For the Texas Tech Red Raiders men's basketball team, 2011 marks the dawn of a new era for the program.
There is new leadership at the helm with former Texas A&M and Kentucky head coach Billy Gillispie taking over for former Tech coach Pat Knight. Along with Gillispie come a slew of new recruits and new faces.
The Red Raiders only return three letterman from last season. Robert Lewandowski, Javarez Willis, and Jaye Crockett will be the only familiar faces sporting red and black this season. Lewandowski is the only senior on the team and the 6'10" forward is the team's leading returning scorer - averaging 8.5 points per game last season. Crockett is heading into his sophomore season at Tech and is thought to be a bright prospect. He is a good rebounder and very athletic at the rim.
Coach Gillispie's recruiting class includes 13 new Red Raiders. 9 of them are freshman right out of high school and the other 4 are transfers from other programs. Among the new players many are expected to play early and make contributions. 6'8" forward Jaron Nash is one of those aforementioned transfers and his size and athletic ability are sure to add some depth and talent to the Red raider front court. 6'1" guard Ty Nurse is expected to make an impact on the front court. The Midland College transfer led his team to a National Championship game last season. Along with Nurse, Lubbock native and Estacado graduate Kevin Wagner will attempt to compete for time at guard as a true freshman.
Coach Gillispie definitely does not have an easy task in rebuilding a program that's lost its luster over the past few years. Texas Tech finished last season with a 13-19 record which included a first round loss in the Big 12 tournament. Gillispie will attempt to turn that record around into a winning margin. It won't be an easy road with so many new faces but there is hope with Gillispie's leadership and track record that the Red Raiders will be dancing before too long.
Texas Tech opens their season Friday, Nov. 11 at home against Troy, but fans can get an early look at the team during a week of free exhibition games at the United Spirit Arena. The first game is Thursday, 7 p.m., against Southwestern Oklahoma.
Saturday the men will take on Our Lady of the Lakes, while the Lady Raiders are set to play an exhibition game against Metro State on Sunday at 2 p.m.