Texans eyeing national tourney with high expectations, ranking

by NICK ALVARADO//Sports Editor

After having their season come to an end in the NJCAA Region V Tournament a year ago, the South Plains College men’s basketball team looks to bounce back from the early exit in the postseason.

This season, the Texans will have experience on the roster, with the bulk of the team listed as sophomores. With experience come new faces, as seven freshmen have joined the team.

“Coming back from last year, I think I have five that started one time or another,” said Steve Green, head basketball coach at SPC. “We played a lot of different lineups last year. We have six coming back and five that played enormous amount of minutes last year.”

The Texans lost Che Bob, Deontae North and Marlon Jones, who were the top three leaders in scoring for the team last season that posted an overall record of 21-9 and finished 12-4 in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference.

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Jahill Tripp shoots while Justice Green watches in practice on Oct. 21. DOMINICK PUENTE/ PLAINSMAN PRESS

Key returnees from last season include Roberto Gallant, who played in all 30 games and will bring experience to the lineup. Gallant, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard from Atlanta, Ga., averaged 14 points per game. Ball handler Jerron Love, a 5-10 sophomore guard from Yonkers, N.Y. returns after averaging about 15 points per game.

Other returnees include: Montell McRae, a 6-8 sophomore forward from Cleveland, Ohio; Justice Green, a 6-4 sophomore guard from Tuscaloosa, A.L.; and Ibrahima Diagne, a 6-9 sophomore forward from Les Aubrias, France.

The Texans are no stranger to tough competition, as they are in a tough conference from top to bottom. This season, the WJCAC will be tough again, according to Green.

“I think its the toughest junior conference league in the country,” Green said. “There are really good coaches out here. Programs are well-funded, you’ve got nice places to play, and it can attract really good players. I think that we have a really special team. But unfortunately, I think a couple of other schools in our league do as well.”

As a national title contender going into every season, the expectations are high for Green for the upcoming season.

“We would like to win the league,” Green said. “We would like to win the region. We would like to get to nationals and win a championship. We have the team to do it. It’s a race; it’s a long race. You want to play your best basketball in February.”

With high expectations for the team, Green thinks that every player on the team has something special to bring to the floor.

“We have 13 guys, I think, that are eligible to play this semester,” Green said. “All 13 guys have unique abilities. It’s the most talented team from top to bottom that I’ve ever had. We could actually look out onto  the floor and have nobody from last year’s team. I think everyone on this basketball team this year is a very good basketball player.”

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Jahill Tripp attempts a dunk in practice on Oct. 21. DOMINICK PUENTE/ PLAINSMAN PRESS

Newcomers to the Texan squad include: Grantham Gilliard, a 6-4 sophomore guard from Minneapolis, Minn.; Josh Webster, a 6-3 sophomore guard from St. Louis, M.O.; Shawntrez Davis, a 6-9 sophomore forward from Atlanta, Ga.; Jahill Tripp, 6-5 freshman forward from Brooklyn, N.Y.; Jordan Brangers, a 6-2 freshman guard from Radcliff, K.Y.; and Greg Shead, 6-0 freshman guard from Houston.

“They’re working hard, they seem to like each other, we’re playing unselfish,” Green said. “They’re more about helping their teammates than they are helping themselves. If you have those things going, you’ve got a chance.”

 

Last season, the Texans averaged 26.3 defensive rebounds per game and were ranked 10th in the conference in the category last season. Green looks to improve in that aspect of the game, mainly on the defensive side.

I think that we’ve got to get better defensively,” Green said. “As good as a shooting team as we are, we are going to run into occasions where we don’t shoot one night.  You’ve got to have something to fall back on.”

Green added, “Another thing is I think we’ve got to really improve on defensive rebounding, because we’re not exceptionally big. We have a post guy that is banged up, and I don’t know how many minutes he’s going to play, or in what situations he will be able to. Everybody will have to step up and really do a great job in defensive rebounding.”

The Texans kick off their season on Nov. 2, taking on the Wayland Baptist JV at 6:30 p.m. at Texan Dome. The Texans will follow that up by traveling to Lewisville to face Navarro College and Trinity Valley College on Nov. 5-Nov. 6.

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