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Millinghaus exit creates opportunity

The Red Raider rotation is coming together

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech shooting guard Shadell Millinghaus confirmed his release from the basketball program this weekend. The former JUCO standout averaged 3.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game last season in a reserve role for the Red Raiders.

This news comes nearly two months after South Plains College shooting guard Jordan Brangers announced that he will not be attending Texas Tech in the fall.

These moves have suddenly shaken up the outlook of the Tech backcourt and given several newcomers a window to more playing time.

Keenan Evans and Niem Stevenson will likely get the first shot as the 2017-18 starting backcourt. Evans was the team’s leading scorer and go-to playmaker late in games, while Stevenson worked his way into the starting lineup and flourished down the stretch.Evans will likely play around 29-31 minutes per game (30.4 last season) and Stevenson, who played 21.7 minutes per game after coming off the bench for much of last season, could see his average bumped closer to 23-25 minutes per game.

This means that the guard positions are filled for roughly 55 of the 80 possible minutes. For the four remaining guards on the roster, transfer Brandone Francis, freshman Jarrett Culver, and JUCO transfers Hyron Edwards and Josh Webster, coach Chris Beard will need to be flexible.

Fitting Millinghaus and Brangers into this rotation would have been nearly impossible. Both are slightly undersized for their position and would have needed to play in specific lineup combinations to minimize their weaknesses. Millinghaus was much better defensively and Brangers projected as a bucket-getting sharpshooter with below average defense.

One dimensional players must be exceptional to survive in the Big 12. Finding spot minutes for each would have been difficult and Beard will still have some tough decisions to make without them.

The most likely scenario involves playing Stevenson and Francis several minutes at the small forward position. Those two, along with Justin Gray, Culver and freshman Zhaire Smith, are in the 6’5”-6’6” range and are probably better classified as “wings” than as “guards” in today’s game.

Playing Stevenson and Francis a combined 30 minutes at shooting guard would allow Edwards and Webster the chance to battle for backup point guard time, which will likely total 14-18 minutes. Webster also has the length to play shooting guard at times, though he’s more of a playmaker. Evans can play off the ball, which would bump the nominal shooting guard up to small forward for stretches and create additional reps for someone else at point guard.

If needed, the staff could also redshirt Culver and give him a season to put more size on his wiry 6’5” frame. Culver projects as a good offensive player with the length to play solid defense down the road. He’s good insurance for any of the wings mentioned above should injury strike, but is likely more valuable to the 2021-22 Red Raider team than the 2017-18 version.

After having a relatively thin backcourt in their first year, Beard and his staff now have several options to choose from and the positional versatility to always have three good perimeter players on the floor. Though Millinghaus and Brangers brought skills that other players don’t, these moves may ultimately prove to be addition by subtraction in the Red Raider backcourt.