On twitter over the past few seasons Bill that runs @TTUHoopsFans and I (@DanSwany) have become social media buddies. He has dedicated a whole twitter site to being "The Premier Fan Page of Texas Tech Men’s Basketball". If you want to read about anything Red Raiders basketball related you need to give him a follow. His site has pumped out over 11,800+ tweets and for those of you not familiar with twitter, that is a boatload. Also, you will catch seeing every VTM basketball story re-tweeted for the 2,900+ followers of Texas Tech Hoops Fans.
I recently, over twitter direct messaging of course, asked Bill if he would be interested in having an interview with VTM. To no surprise he happily accepted my invitation.
DanSwany: What made you want to start Texas Tech Hoops Fans (@TTUHoopsFans) on twitter?
Bill: It all started a few years ago – I noticed there weren’t any dedicated twitter accounts to Texas Tech Men’s Basketball. I wanted to help generate additional awareness and excitement around the program. For a while when things weren’t going so great, fans and students didn’t seem to know when games were, what was happening with the team, etc. There were some really tough years recently with all of the coaching turnover and lack of post season play. I hated seeing that and really just wanted to see if there was anything I could do as a fan. This twitter account is truly for the fans, by the fans. @TTUHoopsFans started to blow up this past season due to Tubby Smith becoming our Coach and the improved play of the team. I’ll tweet out anything I can find concerning the team (scores, news, analysis, recruiting, etc). There is always something going on – even during the offseason with recruiting new (New Red Raider 6’10 Isaiah Manderson recently committing, for example). I’m hoping to get 3,000 followers by the first game on November 3rd. (@TTUHoopsFans is currently at around 2,912).
DanSwany: Can you tell us a little bit on the background story to how you became such a huge Texas Tech basketball fan?
Bill: Like you, Dan, my freshman year was 2001-2002 which was Bob Knight’s first year as Head Coach. I was extremely excited about this and after attending the first couple of home games that season, I was hooked. I loved everything about it – the action packed games, the excitement and passion of the fans, the buzz around the program, the pride of being a Red Raider -- all of it. It never really wore off and here we are 13 years later and I follow the program as closely as I did back then.
DanSwany: Thinking back to those better years of Red Raiders basketball, what stands out to you the most? Do you have a most memorable Tech basketball moment as a fan?
Bill: There was nothing I loved doing more than going to Texas Tech Basketball games during my time as a student, I don’t think I ever missed a home game from 2001-2005. I also made trips to a few road games and the Sweet 16 in Albuquerque – what a great experience. The most memorable moment I had as a Tech basketball fan had to be when we beat Kansas in Double Overtime at home in 2005. That three pointer by Darryl Dora was huge. It was a blast rushing the court with all of the students/fans and being a part of that. Afterwards, I got my picture taken with "Bubba" who was also a great fan and supporter of the Texas Tech basketball program. I was sad to hear of his passing a few years back.
DanSwany: Who is your all-time favorite Texas Tech basketball player, and why?
Bill: While I have many favorite players who have worn the Double T (Kasib Powell, Ronald Ross, Jay Jackson, Alan Voskuil, Jaye Crockett, just to name a few), I’d have to say that Andre Emmett is my all-time favorite Texas Tech basketball player. Not only was he the All-Time Big 12 scoring leader (until LaceDarius Dunn of Baylor took that title), but he was an awesome all-around player. Always hustling on both ends of the floor and it seemed like you could always count on him for 20-25+ points per game. He was our "go to" guy. "Dre love the kids" will also be remembered for that incredible performance in the College Dunk contest in 2004. Even though things haven’t quite panned out for him regarding a career in the NBA, he has had tremendous success playing for many teams here in the US and overseas. I still try to keep up with him as I do with all of the other Red Raiders continuing their pro basketball careers.
DanSwany: For a few years it was hard for fans to get back to the enthusiasm that was generated in those days… What are your current thoughts about our program in Lubbock since Tubby Smith and his staff have taken over?
Bill: To be quite honest, I was really caught up in the whole "Keith Frazier" recruitment. I really wanted a 5-star recruit to come to Texas Tech and we all know that in order for that to happen, Chris Walker needed to be hired as the Head Coach (due to the relationship they had). However, when I heard Tubby Smith was being seriously considered for the Head Coach vacancy, I got really excited. Like Bob Knight, Tubby Smith is a household name with a solid resume of success. What we really needed was stability and a Head Coach with a proven track record of success and that is what we got. As you can see from this past season, the team improved and the fans have returned and are ready to get this thing back on track. I love the passion of the coaching staff and the emphasis on recruiting the best players possible. Like Coach Joe Esposito says, we are "Building a Monster".
DanSwany: Thoughts on this upcoming season?
Bill: I’m really looking forward to this team progressing year over year now that Coach Smith has settled in and is in his 2nd season with the program. He is an amazing coach and can really develop his players. We saw flashes of brilliance last year with those huge Big 12 wins at home and on the road at Oklahoma. We all know there is a lot more where that came from. We won 6 Big 12 games last season so I think we can get at least 8-9 Big 12 wins this upcoming season. It will be challenging though since we lost key seniors (Jaye Crockett, Dejan Kravic, and Kader Tapsoba) and also Dusty Hannahs and Jordan Tolbert (transfers). However, we have one of the best recruiting classes we have seen in over a decade (Williams, Jamison, Odiase, Smith, Evans, Gray, Manderson).
DanSwany: Who is a player on our roster that you think will surprise us this season, one that we need to keep our eye on?
Bill: I think Rob Turner will have a big year as one of the key leaders and ball handlers of the team. Toddrick Gotcher also showed major improvement last season so I’m looking forward to more solid play from him. I also think we will see more from Alex Foster this upcoming season too.
DanSwany: Can you give your prediction to what the starting lineup will be on November 3rd when we play SE Oklahoma State?
Bill: I would go with something like: Rob Turner, Toddrick Gotcher, Justin Gray, Zach Smith, and Justin Jamison. I know Coach Smith will have these guys ready to go in just over 2 months, can’t believe the college basketball season is almost here.
DanSwany: What are some issues during the games Tech will have to work around this season; rebounding, three-point shooting, etc.? What are some strengths?
Bill: Definitely need to continue to work hard on rebounding. Also need to improve our three-point shooting percentage as this has been down for years. I like how Coach Smith has slowed down the pace of play which can get opponents out of their rhythm.
DanSwany: Who in the Big 12 do you think everyone in the conference will need to watch out for this year? Is Kansas again the team to beat, or will somebody else step-up to challenge the Jayhawks?
Bill: Kansas will always be a contender, there is no doubt about that. Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma will also have strong teams as well. The Big 12 is definitely one of the best conferences in America.
DanSwany: Which game are you most excited to watch next season?
Bill: I’m pretty excited to watch the game at LSU on November 18th. Tech will face former teammate PG Josh Gray who left the program after Chris Walker wasn’t hired as Head Coach. I really enjoy conference play and definitely look forward to the games with Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Baylor.
DanSwany: And our favorite question here at VTM… what does it mean to be a Red Raider?
Bill: I love being a Red Raider! Some of the greatest memories of my life were made at Texas Tech and in Lubbock. I got a great education, met some of my best friends, met my wife, and had a blast going to games and becoming a Red Raider for life. Texas Tech has a very bright future ahead and I look forward to the ride!
Let's give a huge thank you to our Texas Tech basketball buddy Bill! Please give him a follow on @TTUHoopsFans to feed your need for Red Raiders Hoops!