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The 2019-2020 Red Raiders Men’s Basketball Season Awards

Recapping a short but sweet season and giving some appreciation to the guys who made it so special.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019-2020 basketball season is over. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ll never know how this team would’ve performed in the Big 12 tournament or the NCAA tournament. The Red Raiders finished with an 18-13 overall record. They went 9-9 in conference play, finishing at 4th place in the Big 12. Sure, this season wasn’t perfect. Despite all the ups and downs, this season was full of excitement. We wanted to give our awards to the players we feel made a difference in their respected areas this season. Here are the 2019-2020 season awards:

Most Valuable Player

Ryan: Jahmi’us Ramsey

Ramsey’s season wasn’t always perfect, but the highest rated recruit in Tech history did not disappoint. Ramsey averaged 15.0 PPG (leads team), 4.0 RPG, 2.2 APG, and 1.3 SPG (leads team). If Jahmi’us improves his decision making and late-game ball handling, he’ll find himself in an NBA rotation. I’d be very surprised to see him back in a Red Raiders jersey next season.

Emory: Davide Moretti

I have been firmly on the train that Edwards was the most versatile player on this team and was arguably the best player in a vacuum for most of the season, but Davide Moretti was the main weapon in Tech’s arsenal offensively, and in this year’s Big 12 his supreme off-ball ability (98th percentile on spot-ups, per Synergy) meant teams were essentially smothering him off ball in every set. While his three point percentage dropped to 39% this year (due to a larger on-ball role and schematic pressure), he was still the most efficient player on the team offensively. The attention Moretti got off ball was vital in allowing easier driving opportunities for the primary ball handlers, and over time Beard got better at putting Moro in a place where he could exploit the ambitious coverage. To put it simply: Moretti was the single piece that opened up the offense on their best nights, and thus was the most valuable player in a season where the offense typically struggled when he was not on.

Kyle: Kyler Edwards

The sophomore showed many signs of improvement this season mainly because he started every game this season after being seen as a sixth man during his freshman season. While the stats don’t make you want to shout to the sky that Kyler Edwards is the best player in the country, his 11.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, and .8 SPG is still nothing to scoff at. Edwards is known for his quick decision making and catch-and-shoot game beyond the arc makes him a problem for opposing defenses and arguably the best shooter on the team.

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Player of the Year

Ryan: Terrence Shannon Jr.

If you only look at the box score, you are probably really confused as to why I pick Shannon here. Shannon doesn’t even average a full block or steal every game. Despite this, Shannon is an insanely good on-and-off ball defender who can guard nearly anyone on the court. His lateral quickness, athleticism, and ability to draw the foul earns him my vote. He’s an All Big-12 Defensive Team player next season.

Emory: Terrence Shannon

Everything that Ryan said about Shannon is completely accurate, and I will add that his anticipation was legitimately one of the craziest singular traits I have seen from a Tech basketball player. Almost all of his steals in conference came from rotating into a passing lane just in time to intercept the pass and take it to the other end in transition. That ability is something that only elite level defensive players possess, and it is pretty obvious that Shannon is developing into that level of talent.

Kyle: TJ Holyfield

As one of the most highly touted acquisitions Chris Beard made going into the year, TJ Holyfield most certainly didn’t disappoint. On a team that was lacking a Tariq Owens-esque player, Holyfield came close to closing the gap. His 1.6 blocks and 4.5 rebounds this past season made Holyfield among the best defenders in the Big 12.

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Bench Player of the Year

Ryan: Kevin McCullar*

Imagine if this guy got to play basketball the past 2 years instead of sitting out with an injury. McCullar is a tenacious rebounder, elite defender, and reliable scorer. He was my favorite player to watch down the stretch, and he rightfully earned his way into the starting lineup at the end of the season. Get used to hearing his name.

*McCullar started the last 6 games of the season.

Emory: Chris Clarke

I was extremely critical of Clarke’s playing style at times this year in articles. I even said he was the one player that does not fit the rest of the team schematically. But from an impact perspective it is hard to argue that either Avery Benson or Kevin McCullar were more impactful holistically. Clarke’s elite combination of passing and rebounding provided a piece that was unique to this Red Raider club, and while McCullar undoubtedly has a bright future, Chris Clarke was simply more vital to the gameplan until the last three weeks of the year. I personally think Clarke’s skillset was a bit too post-oriented to be effective in a motion offense, but you cannot argue with the absurd 34% assist rate and countless 5-5-5 stat-lines.

Kyle: Kevin McCullar

McCullar caught my eye during the Kentucky game, playing at full speed the entire time. Crashing the glass, putting the country’s best shooters to their demise as well as having the ability to get himself open for the “one more” pass. McCullar is definitely someone to watch out for and after making his way onto the starting lineup during the last 6 games of the year, you’ll see him there next season.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Iowa State Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Most Improved Player

Ryan: Kyler Edwards

Edwards is one of three players returning from last years squad, and he didn’t start a single game last season. This year he started every single game and averaged 11.4 points per game (5.9 more than last season). Edwards wasn’t always exceptional but he showed serious growth, including a 2 game stretch where he scored a combined 46 points and earned Big 12 Player of the Week.

Emory: Kevin McCullar

It has to be McCullar, right? Edwards was extremely improved as an overall player, but over the course of one season he went from being a timid freshman that nearly out of the rotation to starting and being a NET positive in all but one of the games following his concussion. McCullar’s defensive versatility was always a positive, but his POA defense significantly improved over the course of the year, and his offense went from being a clear negative at the start of the year to a demonstrated positive. His cutting ability and secondary ball handler potential is unique for a player that played as a lead guard all through high school.

Kyle: Avery Benson

If there’s one guy you can point directly to and see the immediate difference they made, look no further than Avery Benson. Benson set career highs this past season and was a very important part in beating #1 Louisville, drawing fouls, blocking shots and getting himself on the board with points along the way to what could be considered as the biggest win in program history.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Most likely to have a breakout season next year

Ryan: Kevin McCullar/Terrance Shannon Jr.

As much as I’ve tried, I can’t make my mind up on just one guy here. Both are seriously gifted in separate regards, and they also both struggle badly from three. Shannon is one of the best slashers in the Big 12, has NBA athleticism, and is the best defender on the team. If he develops a shot, he will be a first round draft pick in June 2021. McCullar is an incredible defender, is developing a nice mid-range shot, and is good at getting to the basket. I do not think McCullar needs to focus on his shot as much as Shannon because he will make his money playing a forward type position. Right now I do not have either guy in my starting lineup next season, but they will still both be serious assets and parts to this team next year.

Emory: Kyler Edwards

To be completely honest this is a slight cop-out of an answer. I think both Shannon and McCullar competing for minutes will suppress their ability to have more impactful seasons, even if they will clearly be better, and I have no reason to trust that some portion of the trio of projects (Nadolny, Savrasov, and Tchewa) will be processed for a sexier recruit or a couple of grad transfers. So I am going with the player that I think is currently the best on the roster, and that is not because I think he will drastically improve his talent next year, but rather that Chris Beard will be able to utilize him more effectively. The key development for Edwards happened last summer, when he became lethal in using PnR looks offensively and improved as a primary facilitator. Next year the fit will be better, as he will have no Chris Clarke post touches and a more horizantally based passer in Nimari Burnett. His off ball shooting should return to normal levels with Burnett in the line-up, and I trust that Beard will find a way to mix his efficient ball handling (six games with at least four assists and at most one turnover) with his nice shooting touch when playing off ball (44% from three as a freshman)

Kyle: Russell Tchewa/Kevin McCullar

Here, I decided to go with two guys the team gave big opportunities to late in the year. McCullar showed in the final six games of the year why he’ll have a fantastic 2020-21 season. Now, the 7-foot Russell Tchewa will have some bigger shoes to fill. Giving us glimpses of what’s to come, showing the ability to crash the boards and blocking shots left and right. Hot Take incoming: Russell Tchewa will be the next Tariq Owens.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Baylor Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Our Favorite Moment of this Season

Ryan: Terrance Shannon Jr. Breakaway Dunk vs. Kentucky

This play caused the USA to absolutely ERUPT. Being there personally, my ears were ringing after this jam. It gave the team a serious morale boost and reminded everyone that Tech was very much so in this game. With all the hype surrounding this game, this play made everything feel so real.

Emory: The 88-42 demolition of TCU

It is a lot harder to pick the best moment from this season in comparison to any other one in recent memory. There was not the obvious program changing win, such as the first win in Allen Fieldhouse two years ago. There was no NCAA tournament gauntlets, like last year against Gonzaga. And there was no program building upsets, like against Iowa State and Oklahoma in 2016 and the Baylor win of 2017. So while the Louisville win was unexpected and quite nice, it did nothing to emotionally appeal to me given that Tech is on a different level than they were three years ago. Upsets might define a culture in a rebuild, but they lose the sweet nature when you have tasted the top of the mountain. So I’ll go with the best game I have ever seen a Texas Tech basketball team play. The TCU game was literally never in doubt, and there was nothing to really complain about. Every player was a positive, almost every stat battle was won by Tech, and there was no time in the second half when TCU was even within 20 points. Complete domination, and one of the few nights of basketball where I felt no anxiety watching this roller coaster of a team.

Kyle: Beating #1 Louisville

I don’t remember a game I had this much fun watching as this one. The unranked Red Raiders journeyed to Madison Square Garden in New York City as part of the Jimmy V Classic and drew the Cardinals as an opponent. A battle on both ends throughout the first and halfway through the second half, neither team seemed to let up but then the Red Raiders caught fire and didn’t look back. Avery Benson’s effort, Terrance Shannon Jr.’s 13-points and Davide Moretti’s perfect 8-for-8 from the line, 18-point performance helped accelerate Tech to victory.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports