Kaspar, Bobcats confident entering new season

Photo by Gerald Castillo

Texas State Men's Basketball

Danny Kaspar’s wife Deborah has a hunch that Texas State might put a good team on the court this season. 

She pointed out to the fifth-year Texas State head coach in the summer that he doesn’t complain about his team very much while he’s at home. Kaspar admits that the Bobcats make mistakes but he’s enjoyed how the team allows him to coach them. 

“They’re working hard,” Kaspar said at Texas State’s media day event inside San Marcos’ Embassy Suites. “To give you an example of their toughness and athleticism: Every conditioning test I’ve put them through, they all passed. We had one, like the mile run, they all made it without having to do extra running to get there.

“... That’s the first time that any of my teams have done that in 27 years made all the conditioning tests. So, I take that as a very positive sign not only from ‘We take coach seriously,’ because I tell them ‘You better get this done or I’m going to kill you. You’re going to run until you get it done.’ They all took it seriously and got it done. I think that shows some team cohesiveness, work ethic and coachability.” 

Kaspar is proud of the work his team has put in as the 2017-18 season draws near. He’s confident the Bobcats won’t be selected to finish last in the Sun Belt like they were last year. He says Texas State could be selected as high as third and as low as eighth, but he expects to fall in the middle, and he accepts that.

“My guess is we’re going to end up somewhere in the middle and that’s fine,” Kaspar said. “You know, as evidence by last year, it doesn’t matter where they pick you, it matters where you finish.” 

Texas State finished tied for third in the conference last season. The Bobcats played in the Sun Belt tournament as the No. 4 seed, where it fell short of claiming an NCAA tournament bid with a 59-53 loss to Troy in the conference championship game. 

Texas State accepted a bid into the Collegeinsider.com tournament, where it defeated Lamar and Idaho before falling in the quarterfinals to Saint Peter’s.  

Kaspar believes the 2016-17 season was just what the Bobcats needed. It was a jolt to a program that he had hoped would’ve already been more successful. Kaspar admits he wanted to have Texas State turned around by year three of his tenure, but that didn’t happen. Kaspar’s Bobcats, however, have shown improvement each year he’s been at Texas State from eight wins in his first season to 22 victories in year four. 

“The talent level here was decent when I got here,” Kaspar said. “But the culture was terrible. It was a bad culture. You know, a lot of talking back, a lot of challenging the rules, challenging the system, challenging the expectations, and so the second year we go from eight wins to 14. So, we took a big step forward. We won a game in the (Sun Belt) tournament. Then the third year, we only won 15. At this point, I had hoped to win 18, but you know, quite frankly we had some seniors not come through like I had hoped.

“Then last year we had that big jump. Somebody told me, it was the first 20-win season since ‘94, and I think it was the first winning season since 2002. So, I’ve been at three turnaround jobs - Incarnate Word, Stephen F., and now here. The culture issues caused this to be the most difficult turnaround challenge.”

Kaspar is hoping history repeats itself in his fifth year at Texas State. When he was the head coach at Stephen F. Austin, Kaspar’s Lumberjacks lost in the Southland championship game in 2008 and missed the NCAA tournament. The following season SFA won its conference and earned a NCAA bid.

“(The SFA team was) focused,” Kaspar said. “ I’m hoping that this same team is going to do that, but we’re going to have to get leadership from young kids, sophomores. In particular, Nijal Pearson, Immanuel King, we’ve got to get some leadership from them.”

Kaspar believes Pearson can provide leadership but he doesn’t want him to do too much on the court. But the sophomore forward from Beaumont will have the most opportunities to score, Kaspar said. He averaged 13.3 points per game, 5.7 rebounds and shot 43.7 percent last season. 

King, a junior forward from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, is the only other Bobcat returning starter. Texas State, however, has sophomores Nedja Prijovic and Marlin Davis, who all saw important minutes last year. The Bobcats added three JUCO recruits that they’re excited about - Isaiah Gurley, Tre Nottingham and Alex Peacock. The team is also expects to receive contributions from true freshmen Shelby Adams and Reggie Miller. 

With the combination of returning talent and new faces, Kaspar is confident in his 2017-18 squad

“We feel good about this year’s team,” Kaspar said. “They’ve been a very hard working group. A very coachable group that seems to like each other a great deal. I think all three components of what I just talked about are very important.” 

And if Kaspar continues to not complain about his team while he’s at home, maybe his wife’s hunch will be proven right. 

San Marcos Daily Record

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