Foundation Laid, Pride Restored

Texas Tech basketball coach Tubby Smith inherited a moribund program and made an immediate impact, but he couldn't have done it without his players buying in, coming together and turning the corner. Wins over Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas brought some respectability back to the program and helped land what is expected to be a good 2014 class of recruits.

Going into the 2013-14 season, it was common knowledge the Red Raiders didn't have the raw basketball talent to hang with the Big 12's big boys, or even its middling members.

Perusing Tech's roster, few are the players who received significant recruiting attention from major conference programs.

Dejan Kravic was considered a decent prospect when he signed with Tech. Toddrick Gotcher had offers from Southern Cal, West Virginia and Baylor. Tech beat out Tennessee and LSU for the services of Randy Onwuasor. Alex Foster was recruited by several Big Ten schools, along with Auburn and Tennessee. And Aaron Ross, perhaps the most lauded of Tech recruits, had offers from Arkansas and Alabama.

But as far as recruits who were on many radar screens go, that was about it for the Red Raiders. Jaye Crockett, the teams' best player, was a virtual unknown, in large part because he played his high school ball in eastern New Mexico. Starting point guard Robert Turner, another New Mexico prospect of sorts, was recruited by virtually nobody other than Tech, and a similar statement could be made about Jordan Tolbert, Dusty Hannahs, Jamal Williams and Kader Tapsoba.

Compare the renown of the Red Raiders with that of most other Big 12 teams and there just isn't much of a comparison to be made.

Having said that, it is clear that Tubby Smith and his staff got this group to play together about as well as it was capable of as a team, and a few individual players had nice seasons.

Crockett, who earned third team All-Big 12 honors, was Tech's lone consistent offensive threat. He was also a high-energy, slashing, acrobatic player whose dynamic dunks often catalyzed the team and rallied the rowdies in the USA.

Crockett was actually en route to an even better season than he had when stricken by tendonitis in the knees. As Crockett's play deteriorated, the Red Raiders, not coincidentally, went into a funk that saw them lose seven of their last eight games. In one place or another, Crockett will play professional basketball.

Kravic blossomed under Tubby Smith to become a solid interior player, although his points per game average actually declined from nine to seven during his senior year. His free throw shooting improved, however, as did his general toughness as a player. Kravic's problem had been a lack of aggressiveness and willingness to fight for rebounds and loose balls. Under Smith, Kravic became a much more competitive player, in addition to being a nice shot blocker and interior passer.

Tolbert is what he is. And what he is ideally suited for is to be an interior role player. Tolbert is not dynamic enough to be a consistent scorer against Big 12 competition, and his tendency to commit silly fouls limits his utility on defense. But as he showed this past season, Tolbert can be an effective rebounder, and he can provide the occasional burst of offense in the paint. On a more talented team, Tolbert's role would be limited to those areas. Playing for Tech, however, he has had to shoulder a bigger burden than he is capable of.

Point guard Turner was actually a pleasant surprise to most. Despite the fact that he is not a true one, Turner managed to kick in nine points per game (third best on the team), a team-leading 2.6 assists per game, and a team best 1.3 steals per game. By the end of the season, Turner was Tech's best defensive guard.

Dusty Hannahs was the team's designated shooter and he did manage to knock down 37 percent of his 3-point attempts, and 92 percent of his free throws. Unfortunately, he only took 3.5 attempts from deep per game, and shot a mere 65 free throws over the course of the season. If Hannahs is unable to free himself up for more looks, or to develop a more effective mid-range game, his utility to the team is very limited. Either Hannahs will morph into a better weapon, or he will vanish from future rotations.

Toddrick Gotcher showed signs of becoming a nice utility player, but his overall productivity diminished down the stretch. He is capable of scoring in transition, rebounding very well for a 6-foot-4 player, distributing the rock, and defending on the ball. Gotcher does, however, need to improve his basketball IQ. And again, ideally, he is a spot role player rather than one of your key guys.

Seniors Tapsoba and Williams were role players, as were true freshmen Foster, Ross and Onwuasor. Tapsoba, with his quick, strong hands, was occasionally an effective defender, while Williams sometimes improved the flow of Tech's offense. All three freshmen gave indication that they will ultimately emerge as solid role players, at the very least, over the course of their collegiate careers.

Raider Power Top Stories