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Texas Tech Hoops | Starting Lineup Battles in Practice

As practice starts up this week, let’s look at who could be battling for the starting and backup positions.

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Spo

Each season I can usually easily tell you VTMers with relatively strong confidence which players will be in the Red Raiders starting lineup to begin the season. This is based on watching what happened at the end of the previous season, and knowing after the transfers have come and gone what we have left on the shelves. This season is different with the Aaron Ross injury, and the departure of Jordan Tolbert. I think there will be a few battles this year in the practices. Coach Tubby Smith will have some decisions to make based on performance, and I wanted us to take a look at who might be competing for a starting or backup position.

The Lineup

Point Guard Rob Turner vs None – Turner has this PG spot locked up to start the season. He ran the lead point as the starter last season, and even though he was inconsistent on offense; his defense was usually stellar.
Shooting Guard Toddrick Gotcher vs Devaugntah Williams – Gotcher will be the team leader this season, and will start at either SG or SF (if we go with a 3 guard lineup). Gotcher will be our swingman, but Williams might be able to shoot his way into the starting lineup. Williams was deadly from three-point range at Missouri State-West Plains and is coming in as a Junior to Texas Tech with some experience at a higher level than high school. This will be a battle to keep up with.
Small Forward Justin Gray vs Toddrick Gotcher – If Gotcher is beat out at the SG position for starter or Tubby Smith wants to go with a smaller lineup… then Gotcher will be starting the season at SF. But, don’t count out Gray from giving a battle to give up his role at SF in a 3 guard lineup. Gray is listed on the official roster as a forward, and he has a great mid-range jumper. There’s a good chance Gotcher gets in at SG because Gray shows that he is the only real true SF on this team that should be in the starting lineup.
Power Forward Alex Foster vs None – With Aaron Ross injured until an estimated January return, I think Foster is a probable lock right now for the PF position. He showed flashes of talent last season, and has the most experience on Tubby Smith’s roster at the spot. Only if one of the other new faces really shows up in practice (hint.. hint... Zach Smith) and shows skills that demand he should be on the court, Foster will start.
Center Justin Jamison vs Isaiah Manderson – This is most likely Jamison’s position to lose. I would think with his experience in JUCO and ability to understand the low-post game, Jamison will translate nicely as a smaller center in our starting lineup. Manderson was a surprise late addition to the roster and is more of a true frosh center with hopes of breaking into the starting lineup. Manderson’s development might not be far enough along right now to break into the lineup, but I’m sure he and Jamison will be battling to show Coach Smith they want to be the starting center at Tech.
Point Guard Randy Onwuasor vs Keenen Evans – Since Turner is the clear starter, this might be the most heated backup battle for a position. We have Onwuasor who got some playing time last season, but didn’t seem to really grasp a handle on the situation when running the point. Evans is the new freshman that will come in and try to take over and show he can be the backup behind Turner. Think of a really good QB battle for backup, and that’s what you are going to get from these two guys. Nobody wants to be third-string.
Shooting Guard Devaugntah Williams vs Justin Gray – If Gotcher is the starting SG then Williams is most likely the backup, but that’s not to say the coaches will want to see what Gray can do at the SG position as well. I don’t think there is a real competition here, just a thing to look out for in the practices. I can see Gray as a swingman if he has a downtown shot.
Small Forward Justin Gray vs Alex Foster – If Gotcher is swung to the SF position, then Gray is your backup. If not, Gray is your starter. But, Foster has always talked about being brought in at Tech to develop into a cornerman (stretch-four) like Jaye Crockett. Maybe he has improved his long-range and mid-range shot along with his ball handling enough to push for a back role at SF?
Power Forward Zach Smith vs Norense Odiase – Some people will actually criticize me for thinking Zach Smith won’t battle Alex Foster for the starting PF position. I just have my reasoning based on the coaches wanting the starter to be a guy with more experience than freshman Zach Smith has. But, Smith will also have a big bodied Odiase that will want to show he too can throw around his huge frame and wants to be in the rotation down at post.
Center Isaiah Manderson vs Norense Odiase – Manderson is the player that will most likely be developed into backup center role, and counted on to become a force in the Big 12 down at the post. But, as I said above, Odiase will want to show he can be a bruiser and get in the rotation somehow. Maybe Odiase can be our pit-bull when we need one at center?

A lot of this is a mystery to me because we haven’t even seen some of these guys play in college basketball at the Big 12 level. I can honestly say that I am guessing until I get back reports and read notes of how these guys are doing in practice. What are your thoughts?