Texas Tech basketball: Red Raiders land athletic 2020 JUCO forward

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - JANUARY 25: The Texas Tech Red Raiders are introduced before the college basketball game against the Kentucky Wildcats at United Supermarkets Arena on January 25, 2020 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - JANUARY 25: The Texas Tech Red Raiders are introduced before the college basketball game against the Kentucky Wildcats at United Supermarkets Arena on January 25, 2020 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /

Saturday, the Texas Tech basketball team picked up a verbal commitment from Esahia Nywie, an ultra-athletic 6-foot-10 forward from the JUCO ranks.

Chris Beard’s top assistant coach, Mark Adams, is something of a legend in the JUCO ranks.  He’s also the mastermind of the Texas Tech basketball team’s dominant defensive scheme.  Thus, he has to be overjoyed on both accounts because Saturday, Tech landed a commitment from one of the top JUCO players still available in the 2020 class, Esahia Nywie.

A 6-foot-10 pogo stick from Clarendon College, the native of Sudan, Africa made his decision known on Twitter just weeks after picking up an offer from Beard’s program.  The news also came on the same day that Purdue graduate transfer big man Matt Haarms included Tech in his top 10 potential destinations and one has to wonder if that development prompted Nywie to jump on the Red Raider’s offer while there is still a spot available for a big man on next year’s team.

"“I want to thank Coach Adams and Coach Beard for giving me the opportunity to play at the next level,” Nywie said on Twitter.  “With that being said, I am excited to announce that I will be continuing my academic and basketball career at Texas Tech University.”"

The fact that he mentioned Adams by name before Beard is a sign of just how crucial Adams was in his recruitment.  A coaching lifer, Adams was the head coach at Clarendon College for one season (1981-82).  He also led Howard College in Big Spring to the 2010 NJCAA National Championship and was named the NJCAA’s National Coach of the Year that season and that JUCO pedigree has allowed him to stay tapped into that world where his name opens almost any door.

In the Beard era, Tech has relied on a number of JUCO players including Niem Stephenson (2016-18) and DeShawn Corprew (2018-19).  Now, there’s hope that Nywie could be the next JUCO player to be an integral piece of the puzzle.

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According to Phil Mayer of Everythinglubbock.com, Nyiwe averaged 8.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in 14.5 minutes while starting 28 games and shooting 67.2 percent from the field this past season.  It was his fourth school in the last four years after he played in Omaha, Nebraska and Atlanta, Georgia in high school and Iowa Western and Clarendon College at the JUCO level.

Though his stats aren’t going to jump off the page at anyone, his most recent season highlights should.  Take a look at them here and then try not to envision Nyiwe filling a role similar to the one Tariq Owens played in 2018-19.

On offense, he shows ball-handling skills that most 6-foot-10 players would only dream of.  Those are on display in the first clip in his highlight video as he crosses up a defender at the 3-point line and drives left all the way to the bucket to finish with a dunk.

In the very next clip, he confidently steps into a 3-pointer and drains it.  Though his shot looks a bit unusual, there are enough clips in the video showing him connecting from deep to make us believe that he is a capable shooter.  He also has an incredible knack for finishing lobs at the rim and scoring off of putback dunks, skills that were woefully absent from the Red Raiders’ 2019-20 team.

But it’s on defense where he could have his greatest impact for the Red Raiders.  His highlight video is filled with resounding blocks where he comes from the other side of the floor to protect the rim, just as Owens did while anchoring the nation’s best defense in 2018-19 and establishing a new school record for blocks in a season with 92.

He also has the lateral movement that makes one believe he will be more than capable of guarding any player on the court, something that is essential for anyone in Tech’s switch-everything defensive scheme. That was another aspect of Owens’ game that was so crucial to last season’s National Title Game run.  For instance, Tech was able to put the 6-foot-11 forward on Gonzaga’s 6-foot-8 star forward Rui Hachimura in the second half of last year’s Elite Eight victory thus neutralizing the Zags top scorer.

There’s no telling if this commitment takes Tech out of the Haarms sweepstakes but one might believe so.  That’s because there are now four members of the 2020 recruiting class set to arrive for next season with only two players having left the program thus far, grad transfers T.J. Holyfield and Chris Clarke, the team’s top two rebounders this past season.

Of course, we continue to wait on word from Jahmi’us Ramsey as to whether he will return for his sophomore season or head to the NBA.  But even if he leaves, Tech will still need to open up one spot for its newest commit.  What’s more, there’s reason to believe that Beard is going to try to add a ball-dominant guard to the roster so how the scholarship shuffle shakes out is anyone’s guess at this point.

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But what we can be certain of is the fact that Tech has found a player who can fill an important role for the next two years.  With Esahia Nywie now in the fold, the Red Raiders just became taller and quite a bit more athletic in the post, something that was atop Beard’s offseason to-do list.