It's year two of the Turgeon era, and expectations are high that Texas A&M can reload in what looks to be one of the toughest conferences and divisions in all of college basketball. On Thursday Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon met with media to talk about his team and the season.
"Year two is always a little bit easier than the first year," Turgeon said. "I think I was trying to just figure everything out last year. I'm excited about this year; we've worked hard, we've stayed relatively healthy, we've had a good spring, a good summer, and a good fall."
The basketball program has come a long ways in this decade, but the Aggies have yet to advance beyond the Sweet 16 in the tournament, including a difficult loss last year to UCLA in round 2. Turgeon said his team has worked hard, however, to ensure that Texas A&M will not settle for its current status.
"We're still a little upset at the way our season ended last year," Turgeon said. "We thought we let one get away. Our guys have had a pretty good chip on their shoulder, working throughout the summer."
A&M will have to replace 4 seniors, as Joseph Jones, Dominique Kirk, and Beau Muhlbach were all lost to graduation and DeAndre Jordan entered the NBA draft. Therefore, the experience leadership position on the team falls on Josh Carter, who has made strides in the off-season to ensure that he can be effective as a leader.
"If you know anything about Josh, he's a quiet person," Turgeon said. "But he's a smart kid. He tries really hard. We've only had one practice so far that wasn't good, and he really tried to get after the guys and to encourage them to practice harder. He's done a nice job in the locker room."
"The thing where Josh is doing a tremendous job is with his work ethic. He's been really driven since his season ended last year. I think you will see a big change in his game whether its dribbling, passing, or shooting the ball the way he did his sophomore season. He's led in a couple different ways. I've been very pleased with Josh."
Josh and the rest of the Aggies will have a hard run to the tournament this year, as the Big 12 South looks loaded with talent, coaching, and experience. Coach Turgeon believes that this exposure is good for the conference, but that the Big 12 south title can be taken by any team.
"Well first, I thought the league was so good last year, we had two teams in the Elite 8," Turgeon said. "The depth was pretty good last year. I think this year's league, which will be more exciting for the fans, will be more wide open. The depth of the South [in particular] is kind of scary. I think if you win the league in the South this year, you've had one heck of a year."
"Oklahoma, obviously is going to be really good, Texas I think is going to be great again, Baylor has got everyone back but one, and they've tasted [success] now, they're going to have a great season, Oklahoma St, new coach with good players, and Pat [Knight] is excited about his team and I'm excited about my team. I was looking through the commitments and 23 of the top 150 [commits] in 2009 were going to the Big 12 and 17 of those were going to the South, so the South is going to continue to be good."
To compete in this league, Turgeon must get production out of his point guard position. At times, point guard play was a liability for Texas A&M, who still have not found a true replacement for Acie Law. Donald Sloan has been working point guard duties for the past year, but someone who has a chance to come in and help right away is true freshman Dash Harris.
"I think Dash [has come very far along]. Dash is a pass-first point guard," Turgeon said. "He's really fast, a very good defender, he's going to help us tremendously. Yesterday in practice alone he had 11 assists and one turnover. We're trying to change the way we play, we're trying to play faster. We weren't able to that last year, and Dash is going to help us do it, we just have to have some people run with him."
"I love [Dash's] decision making. He's a great on ball defender. He's going to help us. He's going to be a great part of our rotation," Added Turgeon, "He's a winner."
Dash will be asked to be a winner from day one, but high praise from his coach should make Aggie fans optimistic that they can make a strong run at the Big 12 title in one of the toughest years in the conference's history.
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