Welcome back, everyone!
For the first time in three years, we don’t have to start our basketball coverage against a backdrop of football panic. Which is nice. Also, for the first time in (checks calendar) thirty years, we’re defending a conference title. Which is more than nice. It’s the type of insane sentence that I’m still afraid to submit because it doesn’t feel right. But it’s accurate. We have rings, now. Rings and banners.
Before we jump into this year’s new faces, here’s a quick reminder of what we lost from last year’s SEC Championship squad. Spoiler alert: This is rough. It’s a rough few paragraphs. But we’ll get through it together.
Outgoing Players and Staff
- Alex Collins - The grad transfer from South Florida played big minutes at the point guard position all year, and he had an extremely high usage rate with very few turnovers. Collins rarely created his own shot, but he hit 45% from beyond the arc.
- Alex Caruso - A four year starter and All-SEC defensive player who left as the all-time program leader in steals and assists. Averaged 8 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists per game over his career.
- Jalen Jones - A transfer from SMU who started for two years and received All-SEC postseason selections in both. He had an excellent (and very efficient) all-around offensive game, averaging 16 points and 7 boards on almost 50% shooting.
- Danuel House - A transfer from UH who started for two years and received All-SEC postseason selections in both. Instant offense during any given two minute stretch. Currently an NBA player. Averaged 16 points per game during his two years at A&M.
Whew. Like I said…. Rough. But at least that’s al- WAIT WHAT THERE’S MORE?
- Rick Stansbury - This recruiting guru was extremely qualified (probably over qualified) to be an assistant, yet we got two years out of him. Left to become the new Head Coach at Western Kentucky.
- Kyle Keller - Another fantastic grinder on the recruiting trail who was extremely well-liked by all accounts. Left to become the new Head Coach at Stephen F. Austin.
- Kyle Dobbins - One of the best “gifable reaction” and “get that guy a bucket in garbage time” bench players in program history. He will be missed.
Oof. That’s quite a hit to take. One of the biggest outgoing A&M classes I can remember, actually. But enough about that… let’s talk new arrivals:
Incoming players likely to see rotation minutes
- Robert Williams (freshman PF; 6’9” 237 lbs) - The four star PF was ranked #62 nationally (and 16th at his position), and his raw athleticism should allow him to contribute immediately. His offensive game, on the other hand... well, let’s call it “unrefined.” We won’t run many plays for him in the post this season, but he’ll help protect the rim and he’ll grab his fair share of offensive boards. I’m hoping that a 10-15 footer (or a reliable post move) is coming soon, as it’s the next step towards developing a legitimate offensive presence at an SEC-starter level.
- Eric Vila (freshman PF; 6’11” 206 lbs) - This three star recruit might be ranked 275th overall, but he’s the number one recruit from Spain. So we’ve got that going for us. In regards to his game, he’s basically the polar opposite of Williams. He can shoot and he looks extremely comfortable with or without the ball on offense, but his raw low post strength isn’t there yet. Because of that, he’ll struggle to get big-time conference minutes, but his range and comfort on the offensive side of the ball will certainly land him a spot in this rotation. I see him and Tavario Miller as an offense/defense substitute on the front lines.
- JC Hampton (graduate transfer SG; 6’1” 192 lbs) - The four-year contributor at Lipscomb averaged 30 minutes and 12.5 points per game, so he’ll provide some much-needed depth in the backcourt. This has become increasingly important given the late-summer Caldwell/Corprew NCAA rulings (more on that later). He’ll provide a steady/seasoned hand in a very young group of guards, but he’s more of a scorer than a passer… which could be a problem on a team that doesn’t appear to have a pure point guard on the roster.
- Chase Carlton (Sophomore PG; 6’1” 198 lbs) - Did somebody say point guard? Carlton might not have been a huge part of our original long term plans, but his skill set just might fit a pretty big need this year. Carlton has one season at Ranger College under his belt (yes, the Ranger College coached by Billy Clyde Gillispie), and a year of BCG practices can prepare you for literally everything. Averaged 8.5 points and 3.6 assists with 44% shooting from beyond the arc. Our guard depth is pretty light, so I could see him getting some important minutes at some point this season. File this name away.
- Assistant Coaches: Ulric Maligi and Issac Chew
Guys that were supposed to be incoming players
One final note… we’re getting a little less guard help than we originally anticipated. We landed two huge four-star targets in JJ Caldwell (#65 nationally; #12 PG) and DeShawn Corprew (#113 nationally; #22 SF), but both were ruled ineligible for game action by the NCAA this year. Corprew opted to leave and play JC ball, but Caldwell chose to stick around and will be able to practice with the team starting in December.
That’s pretty much it, y’all. Remember, we have an exhibition game this Friday night and the home opener is only 10 days away. We’ll have plenty more on the returning guys and our overall season outlook between now and then.