clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Aggie Hoops Preview, Part 1 - The Returners

Let’s start our deep dive into Aggie basketball with a look at those from last year’s campaign who will rejoin the Aggies in 2023-24

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament Semifinals - Texas A&M vs Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As the dawn of a new college basketball season rapidly approaches, the Texas A&M men’s team enters the season with the highest optimism that the program has arguably seen in 12 years. You would have to go back to 2017 to find an Aggie men’s team ranked in the preseason and back to 2011 to find the Ags ranked in both preseason polls. This year, we’ll do a multi-part preview looking at who returns from last year’s squad, who has left for other oppotutnities, the newcomers, and a breakdown of the schedule and expectations. We begin our 2023-24 season preview with a look at the returning members of last year’s squad.

The most prevalent reason for enthusiasm around this team is the sheer quantity and quality of returning talent from a squad that finished the year 25-10 with a 15-3 record in SEC play. Texas A&M will return 8 of 14 members from last year’s squad who saw any playing time. And this is an experience veteran core of returning players - only 1 of the 8 players from last year is a sophomore. On the other side, the departure of almost 43% of your roster may be a troubling sign. However, looking at the production associated with each player paints a very different picture. This chart that shows that the Aggies will return no less at 70.5% of their 2022-23 production in any major statistical category with the 8 players from last season who remain on the roster this season.

Returning Production for 2023-34

Categtory % of 2022-23 Production Returning
Categtory % of 2022-23 Production Returning
Minutes Played 76.20%
Total Points 82.10%
Field Goals Made 81.60%
Three Pointers Made 70.50%
Free Throws Made 87.20%
Rebounds 78.70%
Assists 77.70%
Steals 79.10%
Blocks 72.00%

As the continuity around A&M basketball has continued to build, Buzz Williams has shown that he can deliver quality results by keeping “his kind of guys” around the program. And this roster is currently stacked with them.

#4 Wade Taylor IV - Junior Point Guard

Last season, Wade Taylor asserted himself as one of the preeminent do-everything guards in the conference, but it’s always a bit jarring to see an Aggie get accolades on the hardwood. So it was honestly a bit of a surprise to hear that Taylor was named the SEC Preseason Player of the Year. However, the award was highly deserved when you look at Taylor’s production from last season while facing the best defensive perimeter players in the conference. After earning first-team All-SEC honors a year ago, Wade will look to take his resume to another level.

Taylor finished last year averaging 16.2 points, 3.9 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.7 steals in 28.7 minutes per game. He also had a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. He did all of this while shooting 39.6% from the floor and leading the team in 3PT% at 35.6% and the conference in FT% at 87.8%. Among the SEC, Taylor was 4th in scoring, 6th in assist, and 7th in steals. And the advanced metrics look even better, where he was 10th in true shooting in the SEC, 5th in box +/-, 9th in player efficiency, and 5th in win shares. Make no mistake, Wade Taylor is the catalyst for the Aggies, and they will not meet or exceed their performance of last season without him.

#23 Tyrece “Boots” Radford - Graduate Guard

Somehow, this will be Boots Radford’s third and final season in Aggieland. If it seems like he’s been here for five years, that’s no unreasonable considering that this will be Radford’s fifth season in college basketball after spending a year and a half at Virginia Tech. And yet, you can’t help feeling like that time at VT robbed Aggie fans of valuable time with a player whose hardworking hustle-and-grind approach to the game fit so seamlessly with the program. When Radford announced in May that he was coming back for his fifth year, it was a welcome relief for fans and the declaration of intent for unfulfilled goals for Boots.

Radford’s 2022-23 campaign saw him earn second team All-SEC honors with 13.3 points, 5.3 boards, 2.4 assists, and 0.9 steals in 31.2 minutes per game. Not only was Boots among the team leaders in rebounding for the Aggies, he was also the best leading rebounder in the country for players 6’2” or under. Radford shot 38.6% from the field, 31.3% from 3, and 79.6% from the line. While Radford plays an important part offensively and on the glass, he will continue to carry the important elder-statesman role, especially with the departure of Andre Gordon.

#34 Julius Marble - Senior Forward

Julius Marble transferred to Texas A&M last season to fill a dire need for a traditional back-to-the-basket presence on the interior, and his contributions were immediate and significant. The 6’9” Marble took over the starting center spot in the seventh game of the season after a strong showing at the Myrtle Beach Invitational and held the starting role for the remainder of the year. Marble is a strong offensive presence inside who primarily uses physicality to create space, but he has shown a nice mid-range touch to complement his interior play. While his sturdy frame cuts an imposing figure, Marble isn’t a tremendous shot blocker and doesn’t clean the defensive boards the way you would expect. Marble finished last year averaging 9.1 points, 4.1 rebounds in 20.8 minutes per game. The Aggies will hope to see continued improvement in Marble’s rebounding while relying on his interior scoring to keep defenders honest against A&M’s potent guards.

All of this is now complicated by the fact that Julius Marble is not with the team at the moment. At Texas A&M’s team media day, Buzz Williams announced that Marble is not permitted to join the team or participate in team activities due to a “university process.” While I don’t want to speculate too much, the phrasing would indicate that this is most likely not a legal issue. The term “university process” points in the direction of an academic situation that may not be able to be disclosed under FERPA, but that could also be a wide variety of things including a possible Title IX situation. Regardless, the A&M coaching staff is almost certainly hoping for an expedient resolution to the situation because Marble stands to be a crucial piece for the Ags this season if he is able to return.

#15 Henry Coleman III - Senior Forward

Henry Coleman is the yin to Julius Marble’s yang. Coleman is a face-up offensive forward who has decent handles to take opposing bigs off the dribble, the athleticism to run the pick-and-roll to perfection, and the vision to find every soft spot in a zone. Henry has the ability to take over a game and punish defenses that don’t account for him, but his consistency seemed to be an issue in the second half of the SEC slate last year. Coleman delivered several pedestrian efforts on the offensive end down the stretch but was buoyed by his rebounding, defensive agility, and quick hands that create a surprising number of steals for a combo-forward. Henry finished the year averaging 9.0 points and 5.7 rebounds in 27.1 minutes per game. Coleman’s rebounding was second on the team to Dexter Dennis, and he hit 53.2% of his field goal attempts and 70.8% of his free throws. A&M hopes to see Coleman improve his offensive presence and consistency while filling some of the defensive and rebounding void left by Dennis’s graduation.

#35 Manny Obaseki - Junior Guard

If you’re looking for a breakout player on this roster, Manny Obaseki is a prime candidate to watch. MO, as he affectionately known, was hindered last season by a broken hand that sidelined him for 15 games starting with the second game of conference play. Until the time of his injury, Obaseki was averaging almost 7 points per game in just under 17 minutes. After Manny returned from the injury, it was obvious that he struggled to find his form. But a new season brings new promise and a tremendous opportunity for the exceptionally athletic junior. The Aggies hope to see MO evolve as a scorer and assert himself on the offensive end by using his lightning quickness to attack the rim but also to create separation for open looks on the perimeter. Obaseki is a quality shooter who hit 42.9% of his shots from the field and 75% of his attempts from the line. Manny will most likely be the first backcourt player off the bench, but he could find his way into the starting rotation if the none of the newcomers are able to firmly establish themselves as a primary option. The tools and potential are all there for Manny to take a major step forward, but the key will be Obaseki’s ability to find a consistent offensive rhythm and become a reliable scoring option.

#2 Hayden Hefner - Senior Guard

It may seem like the most tired trope of college basketball - the white guy who comes of the bench as a three point shooting specialist. However, Hayden Hefner has become an important role player for the Aggies over the past three seasons. His ability to hit big shots from beyond the arc has put the brakes on many opponents’ surges, sealed victories in the second half, and brought the Aggie crowds to life at critical junctures. Hefner’s perimeter shooting has been a ballast to A&M teams that have struggled to score from deep. In 2022-23, Hayden average 3.4 points in 10.9 minutes per game while shooting 41.4% from the field and 35.2% from three. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a slight uptick in Hefner’s numbers this season as he looks to play a more significant role and fill some of the hole left by the Aggies’ perimeter departures.

#13 Solomon Washington - Sophomore Forward

If Manny Obaseki is the leading contender for breakout returning player this season, Solomon Washington is the stalking horse in the race. Washington’s long frame and unbridled leaping ability make him a potent shot blocker. He has great quickness and a seemingly endless energy. Solo, as he is known, averaged 3.2 points and 2.5 boards in 12.1 minutes per game last season. However, he finished second on the team in blocks with 16. Washington’s freakish athleticism was also on display as he contributed several highlight reel dunks. Now A&M hopes that he can take his contributions to the next level and become a more consistent presence.

#11 Andersson Garcia - Senior Forward

Andersson Garcia’s impact won’t always have his name affixed to it in the box score, but if the Aggies win, it is more than likely that Andy made a critical contribution. Despite a slow start to the season in 2022, Garcia hit is stride in late January and averaged more than 20 minutes per game in the final 16 games of the season. He quickly became a fan favorite for feisty play as well as his intelligence. He may not have the athleticism of Washington or Obaseki, but Andy’s basketball IQ is exceptional. Garcia finished last season averaging 3.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in 16.5 minutes per game, and he can easily exceed those numbers this year.