When the next Texas Tech basketball season rolls around, Chris Beard will have a bench that would rival the starting five of many previous versions of the Red Raiders.
Each offseason, we spend quite a bit of time discussing what the next season’s starting five might look like. That’s become an especially common pastime in recent years as Texas Tech basketball has risen to national prominence.
But today, let’s stop and think about how strong of a bench head coach Chris Beard figures to have this upcoming season. After all, we should be paying more attention to the options he will have in that regard because there is as much talent there as most other Red Raider rosters have had in the starting lineup.
First of all, just consider that Beard will likely have four former four-star players to turn to after the game starts. Either Kevin McCullar or Terrence Shannon will have to come off the bench as it doesn’t seem likely that these two very similar players will both start. Then, he will also have redshirt freshman Tyreek Smith and true freshmen Micah Peavy and Chibuzo Agbo Jr. as reserves.
There have been several seasons in which Texas Tech fans would have killed to have had four players on the entire roster rated as 4-star players, much less four such talents to bring off the bench.
Of the above-mentioned players, McCullar was the lowest-ranked as a high school player at No. 194 nationally, which is rather high for the average Red Raider recruit. What’s more, both Peavy and Shannon were top-90 players in their classes. Most years prior to the Beard era, players of that prestige would be the most highly-regarded on the roster.
What’s more, each of the five players we’ve discussed was more highly-ranked as a prospect than either Zhaire Smith or Jarrett Culver. Taking it a step further, from 2012-16, there was only one player that played for Tech who was higher-ranked as a highschool prospect than any of the current Red Raider reserves and that was Isaiah Manderson in 2014 who was the No. 190 player in the nation, only slightly better than McCullar was ranked in his class.
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Let’s take this exercise a step forward and include 6-foot-11 JUCO transfer Esahia Nyiwe, who is a poor man’s Tariq Owens. With that big man in the mix, Beard could have a backup squad of Nywie, Peavy, Shannon, Smith, and sophomore point guard Clarence Nadolny to run the point. Think about how many starting lineups from Red Raider past would pale in comparison to that fivesome.
Which group would you rather start a game with? The 2020-21 reserves or the five players Beard started in his first game as head coach of the Red Raiders in 2016: Keenan Evans, Aaron Ross, Anthony Livingston, Zach Smith, and Shadell Millinghaus? Despite the fact that Evans is an all-time great, I’d take this year’s backups.
Would you take this year’s bench in a game against the starters from the 2014-15 season opener: true freshmen Zach Smith, Justin Gray, and Norense Odiase along with JUCO point guard Robert Turner (who was also making his Red Raider debut) and Randy Onwuasor, who was just a sophomore? Give me the 2020-21 bench.
Of course, the 2011-12 team that won just eight games would not have a starting lineup that most would take over this year’s bench. That team started Jaye Crockett, Clark Lammert, Dejan Kravic, Kader Tapsoba, and Jordan Tolbert. Of course, that team was also coached by Billy Gillespie and not Chris Beard so that would give this year’s squad a massive advantage.
The point is that Chris Beard has the deepest team in perhaps the history of the program and it could pay dividends in the Big 12 where basketball can often become a war of attrition due to the physical nature of the league. And when Beard has to go to his bench, he will have options that would make any other coach in Tech history rather envious.