1998-99 Season Outlook|
To say Coach James Dickey and his Texas Tech men's basketball team are eager to begin the 1998-99 season would be quite an understatement. "We are anxious about getting started for the 1998-99 season," said Dickey, who will be in his eighth season as the Red Raiders' head coach. "We feel like we have a good nucleus of veteran players coming back and some athletic newcomers, who we are excited about coaching."
Tech returns six lettermen, including four starters, and welcomes six newcomers, who will give the program considerable balance for the first time since the record-breaking 1995-96 season.
Three players accounted for almost 70 percent of the offensive production last year. Dickey looks forward to more balance and depth on this season's squad. For the first time since 1993-94, Texas Tech started only two upperclassmen for much of the campaign. The Red Raiders battled their way into postseason consideration at midseason but the team stumbled down the stretch losing six of the last seven to finish 13-14 overall and 7-9 in the Big 12 Conference.
"One of the things we look forward to on this year's squad is that we will be more balanced," Dickey said. "We want to establish an inside game and continue to shoot the ball from the three-point line, to run, to create opportunities in the transition game as well as off our defense." Cory Carr was selected in the second round of the NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks and then traded to the World Champion Chicago Bulls. Tech has had a player taken in the NBA draft for four consecutive years.
With a 23.3 scoring average, Carr finished his career at the top of the Big 12 in scoring for the second straight year. He concluded his four seasons as Tech's all-time leading three-point shooter and third-leading scorer.
"Cory was such an important part of our program," Dickey said. "We've got to be more balanced this year because of the loss of his great production. We've also got to step up to replace the leadership, attitude and chemistry that he provided. That is going to be essential for us to have the success we are hoping for."
A year after enduring the first losing season of his head coaching career, Dickey is seeking renewed focus for the program in stressing that the "keys for our will be attitude, a strong commitment to and focus on basketball, positive, enthusiastic team chemistry, defense and rebounding. With returning starters in guards Stan Bonewitz (San Antonio, Texas) and Rayford Young (Pampa, Texas), forward Cliff Owens (Santa Fe, Texas) and center Johnny Phillips (Fort Worth, Texas), the Red Raiders welcome back four of their five leading scorers. Owens and Bonewitz were Tech's two best rebounders from a year ago, while Young accounted for team highs in assists and steals. Tech also returns center Ross Carmichael (Dallas, Texas), a starter in 12 games last year, and athletic guard Andrew Patterson (Artesia, N.M.).
With the largest insurgent of newcomers since Dickey's first season in 1991-92, Texas Tech is high on the incoming class of five junior college recruits and one high school signee.
Center Andy Ellis (Lamesa, Texas), considered one of the best big men ever to sign with Texas Tech, arrives after enjoying a highly decorated high school career in West Texas. Forwards Brodney Kennard (Fort Worth, Texas), Mario Layne (St. Michael, Barbados) and Jayson Mitchell (Tyler, Texas) are explosive athletes who will give the Red Raiders immediate scoring and rebounding punch. Guards Jevon Banks (Las Vegas, Nev.) and James Ware (Minneapolis, Minn.) should make one of the Big 12's best backcourts even better.
"Two things that we really wanted to add to this particular class was athleticism and scoring," Dickey said. "We feel like all of these players will fit in our system and our style of play."
This season, Texas Tech is making its homecourt advantage a high priority, considering this is the final year in Lubbock's Municipal Coliseum. The Red Raiders will move to the United Spirit Arena for the 1999-2000 campaign.
"The Coliseum has been a very good place for us," Dickey said. "We would like to reestablish our homecourt, finish up strong in Lubbock Municipal Coliseum and gain momentum as we move into the United Spirit Arena."
Few teams in the country can boast of Tech's talent and diversity in starting guards Stan Bonewitz and Rayford Young. The duo, starting all 27 games in 1997-98, accounted for almost 40 percent of Tech's offensive production last year and ranked 1-2 in assists and steals for the Red Raiders.
"It will certainly be a strength to have our starting backcourt in place," Dickey said. "We will expect Stan and Rayford to have their best years of production on and off the floor. Their leadership will be critical to the success of our team and the continued success of our program."
Tech's only senior, the 6-foot-3 Bonewitz averaged 12.9 points a game last season and actually tied for second on the team in rebounding from his two-guard slot. The all-around talented guard is one of the best long-range shooters and passers in the country. He ranked second in the league in both 3's per game (3.1) and three-point percentage (41.8) last year.
For the last two seasons, Bonewitz has posted a better three-point percentage compared to his overall clip, a facet Dickey hopes will become more balanced this season. The senior guard, who has taken 70 percent of his field-goal attempts from three-point range during his career, last season shot 41.8 percent from beyond the arc, 41.0 overall and 38.6 from two-point range. An 81.3 percent career free throw shooter, the Red Raiders are also counting on Bonewitz getting to the charity stripe more in 1998-99.
"Stan will have the green light," Dickey said. "The two things we would like to see him elevate this year are his medium range game and getting to the free throw line more."
Despite his small stature at 5-foot-11, Young has drawn rave reviews from coaches around the league in his first two seasons. He has been listed as a likely all-conference selection for 1998-99 thanks to his explosive speed and rapidly improving skills at point guard.
"We expect Rayford to be an extension of the coaching staff on the floor," Dickey said. "He is a veteran player who has been instrumental his freshman and sophomore seasons. We would like to see him not only create shots for himself, but create opportunities for his teammates and be our floor leader. We feel like he can be an outstanding defensive player and we certainly would like to see him create defensive pressure upon the opposing point guards."
Texas Tech's second leading scorer last year with a 15.4 clip, Young led the Red Raiders with 116 assists and 46 steals and ranked second with an 84.3 free throw percentage. He was named to the Big 12's All-Underrated squad by media members last year.
Andrew Patterson enters his junior season eyeing more playing time after working in a reserve role as a walk-on his first two seasons. An athletic player with solid skills at the off-guard slot, he played in 12 games last season.
Dickey is especially excited about the depth Tech will have at guard, thanks to the arrival of Jevon Banks and James Ware from Midland College. Banks, who will have three years in the Texas Tech program, is an outstanding passer with a solid basketball background. The talented playmaker had a team-high 88 assists for Midland College last season. "Jevon has excellent court awareness," Dickey said. "He will give us quality depth at point guard."
The Red Raiders will benefit from the fact that the 6-foot-5 Ware can play either off guard or small forward. He is a strong player who can rebound and shoot the basketball from long range. Ware, who transferred to Midland after playing one season at Colorado State, was the Chaparrals' top three-point shooter last season while playing in all 30 games. "James is a shooter who can really fill it up," Dickey said. "He has good size and strength."
Few teams may improve as much as Texas Tech could with the inside game from one year to the next. Lack of depth and inexperience hindered Texas Tech a year ago. However, a successful offseason has benefited returning starters Cliff Owens and Johnny Phillips and backup Ross Carmichael, while the Red Raiders are touting the exploits of newcomers Andy Ellis, Brodney Kennard, Mario Layne and Jayson Mitchell.
Owens is poised to become an impact Big 12 player thanks to his athletic ability and improvement during his sophomore year. He averaged 10.2 points and grabbed a team-high 7.7 rebounds, which ranked in a tie for sixth in the league. Actually in league play, the 6-foot-8 Owens tied for second with 8.4 rebounds per game and led the conference on the defensive boards with 6.9.
"We expect Cliff to finish strong around the basket," Dickey said. "He can be an excellent defender and an outstanding rebounder in the Big 12." One of the strongest players in the Big 12, Owens had a second consecutive summer of solid offseason work. He was tabbed for the Houston Select All-Star China Tour that will compete in August.
Phillips became the ninth Red Raider freshman to start for the Red Raiders during the Dickey era. In fact his 15 starts were the third most for a rookie since 1991-92. The 6-foot-10 sophomore made steady improvement throughout his freshman campaign, winding up with 5.2 points and 3.0 rebounds. After earning a starting berth, Phillips averaged almost seven points and five rebounds per contest.
"Johnny has worked extremely hard in the offseason," Dickey said. "Our expectations for him are to be more of a defensive presence in the paint, stay out of foul trouble and become more of an offensive threat. We think he certainly has the body to be a strong, physical and productive player." The Red Raiders are counting on improvement from Ross Carmichael, who started the first 12 games for Texas Tech last season. He averaged 4.4 rebounds per game and led the team with 26 blocks.
"Ross has talent, no question about it," Dickey said. "He must be more physical and bring more aggressiveness to become a better rebounder for us. We need him to finish around the basket."
The lack of depth inside hurt the Red Raiders down the stretch last season in the physical Big 12. With four newcomers, including three junior college signees, the Red Raiders will posses the strength and talent to compete in the paint.
One of the most high-profile big men to sign with Texas Tech out of high school, the 6-foot-10 Ellis has potential to be a dominant player in the Red Raider program. An outstanding skilled player who has the ability to play well inside or out, Ellis' 1997-98 honors included: first-team all-state, district MVP, and South Plains Player of the Year. With averages of 21.6 points and 11.2 rebounds, Ellis helped Lamesa post a 32-4 record and advance to the final four at the state tournament. "He is an excellent freshman prospect," Dickey said. "He has very good skills. He can shoot the basketball. He is a player who will benefit greatly from our strength and conditioning program."
Brodney Kennard, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Tyler Junior College, will provide Texas Tech with rebounding help. Last season Kennard averaged 10 points and more than eight rebounds for Tyler Junior College. He played in only eight games as a freshman at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but did average almost three rebounds per outing.
"He is an excellent rebounder," Dickey said. "We feel he could really develop both defensively and offensively. He could be a major factor for us on the boards."
Layne, a 6-foot-6 nationally recruited swingman, played two years at South Plains College near the Texas Tech campus. He was a second-team all-region player and first-team all-conference performer who averaged 15.2 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 49.5 percent from the floor last season.
"Mario is a talented and extremely athletic player," Dickey said. "He can rebound, run the floor, and defend. He is an explosive athlete who I believe will excel in our system."
Another swingman, the 6-foot-5 Mitchell helped McLennan Junior College advance to the national junior college tournament for the first time since 1976 by averaging 11.2 points and 6.5 rebounds. Mitchell, who transferred to McLennan from Colorado State, averaged 16.6 points and 8.0 rebounds in postseason play.
"Jayson will flourish in our strength and conditioning program," Dickey said. "He is a quality person and a winner who is an excellent athlete."
The 1998-99 season will require Texas Tech to blend the returning players with the six newcomers quickly, considering a hefty non-conference slate precedes the Big 12's grueling 16-game schedule. The likes of WAC champion TCU plus improving SMU and Southwestern Louisiana are among the teams Texas Tech will play in pre-conference action. The Red Raiders will travel to Hawaii where they will open play against Tulsa in the Pearl Harbor Classic, which will also include Michigan State, Alabama, Pepperdine, Oregon State, Weber State and host BYU-Hawaii. In its third year of the Big 12 season, Texas Tech will host Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado, while visiting Iowa State, Kansas State and Missouri. Home-and-home, the Red Raiders play South Division rivals Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M.
HEAD COACH JAMES DICKEY
Texas Tech men's basketball coach James Dickey will be in season number eight in 1998-99. A 1976 graduate of Central Arkansas, he has posted a 132-72 record, a winning percentage of .650. Dickey was named Tech's head coach on April 10, 1991 after serving one year for the Red Raiders as an assistant under longtime coach Gerald Myers. Over the last four seasons, Tech is 82-35 for a .701 winning mark. Dickey has earned district coach of the year honors four times and has been conference coach of the year on three occasions. He has guided Tech to two NCAA Tournaments, including the '96 Sweet 16. Before his arrival at Tech as an assistant coach in 1990-91, Dickey previously worked at Kentucky (1986-89) and Arkansas (1982-85) as an assistant under Eddie Sutton.
Senior guard Cory Carr, one of three finalists for Big 12 player of the year, received several honors, including First Team All-Big 12 Accolades from both the Associated Press and the league head coaches. Carr was also named third-team All-America by Basketball Times and Honorable Mention All-America by the Associated Press. He was named to the All-District 9 First Team with TCU's Mike Jones and Lee Nailon, Baylor's Brian Skinner and Texas' Kris Clack. Both Rayford Young and Stan Bonewitz were each named honorable mention All-Big 12 by the AP writers.
Point guard Rayford Young, a starter in all 27 games last season, was named to the All-Underrated squad, selected by a panel of sports writers who regularly cover the Big 12. The 5-11 Pampa, Texas, sophomore joined Baylor's Patrick Hunter, Texas A&M's Shanne Jones, Oklahoma State's Adrian Peterson and Kansas' Ryan Robertson.
Texas Tech lost its last three home games of 1997-98 to Texas, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. The three-game losing streak is Tech's first at home since early in the 1993-94 season. The three-game skid is also Tech's first in conference action since the 1990-91 campaign. Texas Tech has won 51 of its last 60 games in Lubbock Municipal Coliseum for an 86.4 winning percentage. From 1993-94 (against Texas A&M) until the Colorado game in 1996-97, Texas Tech won a school-record 35 consecutive games at home. All-time, Texas Tech is 387-153 in the "Bubble." The Red Raiders own a 67-21 mark under James Dickey at home.
Texas Tech utilized four different starting combinations last season, any of which would be among the youngest quintet in James Dickey's seven seasons as head coach. For the first time since the 1993-94 season, Texas Tech started only two upperclassmen. The Red Raiders started at least two seniors for the majority of the season in all but three of James Dickey's previous seven years as head coach, 1992-93, 1993-94 and 1997-98.
A total of nine true freshmen have started at least one game for Texas Tech during head coach James Dickey's seven years. The latest freshman, Johnny Phillips, started the last 15 games of 1997-98 the most by a true freshman since Jason Sasser started 19 in 1992-93. Lance Hughes also started 19 during his freshman year in 1991-92.
Since 1993-94, Texas Tech has won more than 70 percent of its conference games. Tech won 10 league games in 1993-94, 11 in '94-95, 14 in '95-96, and 10 in '96-97. Since 1993-94, Texas Tech is 52-22 (.703) against conference opponents in regular-season games. In the two years of the Big 12 Conference, Texas Tech is 17-15, a 53.1 winning percentage.
YOUNG FROM THE LINE
Rayford Young tied for second behind teammate Cory Carr in the Big 12 in free throw percentage with an 84.3 clip. Twice last season he provided late-game heroics from the stripe to help Tech win. He made four free throws in the final 10 seconds against Kansas State, each time going to the line with Tech up one point. Young sank two free throws his first attempts of the game with four seconds remaining to send the game at Nevada into overtime. He made all eight of his free throw attempts at Nevada, six in the overtime period.
At only 5-foot-11, Rayford Young was the little man on Tech's roster in 1997-98. Nevertheless, Young averaged 3.7 rebounds, grabbed three or more boards in 21 games and was third on the team with 11 blocks. He tallied a career-high tying six rebounds against Iowa State and then topped that with nine, all in the first half, against Oklahoma State. He claimed three of his blocks in one game against George Washington. Of course, for one of the few times in his career, Young had the height advantage over GW's 5-4 Shawnta Rogers.
STAN THE REBOUNDER
Known for his long-range shooting and uncanny passing ability, Stan Bonewitz added another facet to his game last season rebounding. The San Antonio junior came into the year with a career rebounding average of 2.1. He doubled that mark last year with a 4.9 average and led the team on the boards five games. He helped his average in the Big 12 Tournament against Texas with 10 boards for his first career double-double in the points and rebounds variety. Twice against Iowa State and Prairie View A&M, Bonewitz grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds. For the year, Bonewitz had five or more rebounds in 15 games.
FROM LONG RANGE
Stan Bonewitz, who hit a team-high 84 three-pointers last season, has made at least three treys in the last 20 of 24 games. He now ranks third all-time with 175 career 3's. Bonewitz tied the single-game school mark of seven against Texas A&M on Feb. 21 in College Station. For the year, Bonewitz ranked second in the Big 12 with a 41.8 three-point percentage and 3.1 3's a game. He led the Big 12 in three-point percentage as a sophomore with a 46.3 mark.
OWENS STRONG INSIDE
Sophomore forward Cliff Owens of Santa Fe, Texas, had a team-high 7.7 rebounds last season to rank in a tie for sixth in the Big 12. He finished third in the league with 5.8 defensive rebounds. In league games, Owens ranked in a tie for second with 8.4 boards and led the league with 6.9 defensive rebounds per game. Owens upped his totals to six double-doubles and eight games with 10 or more rebounds. He notched two consecutive double-doubles late in the regular season against Texas A&M and Nebraska.