The Tarleton Texans.
A team that many underestimate and perhaps even take for granted. And why wouldn’t they? Located in Stephenville, Texas, about an hour away from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, it’s not necessarily the idea location. The Tarleton Texans are in their third year of the transition to the Division I ranks. There aren’t many so-called superstars on the roster, if any. Tarleton hasn’t won a WAC title or even been in the mix for one since joining the WAC prior to the 2020-21 season.
And yes, somehow, the Texans are relevant in every sense of the word. The investment in athletics and facilities. Going toe-to-toe with Gonzaga who featured the No. 2 overall NBA Draft pick in Chet Holmgren. An early WAC sweep of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin in January. These are just a few examples of games the Texans shouldn’t have been competitive, yet found a way to win a ball game or give themselves a chance.
And the Texans do all this with arguably the smallest lineups in the WAC. Perhaps it is grit and determination. Or maybe it is head coach Billy Gillispie showing how good of a coach he is. Whatever it is, Tarleton is coming off a 14-win season and a 9-9 finish in WAC play.
Now, the Texans are eligible for the WAC Tournament so there is even more incentive to play better. Let’s break down the Texans. One disclaimer – the list of newcomers is bare right now because the Texans don’t have an official roster on the team website. And, per sources, things change almost daily.
Billy Gillispie, 3rd Season
14-17 (9-9, 8th in the WAC)
Not eligible due to transition rules
Montre Gipson – Transferred to Charlotte
Tahj Small – Transferred to Utah Valley
Jaheim Holden – Transferred to Fort Hays State University
Coreyoun Rushin 6-5, Gr, F Transfer (Chicago State)
Rod Brown 6-8, [R] Sr., F Transfer (Jacksonville University)
Jordan Booker 5-11, Jr., G Transfer (New Mexico Junior College)
Courtney Carter 6-1, [R] Sr., G Transfer (SIU-Edwardsville)
Shakur Daniel 6-6, Sr. G
Noah McDavid 6-5, So. G
Freddy Hicks 6-6, Jr. G/F
Shamir Bogues 6-4, Jr. G
Javontae Hopkins 6-0, Sr. G
Luke Winslow 6-2, So. G
𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗙𝗢𝗨𝗡𝗗𝗔𝗧𝗜𝗢𝗡 🤝 pic.twitter.com/rJHTaTlu1E
— Tarleton Men's Basketball (@TarletonMBB) June 27, 2022
Depending on how newcomer Rod Brown comes along, Tarleton may be the smallest team in the WAC once again. And while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it hurts the Texans in the long run. Yes, the guard line is impressive. Shakur Daniel, Shamir Bogues, Noah McDavid and Javontae Hopkins are really good. Freddy Hicks is a baller who can play multiple positions. But that is where, as of now, and in recent years the depth stops.
Gone are Montre Gipson and Tahj Small who both transferred to other programs. Tarleton will actually face Small on Feb. 23 when the Texans host Utah Valley where Small transferred in the offseason. If you don’t think losing Gipson and Small were big losses, let me help you understand. Gipson played 35.5 minutes per game and led the team in scoring at 14.9 points. Small was second on the team in scoring at 13.8 points and second in minutes played at 33.4. In fact, Gipson played a full 40 minutes in 12 of 31 games. And also played 39 minutes in six other contests. Gipson played 35-plus minutes in 23 of 31 games. Small had similar numbers. Six 40-minute games. 13 games of 35-plus minutes.
These guys were players that Billy Gillispie relied on HEAVILY. Gipson was 10th in KenPom percentage of minutes played. Just big time losses for a program in its first year of eligibility for the WAC Tournament.
However, these two losses just mean that someone else will have to step up their game. Which one of the returners will that be? Shakur Daniel has been with Billy Gillispie for four years now and could be that guy. A thumb injury put Daniel out of commission early in WAC play. The 6-6 guard and floor leader missed two months before coming back against UTRGV on Feb. 24.
Sophomore guard Noah McDavid benefitted from Daniel’s absence. And according to head coach Billy Gillispie, is a guy that has had a great Summer and who has the chance to be really good in 2022-23. McDavid averaged 6.2 points and 2.3 rebounds as true freshman in 24 minutes per game.
The issue won’t be at the guard line for the Texans. It will be in the paint. Freddy Hicks returns but at 6-6 plays out of position nearly every game. Sure, Hicks is dependable and has the motor to compete. Add in that Hicks can extend the floor with his ability to knock down a shot from the perimeter. But, playing against 6-9 and 6-10 night in and night out makes life a little more difficult. Hicks averaged 12.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 2021-22. And in 2022-23, Hicks will have to score more. The big question is if Hicks will be fully healthy when the season tips off on Nov. 7? Billy Gillispie said that Freddy Hicks has been dealing with a foot injury all Summer and early in the fall.
Hicks may have some help in the paint in Chicago State transfer Coreyoun Rushin. The 6-5 grad transfer played multiple positions for the Cougars in 2021-22. And is a similar player to Hicks. Rushin can take defenders off the dribble, knock down a shot from the perimeter, and play with a physicality that drives opponents nuts.
The lack of size will be an issue again in 2022-23. But, the way the Tarleton Texan guards get after things on the defensive end, Tarleton will be in every ball game. Just ask Gonzaga, Michigan and others.
— Tarleton Men's Basketball (@TarletonMBB) August 10, 2022
It’s not quite the brutal non-conference slate it was in 2021-22, but Tarleton has an impressive non-conference slate so far. The Tarleton Texans head to Tempe to take on Arizona State to open the 2022-23 season. There are trips to UCF, Wichita State, and Air Force. The Texans also have Weber State coming to Wisdom Gym for the first time. There is also a trip to WAC on Dec. 6 to take on Baylor.
The Tarleton Texans also head to the U.S. Virgin Islands to play in the Paradise Jam. In the MTE, Tarleton will play Belmont and then the winner/loser of Boston College and George Mason. Tarleton opens WAC play by hosting UT-Arlington on Dec. 29 before heading down I-20 to take on Abilene Christian two nights later at Moody Coliseum.