Culver, Moretti, Smith, Ondigo, Hicks, Vilarino, Benson. This freshman class has given us so much in terms of minutes, buckets, defense, and hope. These seven freshmen are the future of Texas Tech Basketball. It is unusual for a team like Texas Tech, who is not a blue-chip program, to have seven freshmen on a team and three of them contributing in big ways now. This class can remind Tech fans of the great 2014 class that are all now seniors. I think that the class of 2017 is better, not only does this group have talent like the Class of 2014, it comes in to a winning culture, and a coach that will make some of them into superstars.
In 2014, the Texas Tech Basketball team was not very good. They finish 13-19 but had begun the turn around that this program so desperately needed. They were in year two of the Tubby Smith era and he had brought in four amazing freshmen to build his program. Two of them, Norense Odiase and Zach Smith, both started 30 games and if Justin Gray would not have gone down with an injury, he would have most likely as well. Another guard, Keenan Evans, was coming off the bench and playing solid time for the Red Raiders. The Red Raiders had hope, and the turn around had begun and as most of you know, in 2016 the Red Raiders beat a top-3 team in Oklahoma and made the NCAA tournament.
This season, the Red Raiders had a very similar recruiting class, except the freshmen were not needed to play such huge roles. They are also getting the invaluable experience of learning how to win, something the Class of 2014 didn’t get this early on in their careers. Led by the Class of 2014, this year’s freshmen class is being taught how to work, how to play, and how to dominate teams with preparation. This can also be attributed to Coach Beard bringing his intense preparation skills to the program. They are getting to watch this program shine and are getting to participate in it as well.
I have full confidence that when the reins are handed over to this group, they will shine. Three of them will most likely start next year and one or two more of them will have an important role off the bench. They have freak athletes in Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver who will be able to wow the Big 12 with their leaping and shooting ability, and they also have Davide Moretti, a player who already has professional experience (as an amateur) and can become the next great point guard for Texas Tech.
I can’t talk about Moretti enough, he is a true offensive point guard that has been bulking up and is getting better on the defensive end. He reminds me of Milos Teodosic, point guard for the Los Angeles Clippers. Teodosic is an amazing passer, and is even considered one of the best passers in the world. Moretti can build himself into a 7-8 assist per game guy as we have already seen some amazing passing abilities from Moretti this year. Between the passing ability, the amazing three-point range that he brings, and the fact Moretti is getting stronger and faster, watch out y’all, Moretti has the potential of going down as one of the best point guards in Texas Tech history.
#NCAA Huge road win for Texas Tech at Kansas (85-73): Davide Moretti (5 points and 2 assists in 12 minutes) contributed with some nice plays in the second half. @davide9moretti pic.twitter.com/Y1qCr25exj— ITALHOOP (@italhoop) January 3, 2018
We, of course, cannot forget the two best freshmen for Tech this year, Jarrett Culver and Zhaire Smith. They are both averaging over 10 points and 20 minutes per game and are the spark off the bench the Red Raiders did not have last year. They can defend, shoot, and they are both extremely good offensively in their own right. Culver is a better spot up shooter, leading the Red Raiders in three point makes, while Smith is a better driver and is much better at drawing fouls as he is second on the team in free throws attempted and made this season. They are both cornerstones of the future of Tech basketball.
Another player that can’t be ignored from this recruiting class is big-man Malik Ondigo. Although he has not cracked the rotation due to injury, Coach Beards speaks highly of Malik on and off the court. He even has his own feature on the TTU Men’s Basketball twitter page called Malik’s Minute. Ondigo is 6-11 and will eventually become a defensive anchor for the Red Raiders. He has a 7’2 wingspan and has the potential to become one of the best centers in the Big 12. There are other potential talents on this team as well, as walk-on Parker Hicks made the team this year and although he has been used sparingly, will become a good rotation guy down the road. Other walk-ons Alex Vilarino and Avery Benson have been red-shirted this year and will most likely make the roster next year.
This group has the ability to become one of the best recruiting classes in Texas Tech history. They have the talent, they have the coaching, and they have the best fan base in the Big 12 to help them. The sky is the limit for these guys, as they will be competing in the greatest league in college basketball, the Big 12. If these seven can work hard to improve and stick together, the Red Raider fan base could be very happy for years to come. What do you think of this recruiting class? Leave your thoughts in the comment section down below and please participate in our poll, also below.
Who will be the best player from the Class of 2017?
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