The Aggie men’s basketball team will unofficially open their season with an exhibition tonight against Texas A&M-Kingsville. If you’re jonesing for some basketball, sneak over to Reed Arena tonight for the 7:00 tip. Admission is free.
With the unofficial start to the season upon us, it’s a good time to look at the roster for the year. Aggie hoops has experienced a pretty significant reset as a slew of new faces join Buzz Williams’s team for the 2021-2022 basketball season. A confluence of events has turned over the Texas A&M men’s basketball roster, leaving the team with only 6 returning players on the active roster. Of those six returning lettermen, only 4 logged substantial minutes for the Aggies last season.
Graduate guard Quenton Jackson leads the way for the returning Aggies. Jackson is utilizing the additional year of eligibility granted to all athletes in the wake of the Covid pandemic to play another season and opted to remain in Aggieland, where he averaged 10.4 points in 23.1 minutes per game last year. Jackson, whose highlight reel dunks have made him fan favorite, also led the team in steals and 3 point percentage last season.
Point guards Andre Gordon and Hassan Diarra also return for another season with Buzz Williams. Gordon served as the starting point guard in his sophomore campaign, averaging 8.3 points and 2.7 assists in 27.8 minutes per game. Diarra offered the most significant contribution of any freshman in the 2020-2021 season, averaging 19.7 minutes and 5.8 points per contest. We was also second on the team in steals at just over 1 per game.
Sophomore shooting guard Hayden Hefner also returns from last year’s squad. Hefner’s role evolved over the course of the season, as he played in 15 of the team’s 18 games and started 4 times. He averaged 2.1 points in 11.7 minutes per game. Zach Walker and Everett Vaughn also return for the Aggies. However, neither played significant minutes last year.
College basketball rosters across the country have been turned upside down with the implementation of the NCAA’s new one-time transfer rule. This rule allows players to transfer schools once in their collegiate career and remain eligible to play for their new team immediately, removing the old requirement that athletes sit out for one year. The Aggies are no exception to the trend in player movement, as 7 members of the 2020-2021 team transferred to other schools. The most significant departure was last year’s leading scorer, Emanuel Miller. Miller opted to join his teammate and fellow Canadian, Cashius McNeilly, at TCU. Miller and McNeilly join former Aggie Associate Head Coach Jamie McNeilly, who took on a new role on Jamie Dixon’s staff after his contract was not renewed at Texas A&M.
The elder statesmen of last year’s team have both departed, as Savion Flagg headed down Highway 30 to Sam Houston State and Jay Jay Chandler landed at South Alabama. Jonathan Aku settled at Stephen F. Austin, while Kevin Marfo returned to Quinnipiac. LaDamien Bradford found his way to Louisiana Tech, and Jaxson Robinson was picked up by Eric Musselman and the Arkansas Razorbacks. Luke McGhee was the only member of last year’s team lost to graduation.
For all those who are no longer with the team, there is a fair bit of anticipation for the incoming players, especially considering that the majority of the newcomers bring at least one season of collegiate experience with the. In fact, 7 of the 17 players on the active roster are transferring into College Station from other universities.
The two most heralded transfers are unquestionably Marcus Williams and Tyrece Radford. Williams was named the Mountain West Freshman of the Year in his lone season at Wyoming, averaging 14.8 points and 4.3 assists per game. Radford, a junior, was originally recruited to Virginia Tech by Buzz Williams in 2018. After redshirting for the 2018-2019 season, averaged 10.2 and 12.2 points per game in the following two years. Radford encountered legal problems last spring and was suspended by the Hokies.
Aaron Cash and Jalen Johnson also join the Ags as transfers, but Buzz Williams announced in his first radio show that Johnson will be lost for the year after suffering a torn ACL. Texas A&M is Johnson’s fourth stop in his playing career, having spent time at Louisiana-Lafayette and Saint Louis before spending last year at Mississippi State. Cash previously played at Saint Augustine University and Grayson College, averaging 15.3 points per game and shooting over 45% from 3 and 47% from the field last season at Grayson.
Sophomore power forward Henry Coleman joins the Aggies after playing in 19 games for the Duke Blue Devils last season. Coleman will be joined in the paint by Ethan Henderson and Javonte Brown.
The Aggies also welcome 4 true freshman to the program - point guard Wade Taylor IV from Lancaster, Davin Watkins from Nolensville, Tennessee, Ashton Smith of Spring, and Manny Obaseki from Allen. Obaseki, an athletic and explosive combo guard, is the most highly-touted member of the incoming class. He was rated as the 33rd best player nationally in the 2021 class. Taylor is a true point guard who scores and facilitates. He was rated as the 18th best point guard of last year’s senior class. Smith is a 6’9” center who was rated as the 33rd best player at his position. Watkins is a little-known combo guard who shows good range from beyond the arc.
The roster turnover as well as significant changes in the coaching staff and overall basketball philosophy will create a team that looks very different from what Aggie basketball fans have seen over the last 17 or 18 years. The Aggies are expected to play a much more guard-oriented, fast paced, free flowing style that fits more within Williams’s style. Within this new offensive system, the Aggies are looking to improve the perimeter shooting woes that have plagued the team over the past 3 years. Williams has also indicated that the defensive approach has changed as well, but it remains to be seen what that style looks like.