COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Preparing to defend its first-ever SEC Championship and with a goal of making another deep run in the NCAA Tournament, the Texas A&M men’s basketball team held their first full-team practice Monday afternoon inside Reed Arena.
“The great thing about coaching college basketball is your team changes every year and we’ve definitely got a different personality,” sixth-year Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy said. “We lost four good seniors, but we’re developing some personality even though we’re a young team. We’re excited about our guys.”
Despite the departure of four outstanding senior starters, the Aggies have a solid roster foundation with young, talented players prepared to step up to the challenge of leading the squad into the new campaign. A total of eight letterwinners return from last season’s SEC Championship and Sweet 16 squad, including four key contributors who averaged over 17 minutes per game last season.
Led by SEC All-Freshman Team performers in center Tyler Davis and forward DJ Hogg, as well as versatile guard Admon Gilder, who himself made a splash as a rookie in 2015-16, the Aggies’ highly-regarded sophomore class will look to make their mark following their successful debut in Aggieland.
Davis immediately stepped into the starting lineup as a freshman a year ago and stood out as one of the SEC’s top big men. The Plano, Texas, native averaged 11.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest while shooting 65.5 percent from the floor and pacing the team with 41 blocked shots.
Davis teams with another gifted Aggie center, Tonny Trocha-Morelos, to give Texas A&M one of the country’s most formidable frontcourts. Adding quality depth to the low post will be senior Tavario Miller, who has played in 92 games during his time in Aggieland, and athletic newcomer Robert Williams, who joins the team after being regarded as the top recruit from the state of Louisiana.
“This year I’m one of the older guys so I need to be more of a vocal leader and be there to encourage my teammates to bring everything they’ve got every practice and every game,” said Trocha-Morelos of his role.
On the perimeter, Hogg saw action in all 37 games a year ago, averaging 18.2 minutes per outing and scoring 6.3 points per contest. The 6-foot-9 swingman should see an expanded role with the departure of Danuel House. Gilder, meanwhile is also poised for a breakout as a sophomore, after playing in 37 games as a freshman behind departed seniors Alex Caruso and Anthony Collins. The 6-foot-3 guard contributed seven points per game last season while shooting 43.1 percent from the floor, including a 34.7 percent clip from 3-point range, and collecting 34 steals.
JC Hampton, a 6-foot-1 guard who transferred to Texas A&M after playing in 96 games and making 92 starts in three seasons at Lipscomb, will also factor in the rotation at the guard position. Sophomore guard Kobie Eubanks, who saw action in eight games after joining the team last December, could also see a larger role on the outside.
“I’m going to have to be more of a leader,” Gilder said prior to Monday’s workout. “We had great leaders in Anthony Collins and Alex Caruso at the point guard/shooting guard position and this year that’s going to fall a lot more on me and JC (Hampton).”
Incoming freshman Eric Vila is a product of Girona, Spain, and presents match-up problems as a 6-foot-11 scoring wing player. He comes to the program after drawing attention during performances at the ADIDAS Next Generation Tournament and Basketball without Borders (BWB) Global Camp.
A LOOK AT THE 2016-17 SCHEDULE
The non-conference slate features six affairs inside the friendly confines of Reed Arena, highlighted by a showdown with Southern Cal on Nov. 18. 17.
The Aggies will begin the defense of their SEC title on Dec. 29 with a home showdown against Tennessee. In addition to the Volunteers, the home league schedule includes visits to Aggieland by LSU (Jan. 11), Arkansas (Jan. 17), Georgia (Jan. 21), Vanderbilt (Jan. 31), Missouri (Feb. 8), Auburn (Feb. 18), Alabama (Feb. 25) and Kentucky (March 4). Texas A&M’s road SEC tilts include contests at Kentucky (Jan. 3), South Carolina (Jan. 7), Mississippi State (Jan. 14), Ole Miss (Jan. 25), LSU (Feb. 4), Florida (Feb. 11), Vanderbilt (Feb. 16), Arkansas (Feb. 22) and Missouri (Feb. 28).
The 2017 SEC Tournament is slated for March 8-12 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
The Aggie basketball team will celebrate the upcoming season during Maroon Madness on Oct. 27. In addition to giving fans their first chance to see both the Texas A&M men’s and women’s squads on the hardwood for the first time, the event will celebrate last season’s success by adding the Aggies’ 2016 SEC Championship banner to the rafters of Reed Arena. Admission for the event, which is slated to begin at 8 p.m., is free.
Both the Texas A&M men’s and women’s teams will take part in a brief scrimmage during the event, which will feature giveaways for fans as well as a chance to win a VIP experience to travel with the team for a road game this season.
Prior to the activities inside the area, the Reed Rowdies will put on a tailgate with free food and drinks at the facility's north entrance which is open to all students.
SEASON TICKETS ON SALE
An affordable, family entertainment option, season tickets for Texas A&M men's basketball are on sale and begin as low as $100. Annual per seat contributions are required for some seating areas. Contact the 12th Man Foundation for additional information or to order tickets by calling 888-992-4443 or logging on to www.12thMan.com/Tickets.
#DriveFor5 SEASON TICKET CAMPAIGN
The #DriveFor5 campaign aims to hit a record 5,000 season tickets and features several incentives for both renewing and new season ticket holders. Up to $5,000 of Texas A&M apparel and merchandise will be given away during weekly drawings in which five random season ticket holders will be selected for prizes. The drawings are scheduled to take place on Fridays leading up to the season (Oct. 7, Oct. 14, Oct. 21, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4) with the winners announced via the team’s social media accounts (@AggieMensHoops on Twitter and Facebook.com/AggieMensHoops).
Additionally, the #DriveFor5 campaign will feature a mystery season ticket offer which will go live for just 12 hours on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The mystery season ticket offer will feature $79 season tickets that have a different seating location for each game so fans can experience Reed Arena from every angle.
(© 2016 KAGS)