Billy Gillispie did not waste any time in making a splash after being hired at Texas Tech. The former Texas A&M and Kentucky head coach retained all five freshmen recruits that signed letters of intent back in November; a rare feat for a struggling program that introduces a new head coach. Gillispie also added three talented junior college players and another freshman, making a grand total of nine newcomers this season.
The influx of talent is needed as Texas Tech loses five of its top six scorers to graduation and saw two players transfer out of the program. Center Robert Lewandowski is the only returning starter and just one of two seniors on the team. He is recovering from a broken collarbone suffered during the Big 12 Tournament but should be 100 percent for the start of camp. Theron Jenkins is the other senior but was forced to take a medical redshirt last season due to a leg fracture.
Sophomore Jaye Crockett figures to see a bigger role in the frontcourt after being one of the top reserves a year ago, and from there the picture is unclear especially with the transfer of Paul Cooper. Kader Tapsoba and Daouda Soumaoro bring length and athleticism in the middle behind Lewandowski. Junior college transfer Jaron Nash will bring versatility to the forward spot while freshmen Jordan Tolbert and Hershey Robinson will also compete for minutes in the frontcourt.
Mike Davis and Javarez Willis are the only returning players in the backcourt. Willis will be the favorite to start at the point although he will be pushed by newcomers Kevin Wagner and Ty Nurse.
Davis has been battling nagging foot injuries since last season which could be reason for concern. Luckily, Utah transfer Marshall Henderson becomes eligible this season after sitting out the 2010-11 campaign per NCAA rules. Henderson should provide some offense as he was second on the Utes in scoring as a freshman. Terran Petteway is an explosive athlete who could be a major contributor on the wing in his first season while Toddrick Gotcher provides insurance in case Davis cannot stay healthy.
If my math is correct, Texas Tech's roster is currently over the NCAA limit of 13 scholarship players which means something has to give. Either way, Gillispie has some work to do in his first season in Lubbock. With nine newcomers, there will certainly be plenty of growing pains this season, but the future of the program should be in good hands with Gillispie having plenty of recruiting ties within the state.
Player to Watch: Jaron Nash, F
There is not a lot of star power with the returning Red Raiders, meaning several of the newcomers will have to step onto the scene and make their presence felt. Of that group, Nash is the most likely to do so after averaging 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game at Tyler Junior College where he played alongside fellow newbie, Kader Tapsoba. Gillispie said Nash can "handle the ball like a point guard" which makes him an intriguing prospect. He chose Texas Tech after having strong interest from other major conference teams like Marquette, Auburn, DePaul, Northwestern, Washington State and California.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/24, 25, 27 vs. Minnesota, Arizona State, DePaul, Wake Forest, Dayton, Fairfield (Old Spice Classic)