In 2011 Texas Tech basketball fans got a new coach. In 2012 they will get a new team.
Coach Billy Gillispie is bringing in a very large and talented recruiting class. Last year's roster contained only one senior. Moreover, bigs Kader Tapsoba and Dejan Kravic redshirted, while promising off guard Toddrick Gotcher sat most of the season with injuries.
What this amounts to is a dramatic roster overhaul in order to get to the NCAA mandated limit of 12 scholarship players. Jaron Nash has already announced his intent to transfer to another program, and he is merely the leading edge of what will turn into a mass exodus.
When all is said and done the only scholarship returnees from the 2012 team will probably be forwards Jordan Tolbert and Jaye Crockett. Walkons Clark Lammert and Luke Adams will also presumably return.
The incoming recruiting class will add the following players: Trency Jackson, Wannah Bail, Aaron Ross, Michael Carey, Dusty Hannahs, Jamal Williams, Rodrigo Silva, and Daylen Robinson. It is also highly likely that Gillispie will add Josh Gray to the fold within a week.
Of those recruits, there is speculation that Dusty Hannahs will pay his own way and thus will not count against the scholarship limit, while Michael Carey will not make the grade academically. It those hypotheses are correct, Tech will have a 12-man scholarship roster of Jordan Tolbert, Jaye Crockett, Kader Tapsoba, Dejan Kravic, Toddrick Gotcher, Trency Jackson, Wannah Bail, Aaron Ross, Jamal Williams, Rodrigo Silva, Daylen Robinson and Josh Gray.
On the roster but not counting against the scholarship limit will be Clark Lammert, Luke Adams and Dusty Hannahs.
Complicating matters are persistent academic questions surrounding Bail and Ross. Should that duo not qualify, it would open doors for the likes of Javarez Willis and Ty Nurse to remain in the program. For the purposes of this piece, however, we will project that Bail and Ross qualify.
Texas Tech's 2012 backcourt will feature Gotcher, Jackson, Williams, Robinson, Hannahs and Gray. Jackson and Robinson are true point guards, while Gotcher and Hannas are true off guards. Williams, at six-foot-four, will probably be the group's stopper, while the six-foot-one Gray is a lead guard who can handle, dish, shoot and create his own shot. There is some Allen Iverson to his game.
This backcourt will have everything except height. There is quickness, there is outside accuracy, there is defensive ability and there is floor generalship. You can be certain that 20-turnover games will be a rarity in 2012.
Up front the Red Raiders will roll with Tolbert, Crockett, Tapsoba, Kravic, Bail, Ross and Silva. Tapsoba, Kravic and Silva are in the six-foot-10, six-foot-11 range, while Bail, Ross, Tobert and Crockett are all six-foot-seven.
On the whole, this frontcourt will be long and slender. Only Tobert and Ross are bruising presences. But the athleticism will be off the graph. Tolbert, Crockett and Bail are springy players who could put on a real show on the fast break with the likes of Jackson, Robinson and Gray feeding them the rock. Think some of Denny Crum's vintage Louisville teams from the 80s.
Tapsoba has the rep of a shot-blocker, while Kravic has excellent all-around skill, and Silva is a good shooter who could draw opposing bigs away from the tin the way Andy Ellis used to.
But where Billy Gillispie will love this entire team is on defense. He will be able to send waves of disruptive, quick-handed guards out to pressure and confound the perimeter, while shutting down interior passing lanes with long-armed forwards and centers. Getting shots up against the Red Raiders won't be easy either with Tapsoba, Crockett and Kravic patrolling the box and baseline.
With the depth and talent Gillispie will be able to field next season, the United Spirit Arena, a 15,000-seat tomb in recent years, could become a charnel for visitors expecting to feast on the usual Lubbock creampuffs.