Big 12 Team Preview #9: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 31st, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Monday, Danny Spewak (@dspewak) took care of previewing the TCU Horned Frogs. Today, Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso) previews the cellar-dwellers from a year ago: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders were not a unanimous choice among the Big 12 microsite writers to finish ninth in the conference but we’re guessing we still won’t find much argument with this selection either. 

The Skinny: 

  • 2011-12 Record: 8-23 record, 1-17 in the Big 12
  • Key Contributors Lost: G Javarez Willis, F Robert Lewandowski
  • Head Coach: Chris Walker, 1st season
  • Projected Finish: 9th

Walker now makes three different coaches in three seasons. (Associated Press/Zach Long)

Interim head coach Chris Walker undoubtedly has a tough act to follow but at the same time he doesn’t. Former head coach Billy Gillispie had as tumultuous of a season that a coach can have. He broke NCAA practice rules more than once, was reprimanded by his athletic director for those trangressions, and his team stunk it up on the basketball court. Since the bar isn’t set very high at this point, I’m sure Walker can win more than eight games and look somewhat competitive in Big 12 play. This is Walker’s first opportunity at a head coaching job but like many first-timers, he too was a well-traveled assistant coach. He started off at Loyola Marymount in 1992 (this was the post-Paul Westhead/Kimble/Gathers era), left for Vanderbilt in 1996, went to Pepperdine in 1999, back to his alma mater Villanova in 2000, then headed to UMass in 2001, before going to New Mexico in 2007, and then back to Villanova in 2009 before arriving last season in Lubbock. For a man thrust into as awkward a situation as any, Walker is saying all the right things and then some. On “wearing” the interim tag:

“It’s all about attitude. I was remarking to somebody the other day there are a lot of interim coaches out there, they just don’t know it. I look at this situation, and people look at it as if I’ve been diagnosed with cancer. It took me six months to live. I’ve really flipped it and said it’s six months to give. I’m head coach for the first time in the Big 12. I’m going to give everything I have to the University, to the players and the community of Lubbock.”

The Personnel 

Tech has a large recruiting class coming in because of graduation as well as players transferring and de-committing from a dark situation. The dust is finally settling and what’s left is a stable core of guys. It’s a good thing Walker is now the head coach instead of BCG because if he wasn’t, Jordan Tolbert (11.5 PPG and 52.1% FG) would likely be elsewhere. Ty Nurse led the team last season in three-point percentage (.388) and Jaye Crockett (8.8 PPG last season) was named team captain for the 2012-13 season.

Jordan Tolbert is Tech’s returning leading scorer. (Ray Carlin/Icon SMI)

On the recruiting trail, Walker got former Arkansas signee and top-100 talent Aaron Ross to honor his commitment, but the prospect tore his ACL and will miss the season. He did however manage to keep greater Houston area PG Josh Gray (3-star according to Rivals/ESPN) to stick with him after previously de-committing from Mississippi State, and Dusty Hannahs, who, while having one of the best names in college basketball, is a terrific three-point shooter as well as a natural scorer. Then there are four junior college transfers, three of whom are point guards (Trency Jackson, Jamal Williams and Daylen Robinson). It’s not clear what they were going for there but at least we’ll get a taste of a regular rotation Thursday as they face UT-Permian Basin in exhibition play.

Why They Might Be Better Than You Think

I have a confession to make. I was the one guy who picked the Red Raiders to finish 10th in the league. Do I think they’ll be better? Definitely. That team is totally sold on Chris Walker as their leader because if they weren’t, they’d be gone by now. Jordan Tolbert could become more of a go-to scorer, and maybe they utilize an inside-out game, relying on the 6’7″ Crockett and 6’11” Dejan Kravic down low with an option to kick it out to guys like Hannahs, Nurse or Luke Adams for three-pointers. Walker’s talking like a man with nothing to lose so I’m sure any type of offense is up for discussion.

Potential Roadblocks

None is bigger than their youth and inexperience. Ty Nurse is the Red Raiders’ only senior. They have five juniors listed on the roster but four of them haven’t even played a second in Lubbock. Speaking of so many new players, that’s a problem too — before he was fired, Billy Gillispie anticipated major turnover on the 2011-12 roster, so what he did was put together a nine-man recruiting class. They lost a couple of recruits along the way (notably Wannah Bail) but six newcomers on the roster is still a lot to take in. No matter who was calling plays from the sideline, this was going to be a long and difficult season.

The Sleeper Candidate

The Red Raiders have successfully recruited a sharpshooting guard from the state of Arkansas. It’s not Rotnei Clarke but we could be talking about Rotnei Clarke 2.0 or possibly Jimmer Jr. (currently trademarking nickname). Dusty Hannahs is that man. He was a big-time shooter and scorer for Pulaski Academy in West Little Rock. Last December, Hannah’s team played against Sylvan Hills, which featured Kentucky recruit and eventual McDonald’s All-American, Archie Goodwin, knocking off the future Wildcat’s team, 82-72. Goodwin struggled his way to score 27 points on 6-for-18 shooting while Hannahs dropped 43 on 11-for-18 from the field. That statline suggests he must have been hot from downtown, but in fact, Hannahs went 0-for-4 from beyond the arc and instead shot 21-for-24 from the charity stripe. He takes it upon himself to prove to everyone that he’s more than just a three-point specialist. At 6’4″ and 210 pounds, he certainly has the frame to do it. You can thank me later.

Final Projection

There will be no coach in America I’m rooting harder for than Chris Walker. But they’re probably looking at a 14- or 15-win regular season (no postseason, unless the CollegeInsider.com Tournament gets really  desperate) that should make Walker the head coach for good. If I was a little better and a little taller, I’d take a Texas Tech scholarship offer and shut down the rest of my recruitment completely. I wonder if he’s interested in recruiting guys who haven’t played “competitively” since middle school. If so, give me a call, Coach!

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