Hop's Hoops Thoughts

The Texas Aggie basketball team has gotten off to a quick 2-0 start heading into a critical week at Madison Square Garden. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a look back at the win over Southern and provides his insights and analysis of what he's seen on the court so far.

The Aggies will always match-up well with undersized teams like Southern. David Loubeau is unstoppable posted up on offense against any defender 6-foot-8 or under. So it's no surprise that A&M jumped out to an early lead and never looked back by pounding the paint and taking advantage of the size and athleticism advantage.

Let me quickly step back and talk about the return of head coach Billy Kennedy. I watched him closely on the bench and during the timeout breaks, and I'll be honest with you that I was a little surprised. I'll be the first to say I know very little about Parkinson's, but I was under the perception that the disease had very little outward symptoms in its early stages and that very well may be the case. But I thought Kennedy was very subdued and seemed to move slower and stiffer than when I saw him in the summer at practice. I'm not going to speculate on the future, and his demeanor on the sideline bench may have more to do with his first game back and not being with the team much than it is a result of his disease.

Anyway, here's my list of things I liked from today's game, and things that concerned me from today's game.

Things I Liked

1) The biggest storyline so far in this early part of the season is the development and emergence of Ray Turner. I first saw Turner at A&M's Elite Camp three years ago and he was a relative unknown at the time. There was a who's - who of post players at this event including Tobi Oyedeji, Andrew Fitzgerald (OU starter), and several other four-star prospects. Someone on the A&M staff came over and asked me what I thought of the posts and who I liked. I told him the best athlete bar none was Ray Turner and that while he was raw who had very little AAU experience that he'd be the best of the bunch once the light bulb went off and he learned how to play the game.

Well ladies and gentlemen, Turner has now learned how to play the game. The new staff has worked on his conditioning and he's faster, quicker, and most importantly it looks like the game has slowed down for him. He's ready for quick passes from Dash Harris and Jamal Branch. He can now do more than monster dunks in transition, and he's more consistent with his mid-range jumper. Now, I still want to see how he handles playing against more athletic defenders and more height, but if he holds his composure and can still do his thing, he has a chance to be a special player. On Sunday he had another 20 point game along with a team high 8 rebounds.

2) Guards, guards, and more guards. The Aggies have been guard deficient in terms of ability and depth. But adding Elston Turner, Jamal Branch, and Jordan Green to the mix has suddenly made this a very deep group capable of dishing, driving, and scoring. Turner has proven to be more valuable and more productive than we thought after he transferred as a sharpshooter with limited game. While he's not super quick and not the best ballhandler, he does have a physical game and can navigate a crowd in the paint to reach the bucket, draw the foul, or pull-up for a mid-range jumper. He finished with 11 points with only one three-pointer so he's finding other ways to score. Jamal Branch is the type of point guard this program has been needing since Acie Law graduated four years ago. He simply creates easy baskets for his teammates and can score in the paint and around the basket, something last year's team could not do from the guard position. I'll warn you now. He'll have some turnovers in New York next week as the level of competition increases and he'll be seeing stars at MSG, but by conference he'll be A&M's best point guard and it won't be close. Jordan Green has a very quick, smooth outside shot and with his height at the guard spot he'll have a easy time getting his shot off. He plays faster on the offensive end than I thought he would this season.

3) The Blue Ox (Kourtney Roberson) continues to produce in the paint coming off the bench. He's a great compliment to Turner and Loubeau. Roberson scored 12 points in just 15 minutes along with six rebounds. He's not fancy or flashy, but he does the dirty work that must be done.

Things I Didn't Like

1) I thought the defensive intensity and the defensive aggressiveness was lacking much of the game. Of course, that happens when you jump out to a 20-point lead in the first 10 minutes of the game. Still, for a system that stresses pressure and is supposed to create turnovers, the Aggies only caused 11 turnovers and gave up more assists (14) which is troubling against an inferior opponent. On the flip side, A&M suffered more turnovers (14) than assists (13). That's surprising given the influx of guards on the team, but you have to understand that play will turn sloppy with a 30 point lead. Still, that's something that should be closely monitored in New York.

2) As much as I like the offensive production of Elston Turner and Jordan Green, I'm still uncertain about the duo's foot speed on defense. Will they be quick enough to guard a quality high D-1 guard? I'm not sure yet. I thought both guards were a bit lazy with the footwork and allowed the Southern guards to gain penetration on the first level and kicking it out to an open 3-point shooter.

3) We've been waiting for Naji Hibbert to turn the corner and develop into a productive guard, but I'm still not seeing it from him. He's a pretty good rebounder for a guard, but when you score two points and don't even create one assist in 19 minutes of play, you have to wonder what his role in going to be with the infusion of Turner, Branch, and Green. His defense is slighty better than Turner and Green, but not better enough to take the big hit on offense.


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