Big 12 Team Previews: Texas Tech Red RaidersPosted by dnspewak on November 2nd, 2011
Projected Finish: 10th
2010-11 Record: 13-19, 5-11 (11th, Big 12)
Head Coach: Billy Gillispie, first season
Key Losses: John Roberson (14.1 PPG), Mike Singletary (12.7 PPG), Brad Reese (11.5 PPG), David Tairu (10.0 PPG)
It’s a fresh start at Texas Tech this season in every sense of the phrase. The school fired Pat Knight after a run of mediocrity, and the roster now consists of one returning starter from the 2010-11 team. The top four scorers are gone, and the program hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since Bob Knight led it there in 2006-07. So why the sense of optimism right now in Lubbock? It’s all for one reason: the hiring of new coach Billy Gillispie. After successful tenures at both UTEP and Texas A&M (and a decent two years at Kentucky that most other schools would accept), Gillispie is tailor-made for this job. At this point, his roster is bare: nine freshmen and only a few recognizable faces. The 2011-12 campaign may be difficult, but it won’t stay that way for long.
The Stars: This team revolves around forward Robert Lewandowski, the only player on the team who averaged more than 13 minutes per game last season after starting 26 games. As the only senior on the roster, he’s also never been a primary scoring option. However, he’s a big, strong center with a decent defensive presence, and he’s a smart player who makes high-percentage shots. Plus, Lewandowski also lost 25 pounds this offseason, which means he’ll be significantly more mobile. The lighter frame should also help with his stamina, as he seemed to wear down toward the end of last year. He doesn’t fit the mold of the traditional “star,” but he’s got to emerge as the go-to option this season. If not, Tech’s going to have a heck of a time scoring on the offensive end.
The Veterans: Lewandowski is the only real “veteran” on this team. Other than that, the returning players on this roster have experience only as reserves. However, Lewandowski could get some help from some unexpected sources, and that especially includes 6’7” forward Jaye Crockett. Although he did not play a ton of minutes as a freshman, he’s a physical specimen with a chance to shine in 2011-12. As one of the team’s top athletes, Crockett can get to the hoop and rebound with authority. At point guard, Gillispie has a few “veteran” options. Sophomore Javarez Willis will compete with a few newcomers for minutes as well. Willis’s freshman season wasn’t ideal, as he shot less than 40 percent from the field and never emerged as the offensive threat some expected he’d be coming out of high school.
The Newbies: Get ready– there’s a lot of new guys.
- Ty Nurse, a junior college player signed by Gillispie, is the main competitor for Davis and Willis at the point. According to scouting reports, he’s smart, takes care of the basketball and knows how to make decisions. Sounds like a Gillispie player, huh?
- As for the freshmen, Terran Petteway stands out among the bunch. The 6’6” wing had offers from just about everybody, and he’s the kind of guy who can excel in transition and make plays with his athleticism.
- Jordan Tolbert is another solid freshman option for Gillispie at power forward as a dual threat. He’s got a large frame, but isn’t afraid to step outside and shoot the ball either. In fact, that’s one of the strengths of his game. Guard Toddrick Gotcher, a former Pat Knight commit, will also get a chance to show his stuff right away in the backcourt.
- So there’s five newcomers– and who knows who else may step up? The Red Raiders also signed 6’10” center Kader Tabsoba to add some size, as well as 6’7” forward Jaron Nash. And that’s not even everybody. Space prevents us from including the entire incoming class. At this point, the newcomers are just names. After a few months, though, don’t be surprised to see a few separate from the pack.
Breakout Candidate: Jaye Crockett has to be the pick here. With more playing time last season, he probably would have excelled for Pat Knight. Under Gillispie, he’s probably going to start right away. The most impressive thing about Crockett is his athletic ability, but he can also crash the glass and make plays on the boards. Lewandowski may be the emotional leader of this team, but Crockett might just be the best player by the end of the season.
Why they’re better than you think: In Billy Gillispie we trust. He has very little experience and must mold a cast of newcomers into a formidable product, but he’ll find a way to overachieve. This team will defend, it will compete and it will find a way to surprise some folks in the Big 12. Also, if Crockett does emerge as a top scorer and the newcomers surprise right out of the gate, the talent gap between the rest of the league may not be all that vast after all.
Points of concern: The main problem with this team is the inexperience, and not just from a youth standpoint. This team has not played with each other yet, and there are so many new faces. There’s an acclimation period that has to take place before everybody learns how to play together. There are also just so many unknowns right now. Will Crockett step up, and can Lewandowski lead? How will the point guard position play out? These are not minor concerns by any means.