Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard held court at the Big 12 Media Days along with Keenan Evans, Zach Smith, Justin Gray, Niem Stevenson and Tommy Hunter, all seniors. You can check out all of Beard’s comments via ASAP Sports. Beard really opened up about three of his players as those were the questions asked, particularly Zach Smith, Keenan Evans and Norense Odiase. Let’s get to Smith first, who Beard says Smith is no longer “under the radar” and Smith has worked on the things needed to improve his game after he declared for the draft.
CHRIS BEARD: Not anymore. When you are first team all-Big 12 guy, there is no more under-the-radar. Zach has been working hard to get his skill level to match his athleticism. I’ve been really impressed with him, it started last year as a junior getting things done individually, being recognized as an honorable mention-type guy. Kinda went through the NBA process this spring and summer which I fully supported. I want all our guys to have all their dreams come true and certainly Zach is a guy that I think has the chance to play in the NBA one day. After he got that input, decided to come back to college. He had a great summer and he’s looking to continue that this fall. We look for great things out of all our seniors and certainly Zach is on top of that list.
The next question is about Odiase, who has seemingly been hurt for two years. As an aside, there is no doubt that folks aren’t going to recognize Odiase when they first see him.
CHRIS BEARD: It’s exciting. We’re excited to have Norense back on the active roster. I think he has a chance to be one of the better players in the Big 12. I would like to have give Coach Smith credit for what he did with Keenan and Norense in their career. We’re trying to finish the story strong, but personally I think Norense should be one of the best stories in college basketball. Here is a guy who has endured a lot of injuries. He is the definition of perseverance. He’s a great stat. He takes care of his life on and off the court and I think he’s the kind of guy that represents college basketball. In all my years of coaching he’s probably embraced the rehab process more than I’ve every season, and he actually improved his body during the time that he couldn’t play basketball which is hard to do. But I think when you guys see him here in a couple of weeks when we get on the court you will be pleased with the way he looks and he’s stronger than every. We’re looking for a great year out of Norense.
Beard then tackles how Keenan Evans has improved dramatically over the course of his career, particularly from the outside.
CHRIS BEARD: Keenan is our guy. I’ve never been more excited to coach a guy his senior year than I have Keenan. I give Starks and Tubby and those guys credit for developing Keenan his first two years, and I’ll give our staff credit for taking him as a good player who played a role to one of the better players in the Big 12 last year. But above all I will give Keenan more credit than anybody because he’s the one that’s put in the time. 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 not a vocal leader, he’s not a Tim Tebow kind of buy, but 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. When you are recognize the in this league as a preseason player. I think he’s honorable mention. That speaks for itself, and I think Keenan has a chance to be one of the better guards in all of college basketball this season.
Beard is then asked about what it says about having some high level seniors that are major contributors to Texas Tech’s program.
CHRIS BEARD: I think it’s a unique year for the Big 12. I think we should be really proud of that. I think one of the things it says it talks about the great coaching in this league for these guys to develop over the course of their careers and be first-team all conference players in the best league in college basketball speaks for itself.
I think the story still is about the players. College basketball is about the players not the comps, in my opinion. These are guys that have worked extremely hard and I’m glad to see Keenan and Zach get some attention but I would I put Justin Gray and Norense and Tommy and Niem and our other order guys in that same class. I think it has a potential to be a special year especially at Texas Tech because of our seniors.
And finally, Beard is asked about recruiting in Texas and how he thinks the best talent is in Texas.
CHRIS BEARD: Well, I’ve always known about the talent in Texas. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the state and play for two Hall of Fame coaches Mike and Terry Priest. I’m proud of my background coaching at different institutions? Texas. I’m proud of my background and my relationship where high school coaches and junior college coaches. It used to be a little bit of a surprise early in my career we could sneak a guy out of Texas, but now it it’s no secret. I think the best coaching and the best talent is in the state of Texas. So it is certainly an identity in our program and we’re proud to have guys like Jarrett Culver and Zhaire Smith that we think are going to be great players for us.