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One-on-One: Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. -- Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy sat down with Scout to discuss the depth of his current team, his mix of senior leadership and freshman, as well as his in-state recruiting success.

Evan Daniels: Practice started two weeks ago, what are your initial thoughts on your 2015-2016 team?

Billy Kennedy: We have 11 guys on scholarship and 11 good players. We have seven guys that have good experience and have all played major minutes for us. With the four seniors and the other three guys, then the four freshman have been really good for us on a daily basis. They’ve done a really good job of following the seniors and upperclassmen and not having the mentality that they have to have 20 and 10 for us to win. That’s been the best part about it.

Is this the deepest time you’ve had?

By far, here. We feel like we can put any of those guys on the floor and they can help us win games. Last year we didn’t have enough depth and it hurt us at the end and hurt us throughout the season.

You have your top three scorers back and they are all seniors, how much are relying on those guys to mentor your freshman?

A lot. At this level in college basketball, to have four seniors, and four seniors that started majority of their career is something different and I think special. Getting them to have fun with it and not putting too much pressure on themselves is one of my concerns. Just to have the practices shorter and we are able to take advantage of some things that senior teams are able to do and it doesn’t always happen in college basketball.

With the addition of Anthony Collins, how much will that help Alex Caruso, now that he can slide over to his more natural off ball position?

On special situations it’s going to help him. I think Alex Carisuo will be a better scorer than he’s been. He’ll shoot the ball bettrer and he won’t have to be concerned with getting us into the offense every possession.

You put together a top 10 freshman class. Which one of these freshman can be the most impactful for you?

I don’t know. They all bring something different. D.J. Hogg is one of the best shooters I’ve ever coached and that’s over a number of years now. He’s a weapon when he walks on the court. Admon Gilder is a better defender and one of our best defenders. He can score. He led us in scoring on the trip to Europe when we didn’t have Danuel House. Then you have the two big kids in Tyler Davis and Elijah [Thomas] that give us something different together. I look at them as being the two headed monster with them playing the five and subbing for each other and at times we can play them together.

Has Gilder been a surprise or even better than you expected?

We thought he was that good. When you win two state championships and the third you get to the semi-finals and score the points he scored, I thought he was a little bit maybe undervalued nationally in publications. As a coach he does things to help you win and he can score a lot of different ways. He’s steady. Everyday we get something good out of him.

Looking at your roster 14 of the 16 guys are out of Texas, what has been your key to recruiting the state so well?

Time. It’s taken us time to develop a relationship with all four of those guys that got up on our campus, some of them as freshman, sophomore and juniors and now this last year their senior year. We developed relationships here at Texas A&M. If we get kids on campus then we should have a chance to get them because of our facilities and our academic reputation is as good as anybody’s in the country.

You’re in the living room of a top target, what’s your recruiting pitch?

Just the A&M network. There isn’t a better alumni base in the country, when you look at the thousands that we have that are part of the A&M support system. When you get a degree and become an Aggie, you’re an Aggie for life. It’s a proven place that Aggies help Aggies and the network puts people in good jobs and helps people throughout their lives. That’s what makes this place more special than any place I’ve ever been.

It seems like recruiting in the SEC has picked up. You all had a top 10 recruiting, LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State picked things up what do you attribute that to?

I just think our league is getting recognized. I think we have good coaches. I really don’t know why. We are new in the league and it’s been an adjustment for us, because I think most of the state of Texas kids identify with the Big 12. Our football team having as much success as they have the past few years has really helped out our basketball team because these kids are excited to come on our campus because of the success they’ve had.

It doesn’t seem like going to the SEC has really changed your recruiting mentality…

It really hasn’t. We think we can be a Big 12 team in the SEC. We are balanced, not just all athletes. To have some big bodies, thicker with more of a grind and have guys that can shoot the ball. We think we’ve gotten our roster where we want it to be in this league.

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