Alex Hamilton

Louisiana Tech’s Michael White is happy where is at

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source:
AP

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

In the final game of Louisiana Tech’s foreign trip to the Bahamas, head coach Michael White could sense his team had had enough of paradise. It was the third game in four days with the scheduled tip against the PJ Stringers set for 8 p.m., giving the team little time to rest before waking up at 4 a.m. the next morning to catch a flight home.

The game came down to the wire with senior guard Raheem Appleby stepping up, and making several clutch plays down the stretch to come away with a 100-94 overtime victory.

“Our guys were kind of halfway mentally checked out. Got off to a rough start. We started five freshmen, and we just really weren’t playing really well,” White said. “It was nice to see late in that game Raheem Appleby step up and make winning plays, which is something hadn’t seen Raheem do in a long time.”

Appleby had missed 12 games during the 2013-2014 season to an ankle injury. The trip showed the senior guard was back to full strength, averaging 16.6 over the three games. Appleby, like Kenneth ‘Speedy’ Smith and center Michale Kyser, have been part of with White from the start of his coaching tenure. In that time, the group have compiled a record a 74-31 record going from the Western Athletic Conference to the new-look Conference USA along the way.

White, 37, one of the nation’s top rising head coaches, has built an NCAA tournament caliber team in Ruston, Louisiana, and he has no plans on leaving for what some would consider “greener pastures” anytime soon.

“I’ve said this 100 times, I got by the motto, ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,’” White told NBCSports.com last month.

MORE: Conference USA Preview

“I’m just very thankful to be a coach here. I love my job and Ruston and Louisiana Tech. Maybe most importantly I love our roster. The group of young men I get to work with is special. We’ve enjoyed building something and I’m going to continue to enjoy building this program. At the same time my wife and kids are very comfortable here. We came here with the idea of laying roots, and that’s still our plan.”

Coming off a 29-win season, and a four-way tie atop the Conference USA standings, White became one of the hottest coaching candidates in the country, despite reports stating he had been received an informal offer from Tennessee, he decided to remain as the head coach at Louisiana Tech.

source:
Speedy Smith (AP)

He’ll be coaching the group with some of the players he started with while welcoming in a nine newcomers, including a recruiting class he is very high on. The freshmen class includes Dayon Griffin, a 6-foot-5 guard, who will serve as an understudy to Smith, the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year, and all-conference guard Alex Hamilton. Xavian Stapleton, Jacobi Boykins and Joniah White were all rated as three-star commits by Rivals. The 6-foot-10 Joniah White will be part of a young frontline around Kyser, who averaged 3.0 blocks per game.

Although the scenery is still the same for White, the landscape of his team’s conference has constantly been changing during his tenure. Louisiana Tech left the WAC in 2013 for C-USA, the revolving door of college conference realignment the last two years.

In their debut season, the Bulldogs finished with a 13-3, an identical record they shared with Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee and Tulsa, the C-USA Tournament champion.

“I thought Conference USA it was step in the right direction for our athletic department,” White said. “My first impression of the league was that it was a very talented league, extremely coached league, and a under-appreciated league in my opinion. We had a few teams of deserving at least consideration of at-large berths.

“You look at those four teams and UTEP was extremely talented and won several high-major games. Charlotte that won two or three games against BCS schools and UAB beats North Carolina. That’s a pretty good against national competition.”

In July, East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa all officially moved to the American Athletic Conference, and Western Kentucky became C-USA’s newest addition. The conference also saw four coaching changes take place as Mike Rhoades was hired at Rice, Michael Curry at Florida Atlantic, Dan D’Anonti a Marshall, his alma mater and Doc Saddler taking over Southern Miss after Donnie Tyndall was named Tennessee’s new coach.

The new, six-year extension White signed in April will give him plenty of time to get better acquainted with he new league members, as his team enters as the clear favorite in C-USA while UTEP, Western Kentucky, Old Dominion and Charlotte will pose as challengers.

There isn’t just buzz around the men’s basketball team in Ruston. In April, 24-year-old Tyler Summitt, the son of legendary Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt, was named the women’s basketball program.

“There’s a lot of excitement on campus and in Ruston about Bulldog basketball and Lady Techsters basketball,” White added.

And he’s happy he’s around to be apart of it.

2014-2015 Season Preview: Louisiana Tech the favorite in the ever-changing Conference USA

1 Comment
source:
AP

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Conference realignment has been rampant the last few seasons, and Conference USA is still feeling the effects of it heading into the 2014-2015 season. Gone are East Carolina, Tulane and the league’s lone NCAA tournament team from last year, Tulsa. The conference welcomes in Western Kentucky as its newest member. If you’re scoring at home, that’s nine new programs and seven former members since 2013.

At least one thing looks to remain certain in 2014-2015, Louisiana Tech should finish atop the conference standings. The Bulldogs were one of four teams — Tulsa, Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss — to share the regular season title with a 13-3 record. Like previously mentioned, Tulsa left C-USA, Middle Tennessee lost four starters and Souther Miss is starting the Doc Sadler era after Donnie Tyndall accepted the Tennessee position.

Louisiana Tech returns plenty of key contributors, but none more important than head coach Michael White, who was in the conversation for several coaching vacancies this offseason.

The Bulldogs boast the league’s top back court with Kenneth ‘Speedy’ Smith running the show, Alex Hamilton back as the team’s top scorer and Raheem Appleby, who was sidelined for several weeks last season with an ankle injury. Michale Kyser mans the frontline with his 3.0 blocks per game, and he’ll be an important piece this season, as the Bulldogs’ biggest threat, UTEP, has two talented forwards.

The Miners may have finished fifth last season, but was only a game out of first in the top-heavy C-USA. Tim Floyd’s team is headlined by sophomore Vince Hunter and (12.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Julian Washburn (13.1 ppg). Another team looking to make a run at the Bulldogs is newcomer, Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers join the league from the Sun Belt, and have been to two of the last three NCAA tournaments. Ray Harper’s team is aided by senior guards T.J. Price and George Fant — the team’s top two scorers at 15.5 points and 13.3 points, respectively –who will help with the transition against better competition.

Along with Harper, C-USA has three new coaches. Mike Rhoades came over from VCU to take over at Rice while Michael Curry (Florida Atlantic) and Dan D’Antoni (Marshall) join the conference from the NBA sidelines, despite neither of them having college basketball coaching experience.

REALIGNMENT MOVES

In: Western Kentucky
Out: East Carolina, Tulane, Tulsa

PRESEASON CONFERENCE-USA PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kenneth ‘Speedy’ Smith, Louisiana Tech

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged single-digits (7.8 ppg) last year, but he effected the game in so many other ways. He was second in the nation in assists (7.7 apg), was 10th in the nation with a 3.23 assist-to-turnover ratio, and he was also top 10 in the nation in steals at 2.5 per game. The senior guard was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and is the only returning member of the league’s first-team from a season ago.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON CONFERENCE-USA TEAM:

  • Alex Hamilton, Louisiana Tech: Another member of Louisiana Tech’s heralded back court. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged a team-high 14.5 points per game last season.
  • Pierria Henry, Charlotte: The 49ers top scorer from a season ago averaged 12.3 points, grabbed 5.1 boards and dished 5.8 assists per game.
  • Vince Hunter, UTEP: Hunter is coming off a great freshman campaign, averaging 12.5 points and 6.4 boards per game. Part of a talented front court duo with Julian Washburn.
  • T.J. Price, Western Kentucky: One of the top newcomers to the league averaged better than 15 points per game over the past two years in the Sun Belt.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @Conference_USA

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Louisiana Tech
2. UTEP
3. Western Kentucky
4. Old Dominon
5. Charlotte
6. Middle Tennessee
7. North Texas
8. UAB
9. Southern Miss
10. Florida International
11. Rice
12. Florida Atlantic
13. UTSA
14. Marshall