College Hoops: Bobcats set up for future success
By 10 p.m. last Friday night, Texas State no longer had a team left in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
Last Tuesday, the Bobcat women fell in the first round to the University of Denver. Despite keeping it close through most of the first half, Texas State — and senior guard Diamond Ford — couldn’t hang with the Pioneers in the second half of a 73-63 loss.
Later that night, the Bobcats men extended their season at least two days when they knocked off Seattle University. Texas State dismantled the Redhawks, 68-56, to advance to last Thursday’s quarterfinal round against second-seeded University of Denver.
Then on Thursday, the Bobcats posted their biggest win of the Doug Davalos Era as they upset the Pioneers, who had won 17 of their last 18 games. Junior forward Joel Wright scored 32 points in the 72-68 win and Texas State was two games away from the Big Dance.
“Scoring … I really don’t focus on scoring, to tell you the truth,” Wright said after the victory. “I just focus on trying to make sure all of my guys are right, we are being a team, getting closer together and winning games.”
Wright, who was named to the All-WAC Tournament team, continued his strong play Friday night in the semifinals against New Mexico State, but it wasn’t enough. Even though Wright posted a double-double (17 points and 11 rebounds), the Bobcats lost to the Aggies by 11.
So now that both seasons are over, what does the future hold for each team?
For starters, the men must find a new head coach. Texas State chose not to renew Doug Davalos’ contract and left the program in limbo.
When a head coach is hired, he’ll have a strong centerpiece in Wright and a talented backcourt in Phil Hawkins and Deonte’ Jones. Those will be three of the Bobcats’ five seniors next year, in addition to Reid Koenen and Corey Stern.
Should Texas State hire a strong recruiter, it could pay dividends as early as the 2015-16 season. Those five — or more — recruits coming to the Bobcats via the 2014 recruiting class would all be sophomores and have a year in the Sun Belt Conference under their wings.
For the women, the program needs to find another dynamic scoring threat with the loss of Ford.
It’s impossible to understate how important Ford was to the Texas State women’s basketball program in 2012-13. Ford set a single-season scoring record, took over sole possession of second place on the all-time chart in that category and notched 30.4 percent of her team’s total points this season.
One area in which the Bobcats shouldn’t struggle next season is being mismatched in the post. Ashley Ezeh will be fully healthy and she’ll be joined in the front-court by Big-12 transfers Jacqueline Jeffcoat (Oklahoma) and Kileah Mays (Iowa State), as well as redshirt freshman Jaimie Grace.
Both the men and women, as well as Texas State’s other athletic programs, will compete in the Sun Belt next year. Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky reached the NCAA Tournament on the men’s side, while the Middle Tennessee State women won their side of the bracket.