Unlike college football, college basketball is a sport where one player can turn a program around, elevate it from obscurity to glory. Georgetown's Patrick Ewing is a prime example. So is David Robinson of Navy.
Texas Tech never landed that one basketball immortal to lead the Red Raiders to the promised land, but it came very close on several occasions. Indeed, in the 1980s Tech came within a whisker of landing several hoops superstars, and did so again when Bob Knight was hired.
Alas, the breakthrough never happened, but it's fun to fantasize what might have become of Red Raider basketball if Tech had been able to sign any of the following players.
Clyde Drexler: Everybody knows who Clyde "The Glide" Drexler is nowadays. An All American superstar for the University of Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma teams, and later named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, Drexler is one of modern basketball's greatest luminaries. He wasn't always so ballyhooed.
Drexler was an obscurity at Houston Sterling high school where he was recruited by New Mexico State, Houston and Texas Tech. And the Cougars would not have offered Drexler a scholarship had not fellow recruit Michael Young told Houston coach Guy V. Lewis that Drexler was the greatest player he had ever faced.
But Houston did offer, and Drexler, wanting to stay close to home and play with Young, signed with the Coogs. How different college basketball history would have been if Young hadn't whispered the name Clyde Drexler in Guy Lewis' ear.
Larry Johnson: Texas Tech has never signed a McDonald's All American, but came very close with Dallas Skyline's Larry Johnson in 1987. The powerful six-foot-six forward who went on to superstardom at UNLV and in the NBA, narrowed his choices to SMU and Texas Tech before rejecting the Red Raiders, supposedly because he feared flying.
Johnson was academically ineligible to play for SMU, however, and signed with Odessa College where he earned JUCO All American honors and thereafter signed with Jerry Tarkanian's Runnin' Rebels. Johnson led UNLV to a national championship in 1990. Could he have accomplished something similar at Texas Tech?
Mookie Blaylock: Former Texas Tech head coach Gerald Myers always recruited the DFW metroplex hard, and he very nearly landed a stellar talent in Garland's Daron "Mookie" Blaylock in 1985 following Tech's Southwest Conference championship season.
It looked as thought the ballhawking point guard was going to sign with Tech until academic difficulties derailed his plans. Instead, Blaylock went to Midland College where he earned JUCO All America honors alongside future Tech guard Todd Duncan. Blaylock then signed with Billy Tubbs at the University of Oklahoma.
Blaylock led the Sooners to the 1988 national title game where they fell to Danny Manning and the Kansas Jayhawks.
Taken with the twelfth pick of the 1989 draft by the New Jersey Nets, Blaylock soon established himself as one of the league's premiere point guards. Blaylock scored almost 12,000 points in his NBA career and racked up over 2,000 steals.
Emeka Okafor: Tech's most recent brush with recruiting greatness came amid the hoopla of Bob Knight's hiring as coach of the Red Raiders in 2001. The publicity, bordering on hysteria, was beyond immense, and Knight very nearly capitalized by swooping in and snatching six-foot-10 center Emeka Okafor from the Connecticut Huskies.
After all the flirtations and last-minute entreaties, however, Okafor signed with the Huskies and led them to a national championship in 2004. After being selected No.2 in the NBA draft by Charlotte, Okafor earned Rookie of the Year honors and is still a mainstay in the league.
In a bit of irony, Okafor idolized Clyde Drexler as a youngster growing up in Houston.
Herb Johnson: In the recruiting season of 1981 Gerald Myers notched a recruiting coup when he signed Midland College JUCO All America forward Charles Johnson. He missed out, however, on Johnson's younger brother Herb, a six-foot-10 forward who starred at Midland High. Herb jarred Myers by signing with Nolan Richardson's Tulsa Golden Hurricanes instead.
This scenario became a nightmare for Myers as he eventually kicked Charles Johnson off the time while Herb Johnson flourished at Tulsa, leading the Hurricanes to an NIT title in 1981, and NCAA tournament berths in '82, '83 and '84. Johnson is among Tulsa's top five in rebounds, top 10 in steals and top 15 in scoring. And although he never played a game in the NBA after being selected in the third round, he continues to play professional basketball in Europe at the young age of 49.