Aggies begin Turgeon era with nucleus

Mark Turgeon will officially begin his tenure as Texas A&M's head coach tonight at Reed Arena against McNeese State. He's trying to build on the momentum of the last three years, and he's got three veterans to lend a hand.

Never before have the Aggies entered a basketball season with so much momentum. Now Mark Turgeon just has to keep it going.

The good news for Turgeon is that the Aggies boast a nucleus of returning talent that has a list of accomplishments that have never been logged into an A&M record book before.

Seniors Joseph Jones and Dominique Kirk are already the winningest duo in school history, posting a 70-26 record in their first three years in Aggieland. With just 15 more wins in 2007-08, they'll help tie the school record for wins in a four year period (85-40 from 1978-82).

One of the biggest reasons for their success is a newfound home court advantage—which was non-existent during the first six years at Reed Arena, which has emerged as one of the top-three basketball venues in the Big 12.

In the Aggies first six years in the new arena, they were just 40-41. But things have changed.

The Aggies have won 23 of their last 24 home games, including 12 of their last 13 Big 12 games. The Aggies haven't lost a regular-season non-conference game at home since December 13, 2003 against A&M Corpus-Christi—a loss that was the beginning of the end for Melvin Watkins.

During Jones and Kirk's three-year career at A&M, the Aggies are 51-6 (.895) at Reed Arena. The two have teamed up with junior Josh Carter to post a 34-3 (.919) record at home over the past two seasons.

"We love playing at home in front of our fans," Carter said.

But it hasn't seemed to matter where the Aggies have played for Kirk and Carter, who have been lights out from three-point range.

The Aggies led the Big 12 and were second in the nation in three-point accuracy behind Kirk and Carter last year, hitting a school-record 42.2 percent of their shots.

A&M set another school record with 215 three-pointers as well, thanks in large part to Carter and Kirk. Former A&M All-American Acie Law is remembered for his last-second heroics from long-distance, with several memorable shots against Kansas and arch-rival Texas. But it was Kirk and Carter who combined for 132 three-pointers last year, with Law adding another 38 of his own.

The two have combined for 272 career three-pointers so far—more than any other tandem in school history.

Combine their ability to hit the outside shot with a front-court that is one of the biggest in the nation, and Turgeon it's clear why Turgeon accepted the job after turning down other offers in the past.

If Turgeon and the No. 14 Aggies return to the NCAA Tournament this year, Kirk, Jones and Carter would become the first Aggies to appear in three straight NCAA Tournaments. Jones and Kirk will also become the first class to take A&M to the post-season four years in a row (including NIT appearance in 2005).

Combine a fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament with another extremely talented class of incoming recruits, and the momentum may be even greater heading into 2008-09 for Turgeon and the Aggies.


MCNEESE GAME NOTES

TEXAS A&M'S PROJECTED STARTERS (exhibition stats)
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Cl.-Exp. PPG RPG APG
22 Dominique Kirk G 6-4 185 Sr-3L 8.5 3.0 3.0
15 Donald Sloan G 6-3 205 So-1L 7.0 4.5 --
23 Josh Carter F 6-7 200 Jr-2L 13.5 3.5 --
30 Joseph Jones F 6-9 255 Sr-3L 13.5 3.5 --
12 DeAndre Jordan C 7-0 255 Fr-Hs 9.0 6.0 2.0blk

MCNEESE STATE'S PROJECTED STARTERS (exhibition stats)
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Cl.-Exp. PPG RPG APG
10 John Ford G 5-10 152 Sr-3L 11.9 3.6 3.1
1 Rorey Lawrence G 6-6 185 Sr-1L 5.2 2.8 --
24 John Pichon F 6-6 212 Jr-2L 6.5 6.3 --
3 Jarvis Bradley F 6-6 210 Sr-2L 15.1 7.3 --
15 Kleon Penn C 6-11 285 Sr-1L 2.1 2.9 --

GAME NOTES
• The Aggies are 8-1 in home openers at Reed Arena and have won seven straight.
• A&M has won 34 straight regular-season non-conference home games since an 82-80 loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 2003-04.

ABOUT MCNEESE STATE
• The Cowboys went 15-17 last year and placed third in the Southland Conference with a 9-7 mark in their first season under Coach Dave Simmons.
• Simmons was an assistant coach at Northwestern State two years when NSU visited Reed Arena (a 73-61 A&M win). NSU finished 26-8 and advanced to the seocnd round of the NCAA Tournament that season.
• Simmons played at Louisiana Tech (1977-81), where he was teammates with Karl Malone.
• McNeese State lost its lone exhibition game to LSU-Shreveport (86-80). Senior forward Jarvis Bradley (6-6) led the Cowboys with 26 points in that game. Bradley was a second-team all-conference pick in 2006-07.
• McNeese Assistant Coach T.J. Marcum is a 2000 graduate of Texas A&M. He was a team manager as a student and served as A&M's director of basketball operations under Melvin Watkins in 2003-04.

SERIES NOTES
• The series is tied, 1-1, with each team winning at home. McNeese is visiting Reed Arena for the first time.
• The Aggies beat the Cowboys, 97-68, in College Station in 1994-95, but A&M dropped an 83-68 decision in Lake Charles in 1995-96.
• The Aggies are 105-36 all-time against members of the Southland Conference.




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