In year two of the Billy Kennedy era, Texas A&M looks to rebound off a pitiful season. As conference play nears, what can the Aggie faithful expect?
After a tumultuous first season and that ended with a 4 -14 record in the Big 12, the Aggies are looking to get back on track in their first season in the SEC. In the off-season, Billy Kennedy and his staff addressed serious personnel issues by signing six new players.
Headlining the group were two home-grown four-star guards in J-Mychal Reese from Bryan High and Alex Caruso from A&M Consolidated. Reese is the son of Aggie assistant John Reese and was rated as the #10 point guard in the country according to Rivals.com. Caruso also has ties to the program. Ranked as one of the best shooting guards in Texas, Alex is a former Aggie ballboy and his father Mike is the longtime Associate Athletic Director at A&M.
Kennedy was also able to lure former Missouri commit Shawn Smith to Aggieland from Florida. The 6'3" guard chose the Ags over offers from Florida, West Virginia, Cincinnati, and Kansas State among others. After a promising pre-season, Smith was declared ineligible due to issues with his high school transcripts. After appealing the ruling, He was deemed a "partial qualifier". That allows him to workout and practice with the team without playing. Smith will use this season to redshirt so that he does not lose a year of eligibility.
On top of the three high school seniors, the Aggies went out and got two very talented junior college players. Fabyon Harris is a point guard from College of Southern Idaho where he was a NJCAA First Team All-American. In the post, Coach Kennedy signed Andrew Young from Monterey Peninsula. The power forward was an all-state selection in the California Community College Athletic Association where he averaged 21.8 points and 14.2 rebounds.
The Aggies weren't done with big men. Florida State freshman, Antwan Space, transferred to Texas A&M to be closer to his young child. The 6'8" power forward from Desoto will have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out this year due to NCAA transfer rules. The Ags also added late signee Tony Trocha in November. A Colombia native, the 6'10" four-star center finished high school in May and is waiting on a qualifying test score to become eligible. It is a possibility that you see him on the floor for the Maroon and White in the Spring.
Adding that many new faces to the roster has delayed consistency so far in the 2012-2013 season. The Ags are 8-2 after beating up on Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Tuesday. Senior guard Elston Turner leads the team with 16.1 points per game. The only other senior on the team, Ray Turner (no relation to Elston), is second on the team in points with 12.6 a game, as well as rebounds with 6.4 a game. Sophomore Kourtney Roberson is the Aggies' leading rebounder from his center position with 6.5 per game.
There are three more games until the Arkansas Razorbacks come to College Station on January 9th to open conference play. The Aggies were picked to finish ninth in the conference by the media, which seems fair. The schedule sets up nicely, minus Kentucky and Florida back-to-back. The Wildcats are on the schedule twice but the Ags lucked out with getting Missouri and the Gators only once.
Lets not sugar-coat this. This is not a tournament team. Realistically, this is a team that is capable of finishing as high as sixth in the conference, with a shot at making the NIT tournament. The two games against both LSU and Ole Miss, teams that both made the NIT last year, will be big in deciding if this team has any post season play in sight this year.
Although they won't be challenging for a title this year, there is no excuse for this program not taking a step in the right direction this year. The roster has been upgraded with an influx of new talent, the schedule is favorable, and the senior leadership is leading the way. In year two, the pressure will be on Billy Kennedy and his staff. If there are no significant signs of improvement, the question will have to be asked if he is the man for the job.