As fans made their way into United Spirit Arena Saturday for their first glimpse of the 2011-12 Red Raider basketball team, they were handed roster sheets complete with player mugshots.
It was a good thing, too, because first-year coach Billy Gillispie is hardly the only new face in Lubbock.
This season’s Tech squad features 10 newcomers, with only three players returning from last year’s team — senior Robert Lewandowski and sophomores Javarez Willis and Jaye Crockett.
For that reason, there are many unknowns for the Red Raiders as Gillispie enters his first season as Tech’s coach, taking over for Pat Knight, who was fired after going 50-61 over three-plus seasons.
About 500 fans were on hand Saturday as Gillispie conducted a practice that was high on intensity.
“The effort has been great,” he said. “We’ve got 10 new guys, so we are learning every single new situation.”
Gillispie said this team is among the most inexperienced he’s coached, a large reason why the Big 12 coaches picked Tech to finish tied for ninth in their preseason poll released earlier this week.
Gillispie’s aim, he said, is to instill an attention to detail in his young team, an approach that was evident in Saturday’s practice. If players didn’t make a cut at full speed or missed an assignment during a drill, a set of stadium stairs were waiting to be run.
“It’s going to require a great deal of repetition,” Gillispie. “They have all the intangibles they need, but every situation they are learning is new.”
With so many new faces, a handful of newcomers will be expected to contribute early. Junior Ty Nurse, a transfer from Midland College and freshmen Terran Petteway, DeShon Minnis, Toddrick Gotcher and Luke Adams are all new additions at the guard position.
Forward additions include junior-college transfers Jaron Nash and Kader Tapsoba and freshmen Cameron Forte and Jordan Tolbert.
The most experience lies with the team’s lone senior, Lewandowski, who has played in 95 career games for the Red Raiders. He averaged 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds last season.
“He’s been great,” Gillispie said. “He’s dropped 25 pounds and he’s dropped from 18 percent body fat to single digits. He’s been totally committed.”
Gillispie said he has also been impressed with how Lewandowski has “come out of his comfort zone” in terms of being a leader, an important trait with such young teammates around him.
Tech will kick off its season with an exhibition game against Southwestern Oklahoma on Nov. 3. The Red Raiders open up the regular season by hosting Troy on Nov. 11.
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