No. 14 Texas Tech brings experience, talent into new season

NCAA Basketball

What has been building at Texas Tech the past few years is no longer a secret, not in the Big 12 Conference nor nationally after the Red Raiders came within a whisker of winning a national championship in 2019.

There is, however, some mystery about the current Texas Tech crew as it embarks on the 2020-21 campaign.

The 14th-ranked Red Raiders open up against Northwestern State on Wednesday in Lubbock, Texas.

While there are some familiar faces, with seven returnees, Texas Tech also features seven newcomers. Similar to the past few seasons, Red Raiders coach Chris Beard and his staff have opened their arms to a wave of transfers after an 18-13 campaign last season (9-9 in the Big 12).

Headlining that group are senior Marcus Santos-Silva from VCU and Mac McClung from Georgetown.

Santos-Silva graduated from VCU over the summer after three seasons in which he appeared in 97 games. He started 64 times (all in the past two years) and produced 12.8 points and 8.9 rebounds a game a year ago. Big 12 coaches tabbed Santos-Silva the league’s preseason newcomer of the year.

“He’s a guy that wants to get better and is working hard to get better,” Beard said of Santos-Silva during a preseason media session. “He’s got the looks of a great leader, and we have high expectations for him. It’s hard being a leader and best player guy. He wants that responsibility.”

McClung wasn’t sure he would be granted eligibility until last month, and his addition was a big shot in the arm after Texas Tech lost starting guards Davide Moretti and Jahmi’us Ramsey to pro ball.

In two years at Georgetown, McClung proved to be a dynamic scorer and source of energy. He will be counted on to step into some of the roles Moretti and Ramsey filled.

The expectations of the two newcomers is blended with what another year of maturity could bring for Kyler Edwards and Terrence Shannon Jr. Edwards started all 31 games last season and accounted for 11.4 points, four rebounds and 3.1 assists a game. Shannon started 21 games and chipped in with 9.8 points and 4.1 rebounds a contest.

Additionally, two of the most anticipated freshmen in program history round out the newcomer crew: Nimari Burnett from Chicago and Micah Peavy from Texas prep powerhouse Duncanville. Burnett is the first McDonald’s All-American who has signed with the Red Raiders, while Peavy was named the Class 6A Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Player of the Year last season.

“We like our balance this season,” Beard said. “It’s as many returners as we’ve ever had with guys who were in our rotation. To have seven guys on our roster from last year is something we’re hoping pays dividends this year. With the new players, we still stayed old with our transfers who can impact games from the first day.”

Texas Tech faces a Northwestern State team with a similar makeup after going 15-15 in 2019-20, including an 11-9 mark in the Southland Conference.

Under longtime coach Mike McConathy, the Demons have traditionally been guard-oriented and built around playing fast.

The return of two point guards, senior CJ Jones and junior Brian White, gives Northwestern State a solid foundation to follow that familiar formula. Jones has made 61 starts in his 84 games over the past three years. He averaged 3.6 points and 2.1 assists last season.

“CJ had as much to do with our offensive improvement as anybody,” McConathy said. “That made a lot of difference — the ball didn’t stick, and we didn’t dribble that much.”

Wright added 7.8 points and 3.1 assists in 2019-20.

The top returning scorer is senior guard Jairus Roberson, who put up 11.9 points per game last season.

–Field Level Media

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