In an era of college basketball often dominated by one-and-done freshmen, roster continuity and veteran leadership can elevate teams above their talent level. Yesterday we introduced some of the promising newcomers who will help take Texas Tech basketball to the next level. Today, we’re reminding you of the excellent core that returns from last year’s breakout team.
Devon Thomas: Guard
Thomas served as a backup point guard last season but could be pushed for minutes by some of the incoming transfers. The senior might be the quickest player on the team and could be used as a way to speed the tempo up. He wasn’t a great shooter last year and fast breaks suit his skill set best.
Justin Gray: Forward
Gray is a returning starter who did a little of everything for the Red Raiders last season. The 6’6” wing showed great versatility and a sweet shooting stroke from all over the court. Gray can unlock bigger lineups by sliding to the shooting guard position but will probably be counted on for minutes at small forward.
Zach Smith: Forward
Smith is a tremendous athlete who has the potential to break out as a defensive star. His quick feet and long arms combine to make him the team’s most intimidating defender and best rebounder. He was the starting power forward last season and led the team in minutes played and has a good chance to repeat both of those accomplishments.
Keenan Evans: Guard
Evans was the starting point guard last season and his improvement from 2014-2015 was a big reason for the team’s overall improvement. If Evans can facilitate the new offense and take what the defense gives him, he’s in for another good year. Evans was clutch in Tech’s thrilling 65-63 win over Oklahoma last season and has proven that no moment is too big for him.
Aaron Ross: Forward
Ross is the team’s leading returning scorer and was a huge part of the late season push that the Red Raiders made. He models the current NBA big man by being able to stretch the floor and create space for others to drive. Ross isn’t overly athletic, but his shooting and craftiness help him find ways to score against different types of defenders. Expect a big year from the senior.
Andrew Sorrells: Guard
Sorrells hardly saw the court last season and will struggle to find minutes in a crowded backcourt. Just a sophomore, he still has time to develop and contribute down the road.
Norense Odiase: Forward
Odiase missed a good chunk of last season due to injury but can provide size and toughness when healthy. The junior big man is an old-school bruiser who can score efficiently from the post. It will be interesting to see how coach Chris Beard utilizes Odiase, but his rebounding will be important against the Big 12’s bigger teams.
Matthew Temple: Forward
Temple stepped in for Odiase last season and played solid minutes. The former walk-on is a better offensive player than he is defender, and his passing and shooting touch could be used as a change of pace. With Odiase back and a new coaching staff, his playing time and production are both up in the air as of now.
Though there may be an adjustment period to learn the new offense and integrate the new guys, Texas Tech is returning over 65% of its points and minutes from an NCAA tournament team. Depth, experience and versatility are always a great combination. If the Red Raiders can improve their rebounding and outside shooting, this season could be special. Fans should definitely be optimistic about the start of the Chris Beard era.