Basketball

Texas Tech Hoops | Be Big and Go to the Rim, Thoughts on the Backcourt

With the addition of two guards from the JUCO ranks and another who will have to sit out a year, it appears that Chris Beard has a plan for the frontcourt.

It seems like it was just yesterday that Texas Tech hired Chris Beard away from UNLV to be the head coach at Texas Tech. In that short period of time, Beard has taken what he’s been given and remade the roster to the point that I’m ready to declare that this current roster is every bit as good, maybe better, than last year’s squad.

We’re breaking this down between the frontcourt and the backcourt, taking on the backcourt today with the frontcourt to follow next week. I’ve decided to include both Justin Gray and C.J. Williamson with this group because I think both of these guys could contribute both at the small forward position and at the shooting guard spots.

Texas Tech 2016 Basketball Depth Chart & Scholarship Availability
Depth Player Position HT/WT 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
1st Team Keenan Evans PG 6-3/175
Tie-2nd Team Devon Thomas PG 6-0/170
Tie-2nd Team Giovanni McLean PG 6-1/205
1st Team Niem Stevenson SG 6-5/185
2nd Team Shadell Millinghaus SG 6-2/200
Redshirt Brandone Francis-Ramirez SG 6-5/205
1st Team Justin Gray SF 6-6/210
2nd Team C.J. Williamson SF 6-6/195

As with the football scholarship availability chart, the black boxes signify years remaining, i.e. Keenan Evans will be a junior to start next year and he’ll have one more year available after this year with the gray box being his available redshirt year. So, If Evans were to get hurt, he’s have a year to get better and still have a year of eligibility.

The one thing to note here about how the scholarships are laid out is that Beard is loading up for next year and the year after to be absolutely epic. The competition for any starting spot is going to be brutal and with that, the only two players who will be around by the 2018 season will be Williamson, who should be a senior by that point, and Francis-Ramirez.

And with the transfer of Brandone Francis-Ramirez, the competition at the shooting guard position will be absolutely incredible.

Which brings me to where I think things are headed. I think that we could very likely see Keenan Evans continue to get the start at point guard, but Beard will let Devon Thomas and Giovanni McLean compete for minutes at the back-up point guard spot. Just looking at who Beard brought it, it’s not a surprise that he likes guys that have size and McLean fits that bill.

Prior to the addition of McLean, I thought that Millinghause would swing between point guard and shooting guard to squeeze in additional minutes, but right now, I think Thomas and McLean are going after Evans to take that starting spot, although I could see a scenario where Beard is going to ask you to give it your all for your time on the court and that probably means a lot of these guys top out at 20 minutes a game.

This is where I think Williamson and how he progresses as a ball handler will be significant. I could envision Beard wanting Williamson to be the guy at point guard by the time he’s a senior and even though he may play small forward, he’ll get plenty of opportunity to carry the ball up the court. That would allow Beard to have Williamson at point, Stevenson at shooting guard and Gray at small forward with Williamson handling the point guard duties. That’s a huge lineup. I could also envision a lineup where Stevenson gets some looks at small forward as well, probably depends on the opposing lineup.

Gray’s maturation at the small forward allowed for the offense to open up quite a bit. Gray’s ability to hit that mid-range jumper has transformed him from an athletic forward to an athletic forward who opposing defenses have to guard at pretty much every spot on the court. If Gray adds a three-point shot this offseason then you better look out.

Now, I don’t know how good this team will be at shooting the three-point shot. Stevenson made 37% of his three-point attempts and Millinghause made just 31%. Last year, Toddrick Gotcher made 39% and made defenses stay honest. If Evans continues to work on his shot and add in Millinghaus, Stevenson and Gray to the shooters, I think this team will be okay.

Where Beard did upgrade significantly with the addition of Millinghaus and Stevenson is at the free throw line. Stevenson, by himself, went to the line 295 total last year, making 199 of those free throws, making 68%. The number of attempts was 5th in the NJCAA. Millinghaus went to the line 180 times, making 128, which is good for 71%. There was no player that went to the line more than 127 times, which was Keenan Evans. The bottom line that I think we’ll see with a Beard-led team is a group of guys that will be constantly getting to the rim. With Stevenson’s size and Millinghaus’ athleticism, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.

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