Friday, the Texas Tech basketball program released 2019 signee Khalid Thomas from his letter of intent meaning there are two scholarships still available for the Red Raiders to hand out this summer.
The twists and turns of the Texas Tech basketball program’s offseason thus far would make for a fascinating reality show. Coming off a run to the national title game, the Red Raiders and Chris Beard have been busy trying to piece together a roster for next year after having to replace five key rotation pieces and eight scholarship players from the 2018-19 season and hardly as week has gone by without some news breaking on that font.
Now, the cards have been shuffled once again as 2019 signee Khalid Thomas has asked for and been granted his release from his national letter of intent. After entering last season as the JUCO preseason player of the year at Southern Idaho, Thomas was limited to just 16 games this season after suffering a foot injury last fall.
As he worked his way back into basketball shape, he was able to put up 8.6 points and 4.5 rebounds in 19.5 minutes of action per game. But when healthy in 2017-18, he posted 14.7 points and 6.5 rebounds making him one of the top JUCO recruits in the nation.
Thomas, who committed to Texas Tech in October, held offers from such programs as Arizona, Baylor, Florida State, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. Now, some media outlets are speculating that the Idaho native may want play on the west coast.
This is just the latest move in what has been a fascinating offseason for the Texas Tech basketball program. Since the end of the season, Tech has already added two of the top available graduate transfers in the nation in T.J. Holyfield and Chris Clarke and two high school signees in Clarence Nadolny and T.J. Shannon. And now, we can expect at least two more pieces to be added to next year’s roster.
The two most highly-publicized prospects to be linked to the Red Raiders are 5-star guard R.J. Hampton from Little Elm, who has Tech in his top 4 schools, and 4-star forward Tyreek Smith, who has already taken an official visit to Lubbock. Of course, Beard could also use this scholarship to add another grad transfer big man to help fill the void left by the departure of the 6-foot-9 Thomas.
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As it stands, the Red Raiders have a surplus of talent at the guard and wing positions with the return of Davide Moretti, Kyler Edwards and Deshawn Corprew as well as the additions of 5-star wing Jahmius Ramsey, 4-star wing Terrence Shannon and 3-star point guard Clarence Nadolny. The Red Raiders will also have the services of 2018 signee Kevin McCullar Jr., the No. 18 player in Texas in his class, who joined the program in January but redshirted after graduating from high school early.
But in the post, Beard could stand to add more size and athleticism. With the loss of Norense Odiase and Tariq Owens, Tech will have plenty of minutes up for grabs among a group of forwards that includes Holyfield, Clarke (who can guard smaller forwards on the blocks), 7-foot freshman signee Russell Tchewa and 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman Andrei Savrasov who joined the team in January after coming to Lubbock from his native Russia.
The loss of the versatile Thomas, who is a stretch-forward capable of being a weapon from the outside, is not ideal but given that Savrasov has essentially the same type of game, it is not devastating. Keep an eye on Smith as the possible replacement for Thomas as the former Texas A&M commit is likely to make a decision soon.
Smith is not as polished offensively as Thomas but could be a much better fit for next year’s roster because he would be more capable of being a defensive stalwart who could immediately provide some much-needed rim protection. Though Smith is able to put the ball in the bucket, he would not be relied on as heavily to score as it was assumed Thomas would be when he committed to the Red Raiders last fall.
But now, Texas Tech is living in a completely new zip code in the college basketball community meaning that even a player of Khalid Thomas’ skill is able to be replaced. It is amazing to think that most now expect the Red Raiders to be able to easily upgrade their roster after losing a player that was arguably the best JUCO prospect in the nation. These are high times indeed for Texas Tech basketball.