If a title could be attached to the Billy Kennedy era at Texas A&M, the most proper one would be "A Series of Unfortunate Events."
It began with current NBA starter Khris Middleton getting injured in Kennedy’s opening game. Twelve games later, star-studded recruit Jamal Branch would transfer to St. Johns University. By conference play, the Aggies’ rotation was filled with guys playing hurt and walk-ons playing in their first-ever college games. By season’s end, Texas A&M had officially followed six straight NCAA Tournament appearances with their first losing record since the 2003-2004 season.
In each year of Kennedy’s tenure, a starting player has either left or been removed from the team (Branch, Naji Hibbert, J-Mychal Reese and most likely Shawn Smith) and at least one walk-on player has seen playing time. On top of it all, perhaps Coach Kennedy’s most coveted recruit to date, Tony Trocha, a 6-11 power forward A&M desperately needs at the moment, is still mysteriously not enrolled at A&M and cannot play on the team. The Aggie fan base (or what’s left of it) grows louder in demand of a new coach, but if there is one argument Kennedy has, it’s that he’s had to deal with many circumstances out of his control. But if there are no surprises in the offseason, the 2014-15 Aggies will finally have a starting five that Kennedy envisioned, and it begins with the 4-star point guard from Arlington, TX, Alex Robinson.
Billy Kennedy led the Murray State Racers to 30+ wins and a near-Sweet Sixteen appearance with one player taller than 6-8. What his team lacked in size, he made up with speed and athleticism, surrounding his lone center with four guards. Kennedy’s put together a similar lineup this season at A&M but it’s tough to play small when you can’t score. The Aggies scored only 64.6 points per game, ranking last in the SEC. Outside of one game at Mississippi State, A&M never scored more than 56 points on the road. A key contributor to the offensive woes was the inability to drive to the basket. After being moved the point, Alex Caruso carried the weight of being the sole slasher on the team. While he excelled greatly at the position, leading the conference in assists, the lack of another shot creator made it too easy to defend the Ags on offense. This is where a recruit like Robinson can take this squad to another level.
The 6-1 senior out of Timberview High School has three quality point guard traits: ball handling, vision and explosiveness (as seen here). If the Arlington native can transition quickly to the college game, his skill set will fit in perfectly with A&M’s starting five.
POSSIBLE 2014-15 STARTING FIVE
G – Alex Robinson
G – Alex Caruso
G/F – Jalen Jones (Transfer from SMU)
G/F – Jamal Jones
F – Kourtney Roberson
G – Jordan Green
F – Devonte Fitzgerald
C – Tony Trocha (if enrolled)
The 2014-15 lineup will give Billy Kennedy something he’s never had at A&M: scoring options. Two seasons ago, Elston Turner was the sole scorer on the team. This year it fell to junior Jamal Jones. Fortunately another Jones will be added with the former leading scorer of the SMU Mustangs, Jalen Jones. The SMU transfer averaged 14 points & 7 rebounds a game for the Mustangs his sophomore year and hopefully will be able to take away some of the scoring burden off of the other Jones’ shoulders. Add that with the cutting ability of Robinson and Caruso, the Jones’ may have a lot of open looks coming their way.
With the two Jones’ providing the scoring and the two Alex’s providing the slashing, Billy Kennedy may finally have a lineup that can give opponents some serious problems, but undoubtedly his fate at A&M rests on next season. To put it kindly, the SEC isn’t quite the juggernaut conference that it is in football. Even in a league filled with parity, the Aggies are still looking at a third straight year of no postseason play (barring a miracle SEC tournament run). Circumstances have been rough during Kennedy’s tenure, but come this time next March, no one will look at injuries or transfers. They’ll only look at the Win-Loss column.