Texas Tech basketball: Scholarship number crunch a problem for Red Raiders

Feb 22, 2022; Lubbock, Texas, USA; The Big 12 logo is illuminated during team introductions before the game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Tech Red Raiders at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 22, 2022; Lubbock, Texas, USA; The Big 12 logo is illuminated during team introductions before the game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Tech Red Raiders at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Another week has brought us more clarity in regard to the Texas Tech basketball team’s roster for 2023-24, the first season of the Grant McCasland era.  Unfortunately, what is becoming obvious is that this roster as presently constructed isn’t going to have enough room to address all the holes that exist in the current squad.

With the addition of true freshman Emmeli Yalaho, and the decommitment of true freshman signee Jason Jackson, a three-star recruit from Florida (two developments that have come down in the past seven days), Tech currently has eleven scholarship players in the mix for next season.  That gives the current coaching staff just two spots to work with.

The problem is that this collection of talent currently has more than just three needs to fill.  What’s more, there isn’t likely to be a player in the portal that can remedy two or more of these problems by himself.

First of all, Tech desperately needs to add a strong power forward in the mold of a Norense Odiase or even a Marcus Santos-Silva.  That type of player is nearly essential to have in the rugged Big 12 where basketball games often resemble glorified prison riots.

It is great that Tech has added elite height in the form of Arizona State transfer Warren Washington, who is a legitimate 7-footer.  But, the Red Raiders need a veteran space eater who has the bulk and strength to fight for territory in the paint to pair with him.

Robert Jennings is a player who could become that type of asset at some point in his career.  But to ask a true sophomore who played only 2.7 minutes per game in his debut season to step into a starting role is unrealistic.  Thus, an addition who is willing to throw his body around and engage in hand-to-hand combat near the goal is a must for McCasland this offseason.

Additionally, the coaching staff would be wise to add another player taller than 6-foot-8.  Sure, some teams, such as the 2022 Sweet 16 Red Raider squad and even the 2018 National Champion Villanova Wildcats, were able to achieve great heights without any key player in the rotation over 6-foot-9, but that’s not a formula most coaches are comfortable with.

Instead, most prefer to head into battle with at least two players in the 6-foot-10 to 7-foot range.  Tech doesn’t have that luxury right now with 6-foot-8 former Georgia transfer, KyeRon Lindsay, (who is a wing, not a post) being the second-tallest player on the current roster.

Therefore, should Washington encounter foul trouble during a game, or even worse, suffer an injury, McCasland’s squad would be woefully undersized if it doesn’t add more height to the equation.  Remember, as we learned last season, 7-footers are rather prone to injury given how much of a toll basketball takes on the joints, especially on the lower half of the body.

We are coming off of a season in which Tech planned on having two 7-footers to trot out on a nightly basis but given the foot injury Fardaws Aimaq sustained in the preseason and the myriad of injuries that Daniel Batcho had to fight through, it was rare when both big me were available at the same time.

Though the coaching staff in Lubbock is new, there was a concerted effort to keep Batcho in the fold this offseason and when he decided to transfer to the basketball powerhouse of Louisiana Tech, it was a major setback in regard to this program’s attempt to build next season’s team.  Now, Tech would likely still welcome another player with some elite height but those players are highly-coveted and tough to find in the portal, especially those who can contribute in the Big 12.

Not all of the Red Raiders’ needs are in the front court though.  In fact, Tech has recently tried to add some scoring punch to the backcourt as the Red Raiders did all they could to lure Vanderbilt guard Tyrin Lawrence (who averaged over 13 points per game last season) to Lubbock.  However, the widely-held belief is that the talented guard will head back to Nashville if he doesn’t decide to keep his name in the NBA Draft pool.

Lawrence is the type of natural scorer that Tech lacks.  Sure, sophomore guard Pop Isaacs showed last year that he’s capable of putting up big numbers at the major conference level (he had 16 games of 10 points or more in just 25 appearances), but he needs a complimentary scorer to team with to prevent opposing defenses from focusing all of their efforts on him.

What’s more, Isaacs might not be the most natural offensive facilitator.  Rather than being asked to be a ball-dominant point guard, Isaccs, and his deadly 3-point shot, might be better suited to play off the ball where he can spot up for outside looks and space the floor letting slashers like Lindsay attack the rim.

Were the season to start today, Tech would have to decide if Grand Canyon transfer Chance McMillan can be a starter in the NCAA’s best conference.  Sure, he scored 10.9 points per game last season but jumping up from Grand Canyon to the Big 12 is likely to be an eye-opening experience for him and we saw last season that such a jump isn’t easy as D’maurian Williams managed just 3.1 p.p.g. one year after putting up 14.5 at Gardner Webb.

As for Williams and former UNC transfer Kerwin Walton, they remain on the roster, and given that the deadline to enter the portal and still be able to play this season has passed, both appear likely to remain part of the equation moving forward, something that is surprising and disappointing to most Red Raider fans who were hoping those two scholarships would come available for potential upgrades.

Tech can still upgrade the talent at the guard position with one of its two remaining scholarships but that means that one of the needs in the post might not be addressed.  Maybe McCasland can find an uber-athletic power forward who has the ability to check taller players or a backup 7-footer who has the strength to battle in the post.

However, that might be tough given how far into the summer talent acquisition cycle we are as summer school quickly approaches.  Instead, it is likely that, unless a surprise move is made with a departure from the current roster, the number crunch is going to wind up preventing McCasland from putting together a roster that is fully fortified in all regards.