Big 12 Basketball Media Day took place on Wednesday, October 24th at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. With less than two weeks before the Longhorns tip-off the season against Eastern Illinois, Texas head coach Shaka Smart and players Kerwin Roach, MattColeman and Dylan Osetkowski fielded questions from reporters about the upcoming season.
Smart touched on his upperclassmen, and how their experience in playing in the Big 12 will benefit the team and serve as an example for the five newcomers to the team. While guys like Jaxson Hayes, Gerald Liddell and Kamaka Hepa are unseasoned freshmen, they posses a skill-set that can help the Longhorns immediately on the court.
“I like our blends of returning guys and new guys and our job now is to put them together and go win a lot of games,” said Smart.
Junior guard Andrew Jones, who has battled back from cancer and recently broke his toe in practice, was a hot topic of conversation. Smart praised Jones’ attitude and progress, calling him a “fighter.” While he still has a ways to go to being back to the player he was before his illness, it’s not far-fetched to think that Jones can get there.
” The guy’s work ethic is phenomenal and I certainly wouldn’t put it past him to be able to work his way back to where he was as a player.”
Jones should be back on the court playing by the end of the week.
At Texas Tip-Off last week, it was easy to see the hard work Senior forward Dylan Osetkowski put in this off-season. Osetkowski is leaner and has packed on more muscle thanks to adhering to a strict workout regimen and diet. Smart acknowledged Osetkowski’s discipline saying the Tulane transfer is on a “very, very different approach in terms of strength and conditioning compared to other guys.”
Texas and Shaka Smart will rely on Osetkowski’s leadership to win games in a tough Big 12 slate and hopeful NCAA tournament berth.
“He knows some of the twists and turns that are coming and I think he can be a terrific leader first and foremost by example, and secondly vocally with his teammates because the guys really, really respect him.”
On Texas being ranked 4th in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll, Smart has no issue, particularly with the teams ranked ahead of Texas.
” K-State went to the Elite Eight last year and had a terrific team and has almost everybody back so it makes a lot of sense. I think in a lot of conferences they might get picked first, but Kansas has won the Big 12 so many years in a row that it sure makes sense to pick them. Plus, when you look at who they have back and who they recruited, a lot of people are picking them number 1 in the country let alone the Big 12.”
The Big 12 announced that the Big 12 Championship game would take place at the Sprint Center through the year 2024. Shaka Smart thinks the Sprint Center makes sense.
” I think it’s a great location for the Big 12 with all things considered, when you factor in the venue, the way that the folks in Kansas City embrace this conference tournament, the professionalism with which this tournament is treated. Obviously, you have some very, very passionate fan bases that are tremendously actively close so that impacts attendance. So I think when you factor all those things in, it makes a lot of sense.”
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