Season Preview: Texas A&M
Last year: 16-15
Key Losses: J.C. Hampton
Key Additions: JJ Caldwell, Jay Jay Chandler, Savion Flagg, TJ Starks, Duane Wilson
It wasn’t long ago that Texas A&M peaked at No. 5 in the AP Poll during a season that saw them make it to the Sweet 16 for just the fourth time in school history. However, It was even more recently that the Aggies struggled throughout the season, going 16-15 despite having a bevy of talent and an almost-surefire lottery pick on their hands. This year, things should be back on the uptick.
The Aggies frontcourt remains one of the most talented in the country, led by sophomore Robert Williams. Williams averaged 11.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest last year in his freshman year, but took huge strides as a player, launching himself into the lottery conversation. He could’ve been a top-10 pick but chose to return to College Station to continue his development and be the focal point of this Aggies team. Joining him in the post is center Tyler Davis, A&M’s leading scorer last season. The junior is an excellent post scorer and has a remarkably soft touch for someone of his build. While Williams should surpass him as the Aggies go-to scorer this year, having Davis as a second option inside is quite a luxury. Off the bench, veteran Tonny Trocha-Morelos gives the Aggies size that can also space the floor, which should be key considering their top two big men will mostly hang out in the paint.
The key to the Aggies success will be in the backcourt, as a much-improved point guard situation should be the cure for last year’s disappointing finish. When freshman JJ Caldwell was ruled ineligible for last year, scoring guard Admon Gilder was forced to run the offense, and the results weren’t pretty. Gilder should be able to settle back into his natural position with Caldwell able to start his A&M career (though he’ll be suspended for the first five games of the season). Caldwell sees the floor in a way the Aggies desperately need with all their scoring options. For insurance, they managed to snag former Marquette point guard Duane Wilson as a graduate transfer. Wilson will probably start the year with Caldwell out, and the Aggies will love his quickness, passing and scrappy defense. Junior DJ Hogg should also benefit from a real point guard running the offense, as the junior forward needs to find his shooting stroke that was so highly advertised when he was a freshman. If that happens, Hogg is athletic enough and skilled enough to wind up being the best player on this team. It’s fair to say he’s been slightly disappointing so far, as he was a top-30 recruit out of high school, but if he can put it together this season, this Aggies team will give Kentucky a run for their money at the top of the SEC.
Texas A&M brings in a nice recruiting class for the future, but Savion Flagg and TJ Starks should be the only major contributors as freshmen. Flagg is a bouncy 6-7 wing that should be effective in small ball lineups, and Starks is a 6-2 guard who should see some good minutes while Caldwell is out and could earn a rotation spot from there. For head coach Billy Kennedy, struggling to fit a couple of talented freshmen in the lineup is a luxury, as this team has enough talent in its top seven to make a run in March.
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: JJ Caldwell
SG: Admon Gilder
F: DJ Hogg
F: Robert Williams
C: Tyler Davis
Photo: USA TODAY Sports