Texas Tech has blend of old, new for Beard’s 2nd season
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Texas Tech has a lot of experience with five senior players, including the top scorer and rebounder returning from last season.
There are also seven freshmen, giving Chris Beard a unique roster for his second season as head coach of the Red Raiders.
While all those seniors make the Red Raiders one of the most experienced and oldest teams in college basketball, those youngsters are just getting started with their college careers.
“It’s been interesting, to say the least,” Beard said. “Our chemistry is a work in progress.”
At least there are proven returners with guard Keenan Evans (15.4 points per game) and forward Zach Smith, a preseason All-Big 12 pick by coaches after averaging 12.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season when Tech was 18-14.
The 6-foot-8 Smith is starting to get some real recognition after starting 92 of his 94 games the past three seasons. He had considered leaving Tech early for the NBA draft, but provided Tech a big boost when he decided to stay.
“There is no more under-the-radar. Zach has been working hard to get his skill level to match his athleticism,” Beard said. “I’ve been really impressed with him. ... Certainly Zach is a guy that I think has the chance to play in the NBA one day.”
Beard believes Evans has a chance to be one of the better guards in all of college basketball. Evans shot 43 percent on 3-pointers last season, when he also had 3.0 assists and only 1.7 turnovers per game.
“Keenan is our guy. I’ve never been more excited to coach a guy his senior year than I have Keenan,” Beard said. “He’s been disciplined on and off the court. I think the thing I have seen from him the last few months is a different level of maturity and discipline. ... He’s a quiet leader and he takes care of what he’s supposed to do and he’s stretching himself getting out of his comfort zone trying to be a more vocal leader.”
Some things to know about the Red Raiders, who open the season Nov. 10 at home against South Alabama:
In addition to all those freshmen, guard Brandone Francis and 6-11 forward Tommy Hamilton IV are now eligible to play after being limited to practicing last season with the Red Raiders after transferring to Texas Tech. Francis came from Florida, and Hamilton from DePaul. The Red Raiders also added junior college guards Hyron Edwards and Josh Webster.
NORENSE IS BACK
Big man Norense Odiase has been plagued by injuries during his time at Texas Tech. The 6-foot-9 center played only three games last season before a foot injury, and then was able to redshirt. Beard calls Odiase “the definition of perseverance.” The coach said Odiase, still listed as a junior, embraced the rehab process as much as anybody he’s ever seen, and actually improved his body during a time when he couldn’t play basketball.
NOT QUITE ALL
Beard initially said the team had 100 percent participation during summer workouts. Then he quickly clarified himself, pointing out that freshman guard Davide Moretti was playing for Italy’s national team this summer.
“So I guess it wasn’t quite 100 percent. I am not a math major,” Beard said.
Former Oklahoma State head coach Sean Sutton is back in the Big 12, but not as a coach. Sutton is now an adviser to Beard after the past seasons as an assistant coach at Oral Roberts. Sutton was 39-29 in his two seasons as Oklahoma State’s head coach from 2006-08, after 13 seasons as an assistant for the Cowboys.
BEATING BIG BOYS
The Red Raiders won two games last season against top 10 teams for the first time since 2007-08 season, when Beard was an assistant coach at Texas Tech for coach Bob Knight.