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Texas Tech basketball is built to last beyond this season

And it’s because of Keenan Evans

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Texas Christian Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

This article is not about Keenan Evans.

And yet, Evans is the driving force behind everything I’m going to say. So bear with me for a few moments while I express some of my man-crush on Texas Tech’s point guard.

Keenan. Evans. Is. The. Man.

Here are the statistical categories Evans is leading for Texas Tech: minutes played per game, points per game, assists per game, steals per game, free throw percentage, field goals made per game, field goals attempted per game, player efficiency rating, true shooting percentage, points produced, assist percentage, usage percentage, and win shares.

More impressive, he has accumulated those numbers while predominantly playing within Chris Beard’s system. That doesn’t mean Evans hasn’t carried the Red Raiders on his back when called upon to do so. Case in point being his back-to-back games of 30-plus points in victories last week that have righted the Red Raider season. Evans already has garnered multiple Big 12 Player of the Week honors, been named a Cousy Award finalist as well as a top-20 finalist for the Wooden Award, and has Tech hoops sitting pretty at No. 7 in the national rankings, which ties the school’s highest ranking ever.

Ok, ok, I know I said this isn’t a Keenan Evans article, so I’ll get to the point. The success Red Raider basketball has accumulated so far this season has been a surprise to most people. Maybe not to the VTM staff (with the exception of an editor or two), but most people. I’m willing to bet those same “most people” aren’t expecting Tech to be this competitive again next year. I’m here to quiet those naysayers and introduce them to Jarrett “I love that guy” Culver and Zhaire “Did he just do that?” Smith. We’ve thrown plenty of love these guys’ way before at VTM, but they are the future of Red Raider basketball.

Beard has utilized a large rotation this year, which has always featured Culver and Smith. The two didn’t stop there, however. They were so effective, Beard had no choice but to insert them into the starting lineup, the same lineup that at the beginning of the season was chock full of experience-laden seniors. Culver and Smith are second and third in the team in points per game, respectively. Culver is one of Tech’s best shooters from beyond the arc. Smith is a Swiss army knife, do-it-all player who can make highlight reels appear out of thin air.

The obvious retort to this shameful gushing over freshmen talent, is what about next year? What happens when all those seniors leave? Culver and Smith will be the leaders. How will they handle that pressure?

It’s a valid concern. Sophomore slumps happen. It’s a lot of responsibility to take on. Not everyone does respond positively to that situation. But, not everyone has the opportunity to observe firsthand someone grow into that role and flourish.

That’s exactly the learning opportunity that Culver and Smith and the rest of the freshmen have been handed on a silver platter by playing with Keenan Evans. They’re learning how to approach the film room, how to approach each practice, how to sense when someone needs to take over, and how to deal with the rigors of Big 12 road games.

The example set by one of Tech’s greatest in Evans will have a lasting impact on the Red Raider basketball program, because when you mix that experience with the sort of talent the youngsters have shown, the sky is the limit.