Despite the off season being in full swing and basketball season coming to a close, there’s still plenty of other news circulating around the world of Aggie athletics.
Wake Em Up
There’s been minimal surprises out of the Bright Complex during the Jimbo era, but Leon O’Neal announcing his intention to enter the transfer portal is about as blind siding as Jon Snow hooking up with his Aunt on Game of Thrones. The roller coaster took another brisk turn over the weekend, as it’s now being rumored that O’Neal has reneged on his initial decision to leave the program.
I want to thank Texas A&M for everything. Every game was one I’ll never forget. Win, lose or draw The 12th man never lost they’re spirit. I want to thank my brothers for the love and support. Our bond will last forever. I have now placed myself in the transfer portal #WakeEmUp pic.twitter.com/VxOJ7ckeQK— Leon O’Neal Jr (@WakeEmUp9) February 27, 2020
Whether the social media rumors hold water has yet to be determined, however, there’s no question that Mike Elko’s defense is potentially losing an experienced starter, who despite likely seeing his playing time reduced, would have still been a key contributor next Fall.
Off the field, they’ll lose an elite recruiter who took on a pivotal role as a vocal leader. Say what you want about #9’s play on the field, but his no filter, never back down attitude quickly made him a fan favorite among the 12th Man.
Just a few years ago this kind of update would have sent the entire fan base into a state of hysteria. However, the mild reaction among the Aggie faithful should shine a light on the calming presence of Jimbo Fisher. The pile of assets the third year head coach continues to stack on the recruiting trail will play a key role in establishing a competitive atmosphere that should propel the program to new heights — even if it means a few veterans see their playing time cut in the process.
Through The Grapevine
I’ll be the first to admit my connection to the program isn’t as strong as it once was after taking a coaching job back in San Antonio last summer, however, I still try to make some time each month to keep up with old colleagues, reconnect with sources, and catch up with friends close to the athletic department.
Over the weekend I was able to catch up with a staffer in the basketball program who spoke at length about the Aggie’s exciting turnaround this season. He informed me that although Buzz William’s team has embraced their underdog mentality, “there wasn’t some magic potion (that was) drank” at the start of conference play.
“(The team) just believed in each other and believed in the staff when we would tell them that we’re this close to turning the corner... People wrote us off after Orlando, but we knew our best ball was in front of us. We like where we’re at right now”.
Although not earth shattering news, I thought this could briefly take you behind the scenes and share an inside perspective to the team’s mindset heading into the SEC tournament later in the week.
Sitting at 16-14 after a strong close to conference play, Buzz and company will likely need to run the table this weekend in order to have a shot at sneaking into the big dance. The team will be heading to Nashville Tuesday morning prior to taking on the Missouri Tigers Thursday night inside Bridgestone Arena.
National Basketball Association of Aggies
Between Khris Middleton stringing together another All-Star worthy season, Deandre Jordan being on the verge of averaging a double-double for the eighth straight year, and the nationally famous walking meme Alex Caruso, the Maroon and White are more represented in the NBA now, than at any point in program history.
Playing alongside the reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton has helped guide the Bucks to the best record in basketball. Averaging 20.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game, the former Aggie sharpshooter has given Milwaukee an outside shot at becoming just the third team in league history of eclipsing 70 wins in a season.
Although Jordan’s team continues to fight through a rebuilding year with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving getting hit by the injury bug, the high flying big man (8.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg) has anchored the Nets defense and kept them in playoff contention this season.
Caruso (5.8 ppg, 2.6 apg) on the other hand, has gone from summer leaguer to internet sensation all within the last 12 months. Playing alongside Lebron James, ‘the bald mamba’ has exploded on social media, delivering a slew of highlight worthy performances and carving out a key role in the Lakers’ rotation.
Along with that star studded trio, Robert Williams (4.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg) has just returned to action for the Celtics after battling through injuries, and Danuel House (10.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg) has become a staple in the Rockets lineup alongside James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Checking in on the XFL
I’ll be honest, without Manziel under center it’s taken a lot of effort to gauge even a minimal interest in Vince McMahon’s reborn demon child of a football league. The gimmick rule book and low scoring games have been tough to watch at times, but the number of Aggies taking advantage of the newly assembled Spring league has been impressive.
When given the opportunity, Christine Michael (213 all purpose yards, 1 TD), Trey Williams (166 all purpose yards, 2 TDs), and Keith Ford (60 all purpose yards, 2 TDs) have all been difference makers for their respective teams. After bouncing around NFL rosters the last few years, the trio of former five-star tailbacks have all shown some promise throughout the first few weeks of play this season.
Former Aggie tailback Christine Michael scores the first XFL touchdown of his career. pic.twitter.com/3faj91oBnZ— colton chumbley (@chumbleycolton) February 23, 2020
Alongside the ball carriers, former Maroon Goon Avery Gennesy has started every game for the XFL’s Houston affiliate, as has punter Shane Tripucka (42.5 yards per punt) in Los Angeles.