his highlight film while in college in Canada.
The reason I'd put so much faith in Dejan Kravic is that he had a pretty good stat line coming out of York University. I can't say what the competition was like, but he was producing:
15.6 PPG | 52.6% FG | 14.3% 3FG | 81.4% FT | 9.6 RPG | 2.0 APG | 2.3 BPG
The three-point shooting is a bit of a concern, but not a concern is the field goal shooting and free throw shooting. At the very least, I'm thinking that Kravic needs to refine his outside shot a bit, but if he's mainly playing inside, then it's not too much of a concern. The other thing is that Kravic was averaging about the same number of blocks per game as Silva, but again, much more productive scoring the ball.
Dan Swany's Thoughts: I got a chance to see Kravic up close and in person at the UT game (about 20 feet away). He is a monster listed at six-eleven, but I bet with boots on he is over 7 foot. I also thought I read somewhere he has gained like 20 or 25 pounds. I can say he didn’t seem as skinny to me as his early year photos, but he was in his warm-ups all game. He is the same as Tapsoba in that we could have used, if nothing else his size down low. So, with his size, I feel BCG has plans to use him against the huge players in the Big 12.
C Kader Tapsoba (6-10/215)
Tapsoba is a defensive minded and long-armed power forward and center combination, although I'd expect for him to mainly play at the center spot. Tapsoba was not a high scoring offensive player while at Tyler Junior College, averaging just 6.7 PPG, but he did average 8.03 RPG, 3.46 BPg and shot 67.0% from the floor. Again, Tapsoba has had a year to work on his game and I've never been able to find any film on Tapsoba while at TJC, but the general thought is that Tapsoba is a defense first player, which is just fine with me. Teams need players like this, but his offensive game must be better as it helps to have players that at the very least, opposing teams respect opposed to completely ignoring him, even if it's catching the ball in the low post and firing off an occasional hook or something like that.
Kader Tapsoba is the definition of a defensive presence:
6.7 PPG | 67% FG% | 67% FT% | 8.03 RPG | 3.46 BPG
Not at all a scorer, but the 3.46 blocks per game is encouraging and the fact that he's rebounding at a fairly high rate is also encouraging. I'd also add that having a year to develop at Texas Tech while redshirting should help. He will have seen the Big 12 and most likely knows what to expect. I'd also add that even though Tapsoba could have played this year, a decision was made, fairly early, that Tapsoba would redshirt this past year. Tapsoba was injured early, maybe a stress fracture, but I think that Gillispie probably knew that he and the team might be better off, even if this season was a disaster, with Tapsoba redshirting and working on his game. I do like that he's a decent free throw shooter so he may not be as awkward as I'm expecting, but don't expect much from Tapsoba offensively.
Dan Swany's Thoughts: Tapsoba is an unknown, so I don’t have a whole lot of thoughts for him. But, I do know this; we could have used his size inside (6-10). He might be skinny, both his length under the basket was much needed as much as Lew was pushed around down there maybe he could’ve done better in some situations. I like the size he brings down low, and I guess he will be good enough if BCG keeps him.
So much more after the jump.
Players That Will Most Likely Stay
I have a hard time thinking that F Jordan Tolbert and F Jaye Crockett won't have a place on the roster if they want it. Level ususally says that there are some players on the roster who think that playing basketball for Billy Gillispie isn't what they signed up for, i.e. they were commits from Pat Knight that Gillispie kept, and although much of what I've thought is that Gillispie may be cutting players, but then some players may leave on their own accord.
SF Jaye Crockett (6-7/200)
I would have a tough time with Crockett leaving as a sophomore, he would have to transfer to another school, and then he would only have one year to play. That just boggles my mind a bit. Crockett rarely started this year, for some reason, but he did put up pretty good numbers, 8.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, and 2.4 TPG, while shooting 47.8% from the field and 72.6% from the free throw line. That's really good production, especially when you think that he only averaged about 25 minutes a game.
Sometimes I forget, but with players like Crockett, I forget how young he is and the fact that he just finished his sophomore year means that he's still got plenty of time to improve as a player. Both Crockett and Tolbert need to work on not turning the ball over as those figures are way too high for post players that don't handle the ball as much as the guards.
Dan Swany's Thoughts: Crockett, between me and you was the best player on the team this year. He has the size, can shot the ball, takes it to the rim with force, and can rebound. He is my favorite player on the team, and he also was last year, so I maybe overlook some of his downfalls like ball-handling skills and leaving his feet a lot on defense more than others. But, I think we have a complete player that will do nothing more than get better and better. I was upset it took so long in the year to get him more minutes on the court, but I think it happened when BCG saw Lew was no match for Big 12 centers and moved Tolbert down low and put Crockett and the 4 position for a lot of the game. On thing that sticks out in my mind about Crockett at the UT game in LBK this year was he had a chance to pass the ball off and let someone else take the last-second shot, even though he missed it, that shows leadership and confidence. I want that to stay on this team, and I can only hope he wants the same thing.
PF Jordan Tolbert (6-7/210)
Tolbert had an up and down freshman campaign, starting out the year in non-conference play on fire and earning national recognition, but once conference play started, his game became more inconsistent, which is what you might expect from a true freshman. Tolbert was always a bit undersized as a true freshman to be playing in the low post, which is where he mainly played, but he has a place on the team. As a true freshman, he was the only player to average double-figures in scoring, 11.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 0.6 APG, and 2.6 TPG while shooting 52.1% from the field and 71.9% from the free throw line. The 5.7 RPG for Tolbert and Crockett led the team. Tolbert mainly struggled because I think he is a bit undersized, but he can play the low post because of his long arms and jumping ability. Tolbert certainly showed flashes of being a very good player, but I keep thinking that Tolbert and Crockett need to improve their mid-range game and be the players that can anchor the high post spot in Gillispie's system. There is room for both, in my opinion, and I hope like heck that they stick around as I think that if they put the work in to improve, they can be significant players next year.
Dan Swany's Thoughts: Tolbert was a beast early and faded off in Big 12 play. Mostly because the opposing coaches could see that he was our only real threat on the team and they focused on shutting him down. He has aggression, and does well around the rim. What he needs to work on is his hands when catching the pass. Also, he puts the ball on the floor way to much when he gets it and he could just go straight up with the shot. It’s a learning thing for him, and I do see him at getting better next season. I don’t know why BCG wouldn’t want to keep him or he wouldn’t want to stay. With some work, and our other post players down low to take all the attention in the paint off him that he will excel and become on of the Big 12 all conference team players by his junior and senior year.
Players on the Bubble
This leaves one spot open for one of the other returning players: PG Ty Nurse, PG Javarez Willis, PG DeShon Minnis, PG Kevin Wagner, SF Terran Petteway, and SF Jaron Nash. I'm not counting the two walk-ons, PG Luke Adams and SF Clark Lammert as they do not count against the scholarship limit of 13 players. I'm not going to discuss Adams and Lammert because they're walk-ons and aren't affected by scholarship numbers.
PG Javarez Willis (5-11/170)
I think that Willis is a fine backup point guard in the Big 12, but he's not a full time starter. He doesn't distribute the ball enough and he's not a good enough shooter, one of the things he was known for in high school, to be much of a threat offensively. Willis doesn't finish around the basket and I really can't recall one time that he drove to the basket in the flow of the offense and created with regularity. Willis is a good defender and I think if he plays 10 to 15 minutes a game, I'm fine, but right now, I don't think he's a starter in Big 12 play.
Dan Swany's Thoughts: Willis is one that I think has proven himself. He has some experience and can guard guys on defense very well. In my mind he is not a starting point guard in the Big 12, but a sixth man that will go in and pester the best offensive player from the other team. He can get hot some from three-point land, and has some nice drives from time to time. It looks like he works hard and can keep up with the team if he was coming off the bench. He has gotten better over the season and would be someone I would think BCG would like to keep. I don’t know how he feels though, and if he where not to make the roster next year I wouldn’t be happy at it, but I also wouldn’t be losing any sleep over it.
PG Ty Nurse (6-1/185)
When I ran across the scouting reports about Nurse when he signed, they were of the variety that he's not overly athletic, but he's a good floor general that doesn't turn the ball over. Nurse didn't score in the JUCO ranks and although he started incredibly hot here, it didn't last the entire season. Nurse isn't athletic enough to guard most Big 12 point guards or shooting guards. I think he does give good effort, but I'm not at all enamored with his play to the point that he has to be back. I don't know that Jamal Williams is a better option, but you'd essentially be trading Nurse for Williams and neither of them were or are scorers in the JUCO ranks (more on Williams on Thursday).
Dan Swany's Thoughts: Nurse is a player that never got better over the season. He has a problem turning the ball over, and is not a great point guard in the Big 12. I don’t think he brings much to this team, and while some would say he can hit the three point shot, I think he is very inconsistent in that category. He is slow, and not as athletic as the other guards we have played, and above all I guess I just saw him make bad decisions with the ball and not seem to care or get mad at himself. That is the real reason I don’t mind if he doesn’t come back next year, he didn’t seem to love playing the game or try to get any better then he already is. I was mad he played so much this year.
PG Kevin Wagner (5-8/145)
The one thing that Level and Dickens don't do is archive their Ask Level segments (I think) and as a result I don't have any verification of this, but at one time, Level was asked about Wagner and Level said that there was some disagreement between the coaching staff and Wagner as to how to treat the injury that he incurred that resulted in him being out for the rest of the year. What that means to me is that BCG wanted Wagner to continue to play, but Wagner wanted to shelve his season. We won't know exactly what happened with the injury and how severe it was, but based on that, my guess is that Wagner is gone.
SF Jaron Nash (6-8/180)
So much potential in this basketball body, but it's so unrefined that it's ridiculous. If Nash worked on certain aspects of his game, namely shooting the ball, he'd be a pretty good player, but Nash is an awful offensive player (not as bad as Minnis) that struggles to do simple things that the staff wanted.
Dan Swany's Thoughts (Wagner and Nash collectively): Nash and Wagner combined didn’t do anything for me at all. I didn’t see them in a whole lot, and couldn’t ever really tell if they contributed to the game that much. Nash tried really hard to be a ball hog and make amazing shots, which I feel pissed off BCG. Wagner was too small, and got hurt in the season, but didn’t have the explosion and strength that a small guy needs if he is to be a good guard in the Big 12.
SF Terran Petteway (6-6/185)
I like what Petteway has to offer and if Petteway found his way back onto the roster, I'd be more than happy with that. I think that he's just scratched his potential and can be a very good player in the future, but it's going to take some time with Petteway. He's got to work on his outside shot and in the high school film of Petteway, he dominated by getting garbage buckets, which don't happen as easily in college as they do in high school. If given enough time, I think he can still be a tough defensive minded shooting guard and small forward that every team needs.
Dan Swany's Thoughts: Petteway is a guy that I just like. I know a lot of people don’t think he is that great, but I see him as a guy that could come off the bench each game and hit some threes and give some good defense to our players that need a little break. He does get frustrated easily, as you could tell with his punch earlier this season, and if you watch him closely in games you will see him push and shove other players when he gets beat or boxed out real hard. Since I already think he has some skills I have always hoped he would have made major improvements over the year, but he hasn’t that much. I would like him to be at the end of our bench next season, but I don’t know if BCG really likes Petteway to me it just doesn’t seem so. If we don’t keep him I will bet he will go on to have a decent career at another school for sure.
PG Deshon Minnis (6-3/185)
Minnis was a very late add by the coaching staff and when you watched film of him while in high school, almost every one of his highlights involved him going to the basket and setting up his teammates or himself. Not once did I see a made three-point shot or consistent jump shot from Minnis and that should have been a warning sign (i.e., film don't lie). Minnis gives good effort on defense, but his offensive game is as bad as it gets and as easy as it was to set up teammates in high school (like Petteway) he's finding it to be more difficult in college and without the threat of a jump shot, it makes it incredibly hard to compete.
Dan Swany's Thoughts: Minnis just isn’t cut out to play a lot of minutes in the Big 12. He can’t shot at all, and for how athletic he is when he drives to the basket he doesn’t finish the play. I didn’t see a whole lot of good in his game when he was on the court, on offense or defense. I don’t think he would bring much to the team next year, so I’m not to worried if he makes it back.