Texas Tech Interim coach Basketball

Post-Gillispie, Texas Tech looks better than expected

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I don’t think that there’s any argument that no college basketball program had a rougher offseason than Texas Tech.

Players revolted and administrators were forced to deal with the mess they brought onto themselves when they hired Billy Gillispie. Mass transfers, stories of player mistreatment — including one report of an eight-hour practice — and violent verbal outbursts were a few of the many problems Gillispie caused until he resigned in late September.

When he left, it wasn’t like he left the cupboard bare. Players like leading returning scorer Jordan Tolbert came back, along with Jaye Crockett.

So we all thought it wouldn’t be as bad as last season’s debacle.

Maybe we were right, but maybe we weren’t that right.

The Red Raiders are 5-0, playing three SWAC teams, a Division II opponent and a transition Division I team. Let’s remember that. But through these early-season cupcakes, Texas Tech is averaging 90.3 points per game, third in the nation. Not to mention, they’re pulling down 43 rebounds per game, 16th nationally. It’s also surrendering just 66 points per game.

Five Red Raiders are also averaging double-figure points, ranging from 14.7 ppg (Crockett) to 11.5 from Trency Jackson. That’s balance, homes, and interim coach Chris Walker should be commended for it.

Again it’s a small sample size against mediocre-to-poor teams, but most teams coming off the summer that Texas Tech had would be happy with just winning games. Texas Tech is winning them the way good programs win them. True, they’re coming off just a nine-point win over Jackson State on Monday night, but couple that with 28 and 35-point victories over Grambling State and Nebraska-Omaha, it’s nothing to scoff at.

What’s more? The Red Raiders don’t leave the friendly confines of United Spirit Arena until a Jan. 5 date with TCU, their Big 12 opener.

But now the greatest test for Texas Tech comes next. No. 9 Arizona visits Lubbock on Saturday. If there’s a time to prove that they’re past the short-lived but turmoil-filled Gilispie era, it’ll be against the Wildcats.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Texas lands commitment from top 100 center

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James Banks announced on Thursday that he has committed to Texas, joining Jacob Young in Shaka Smart’s first recruiting class as the head coach of the Longhorns.

Banks is an interesting prospect. A 6-foot-10 center from Georgia, Banks is a still-developing prospect that was recruited more on his potential than his immediate ability.

“James Banks emerged as a good low post prospect this spring and summer,” NBC Recruiting Analyst Scott Phillips said. “With a good set of hands, some offensive potential and a frame that can add weight, Banks is a nice upside grab for Texas.”

He’s probably a few years away from having a major impact in the Big 12, but he may not have that much time to develop. Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh and Conner Lamert all graduate after this season, meaning that Banks is going to have to contribute immediately when he sets foot on the Austin campus for the 2016-17 season.

Texas has three commitments in the Class of 2015. Smart convinced Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis to remain committed to the program when he took over for Rick Barnes while he landed a commitment from Tevin Mack, who pledged to Smart when he was at VCU.

Memphis guard could miss season with shoulder injury

Kedren Johnson
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Memphis just cannot catch a break.


It’s to the point where I almost feel bad for Josh Pastner.

Today, CBSSports.com reported that Kedren Johnson, a 6-foot-4 point guard that was on track towards being an all-SEC point guard at Vanderbilt, could end up missing the season due to a shoulder injury. If he can handle the pain he can avoid surgery and play with the injury, but at the very least, Johnson is going to be less than his best.

Johnson averaged 6.7 points and 2.7 assists last season for the Tigers. He sat out 2013-14 after leaving Vanderbilt and entered last season incredibly out of shape. There was hope that he would be able to make a bigger impact this season and help fill the void at the point guard spot.

This news comes on the heels of Memphis finding out that Jaylen Fisher is heading to UNLV. Who’s Jaylen Fisher? Well, he’s a point guard and top 40 recruit from Memphis that was Pastner’s No. 1 recruiting target that opted to leave the city for his college hoops instead of play for the Tigers.

That’s a bad sign, but not quite as bad as Memphis losing star center Austin Nichols — another local kid — to a transfer over the summer. Nichols transferred to Virginia.