Commentary: A&M Poised For More Success

Besides saying goodbye to the NCAA tournament following a wrenching 65-64 loss to Memphis in a South Region semifinal, Texas A&M now also says goodbye to dynamic leader Acie Law IV, Antanas Kavaliauskas and Marlon Pompey, three seniors who have helped recreate the program and rescued it from the ashes. But despite the trio's departure, look for the Aggies to remain a solid contender.

There are a number of reasons why the Aggies are now poised to join the nation's elite, and it begins at the top with Billy Gillispie, who turned around the University of Texas-El Paso program before continuing his magic at A&M. It took only three years to transform an 0-16 Big 12 conference record into a game where the team fell just one point shy of reaching its first Elite Eight.

The Aggies also possess a nice blend of veteran leadership with a dash of talented young players. A&M started two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore this past season on the way to a 27-7 record.

Next year's team will feature seniors Joseph Jones and Dominique Kirk along with junior sharpshooter Josh Carter. Bryan Davis earned some minutes and contributed during the tournament and will be a sophomore. Donald Sloan also enters his sophomore season and the Seagoville product proved under the glare of tournament lights that he is poised to take the baton from Law.

Gillispie warned that it is way too early to project Sloan as the next Law, but look for Sloan to have every opportunity to quarterback the team. Plenty of pressure at the position will come from incoming freshman B.J. Holmes, a 5-11 point from Alief Hastings.

Then there is Gillispie's signature recruiting coup with 6-10 post DeAndre Brown of Christian Life Center Academy coming to Aggieland. Among the programs that A&M beat out for the services of the imposing Brown was rival Texas.

Bryson Graham, a 6-2 shooting guard out of Lon Morris JC in Jacksonville, will add depth and experience from having played at a collegiate level.

While Tubby Smith's departure from Kentucky to the University of Minnesota is sure to kick-start the rumor mill and invoke Gillispie's name, any distractions will not impede a team ready to move forward and take the next step in the tournament.

With the talent already on hand and the infusion of a crop of heralded underclassmen, look for A&M to continue to be one of the major players on the national stage.

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