Texas Tech basketball: The top 25 Red Raiders in the Big 12 era

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Nov 25, 2020; Lubbock, Texas, USA; A general overview of the United Supermarkets Arena during a game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Northwestern State Demons. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Big 12 is celebrating 25 years in 2020-21 so let’s take a look at the 25 best Texas Tech basketball players of the Big 12 era.

The Big 12 is a quarter of a century old now.  For those of us old enough to remember the days of the Southwest Conference, that fact is a bit sobering as it seems like only yesterday the Big 12 was some radical new idea.  Now, we are just a day away from Tech tipping off its 25th season when Kansas comes to Lubbock tomorrow night.

Over the last 25 years, life in this conference has seen some serious ups and downs on the South Plains.  In fact, it has been quite the roller coaster ride for the Red Raiders.

After finishing tied for 3rd in the conference standings in the inaugural season of Big 12 play, Tech would fall on hard times.  From the 1997-98 season through the 2000-01 season, the program would finish no better than 7th in the conference and would finish 11th or 12th three times.

But with the arrival of Bob Knight, Tech would see a serious resurgence.  From the 2001-02 season through the 2006-07 season (Knight’s final full go-round), Tech would finish no worse than 7th and would top out at 3rd in the league standings in 2001-02.

Of course, after the Knight era, Tech would bottom out again.  From 2007-08 through 2016-17, Tech would end the year no higher than 7th in the conference and would make the NCAA Tournament just once.  During that time, the program would up finishing 9th or worse on six occasions.

Enter Chris Beard and, well, you know the rest.  We are truly living in the golden age of Red Raider hoops and it is one we hope lasts for the next 25 years, even if the Big 12 doesn’t.

So as we celebrate year 25 of Big 12 basketball, let’s take a look at the 25 best individual players to have come through the program in that time frame.  Here’s our countdown of the 25 best Texas Tech basketball players of the Big 12 era.

No. 25: Jordan Tolbert

If he had played in a different era of the program and if he had stayed in Lubbock for his entire college career, Jordan Toldebt would have been much higher on this list and he would have been much more fondly remembered by fans.  But as it stands, most either don’t remember his contributions or don’t think as highly of him as perhaps we should.

Ranked no. 42 on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,006 points, the Fort Worth native averaged 10.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game as a Red Raider.  That included two seasons of at least 10 points per game.

Interestingly, his freshman season was his best as a Red Raider.  In fact, it was one of the best freshman seasons ever by a Red Raider.

Averaging 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in 2011-12, his 357 points ranked 5th all-time in program history for a freshman as he led the team in scoring.  Meanwhile, his 177 rebounds was good for 4th-best among true freshmen at Tech at the time.

Unfortunately for Tolbert, he had to endure the death of his father while he was at Texas Tech.  That and the turmoil of the Billy Gillespie era led him to want to return closer to home as he transferred to SMU after his junior season.

Because he didn’t finish his career in Lubbock and because he played for the program during what was its darkest hour of the Big 12 era, many have forgotten about what a terrific player he was.

At 6-foot-7, Tolbert was a bit undersized as a power forward but his 240-pound frame allowed him to compete with bigger players in the post.   He would have been a great fit in Chris Beard’s positionless system today and he remains one of the best forwards of the last 25 years of Red Raider hoops.

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