Off season basketball talk? Yeah, off season basketball talk. Let's do it.
Yes, the Aggies had a rather disappointing season on the hardwood last season. Yes, there are a lot of people pointing the 'ol blame finger in every possible direction. Yes, there were pieces missing from last year's team that Aggie Basketball fans grew accustomed to seeing while the Aggies were on a streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. What is one of those pieces you ask? Well, I'm glad you asked.
In 2006, the Aggies made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. On that team 38.6% of the points came from the big men.
In 2007, the Aggies made it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. On that team 40.2% of the points came from the big men.
In 2008, the Aggies made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. On that team 38.1% of the points came from the big men.
In 2013, the Aggies faced their second consecutive season of no post-season play. On that team only 31% of the points came from the big men.
It's not just the scoring differential from the big men in the season's above. You also have to observe the presence the impact of the bigs on the court. Defensive rebounds compared to opponent offensive rebounds, defensive efficiency, and +/- are all factors that need to be considered when looking at the level of play a team is getting from their length on the floor. One staple on all of those successful Aggie teams was a guard that could take over the game. The Aggies had that in 2013 with Elston Turner. The Ags have been suffering from a lack of positive play from their big men over the last few years. This is absolutely not a knock on the big men that have played the last two years. They played their asses off for the maroon and white, and were often in matchups that they never should have had to face. The recruitment, or lack thereof, of skilled, athletic, long, wings and post players have left Coach Kennedy and staff with a depleted roster at those positions. Rest easy though, Aggie Basketball fans. There are TiTTs on the horizon!
Coach Kennedy and his staff are building a roster of athletic and talented basketball players that have all the potential necessary to bring some excitement back to the hoops program. Before you even look at the new guys that will joining the team, there's 6'8" Antwan Space who had to sit out last season. Space absolutely would have seen plenty of minutes if he was eligible last season, and he would have made an impact in several games where the Aggie bigs were getting outmanned down low.
At the Forward and Guard positions, the Aggies are bringing in 6'8" Jamal Jones (one of the best JUCO players in the country this year), 6'7" Davante Fitzgerald, and 6'8" Tavario Miller. You had those players to Alex Caruso, Jordan Green, and Shawn Smith, and you instantly have 7 players that make this team light years more ahtletic and bigger at the 2, 3, and 4 poistions than last year.
Then, ladies and gentlmen, there's the TiTTs. Texas A&M is now home to The International Twin Towers. Coach Kennedy and his staff made drastic improvements on the recruiting trail by landing big 6'10" Tony Trocha from Colombia and 6'11" Dylan Johns from England. These are two guys that Aggie basketball fans should be excited about. Tony Trocha has the basketball skill set to be a superstar. He's been described as a raw version of Anthony Davis, and a longer version of Lamarcus Aldridge. He's got a lot of work to do before hitting either of those levels of play, but a college S&C program and dedicated post coaching may lead to one of the best big men to ever play for the Aggies. Don't expect an overnight miracle, but you should definitely keep your eyes on the Colombian big man as the season progresses.
Much like Trocha, Dylan Johns has a particular skill set for a big man that makes college coaches and basketball junkies drool. One of the hardest things to teach a big man is to keep the ball high and finish high. The tape on Dylan Johns shows a developing player that loves getting up and down the floor and very polished skills at keeping the ball high and in control. Seeing a guy with this kind of height having such a knack for finishing around the rim at his age is why coaches are high on Johns. Johns also needs a good summer of S&C to be able to make an early impact, but that shouldn't be a concern for anyone under the system Coach Darby runs.
Aggie Basketball has always been a tough sell at Texas A&M, even when the program was a regular in The Dance. With the length and athleticism that will be hitting the court at Reed Arena next season Coach Kennedy is on the verge of reigniting the bouncy ball passion in College Station, and he can do it with the TiTTs.