Texas Tech basketball practice has officially kicked-off this week, so I am back in the saddle with my weekly posts. It feels bittersweet. A huge ugly cloud is sitting over the college basketball world with the recent scandal allegations. All season we are going to hear about the dirty side of the sport that I love. I feel there is going to be a lot of things that come out that are very unpleasant about many basketball programs.
Yet, I am confident that Texas Tech basketball has been on a good track and not been one of the corrupt programs in college ball that the FBI is investigating. One less thing to distract our team from keeping their eyes on stringing together a nice regular season to make postseason play.
The official team roster is listed on the team website, and we have four big men that are listed as a frontcourt position. Let’s start with our three forwards –
Zach Smith – Our starter at the power forward position is coming into his senior year as one of the best players on the team. He may be our most valuable player in terms of the greatest all-around talent on the roster. Smith tested the waters by declaring for the NBA draft this off-season, but was able to remove his name before the event and stay in school because he did not hire an agent. Besides being a mega-dunking highlight reel, he rebounds and blocks shots. He has had 40+ blocks for each of the last three seasons, and is only 27 blocks short of the all-time Red Raiders record. He was the top rebounder on the squad last season, and he seemed to extend his shooting range to help add his 12 ppg. I expect him to be his same consistent self every game, and if he has added even more depth to his mid-range and outside shooting he will be unstoppable. He is vital to helping this team make the Big Dance.
Tommy Hamilton – The 6’11” big man is listed as a forward on the official roster, but I would also count on him getting minutes at the center spot. He transferred from DePaul and sat out a year while redshirting. Now going into his final NCAA year as a senior, Hamilton hopes to breakout in the Big 12 as a star frontcourt player. At DePaul he was consistent on gather boards, and shooting from the outside. The downtown shot is not common for a guy that is almost 7 foot tall in college basketball, he brings some great skills to our team. Also, he has dropped almost 50 pounds going from around 300 lbs to 250 lbs since getting to Texas Tech. We should expect some awesome things out of Hamilton this season.
Malik Ondigo – The frosh had offers from solid programs like Kansas State, Memphis, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, and Purdue. Ondigo is listed at 6’10” and 210 lbs, and looks sort of wiry in his recruiting videos. I would imagine he is going to get beefed up by John Reilly, and also get in the mix for some playing time at center. He has good talent, and seems that he can put the ball in the basket when he is anywhere close to the rim. Look for him to try and fight for minutes in the frontcourt early this season.
Now let’s talk about our lone center as listed by the official roster –
Norense Odiase – One of my favorite players on a basketball team is the bulldog under the rim, and our bulldog is Odiase. He suffered another foot injury last season and was granted a medical waiver, making him listed as a junior this season. He also had a foot injury that sidelined him most of his sophomore season. We know Odiase can play and is a force to deal with under the basket. He can defend, grab boards, and get the ball through the net if he catches it anywhere near the paint. Along with being an enforcer, he can also get into foul trouble. Hopefully sitting and watching the game has helped him learn seeing the game from a different prospective. The big question on all of our minds is can he hold up and stay uninjured throughout the brutal Big 12 conference schedule? We need Odiase to have a complete frontcourt, and he is another key to making it to the NCAA tournament after the regular season ends.
Thoughts – We are not deep on the roster with big men to play the 4 and 5 spots, which can tell us one thing. Coach Beard is planning on playing a lot of small ball. The lack of depth with big men at the power forward and center positions can be concerning, especially if we get into guys losing minutes due to injury. Overall we need Smith, Hamilton, and Odiase to have a very productive season on the court to be able to grind out wins in Big 12 play. The hope is that Ondigo picks up the speed and physicality of D-1 basketball quickly and can contribute.
I have dug around and tried to find more out on if Matt Temple will be granted eligibility for another season by the NCAA, but have no word on that yet. It would really help out if he could come back on the squad.
My final preseason thoughts are that we have a very solid frontcourt group that we will rely on heavily for boards and defense near the rim during the conference games. They seem like a tough match-up against any crew that will be put out on the court against the Red Raiders. Wreck ’em Tech!!!