Davis returns to lead young Texas A&M Aggies
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Texas A&M returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 last season and reached the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in school history with a veteran-laden team that coach Billy Kennedy had been building for years.
This year, the Aggies will try and sustain that success despite losing four starters from a team that was the co-Southeastern Conference champion.
''We're excited about the young guys we have,'' Kennedy said. ''We're going to be big, have a great front line. If we can get some solid guard play I think we'll be able to compete for another SEC championship.''
Texas A&M's only returning starter is sophomore center Tyler Davis, who had a great freshman year to help the Aggies to a school-record 28 wins. Davis was selected by the media to the SEC preseason first team, after averaging 11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks a game last season.
The 6-foot-10 Davis is a major reason why the Aggies are expected to be solid again and why they were predicted by the media to finish third in the SEC behind Kentucky and Florida.
Davis has high expectations for the team despite all of the players the Aggies lost.
''Last year we had a great run and this year we're looking to go even farther,'' he said.
In order for that to happen, the Aggies will need some young players to take another step this season. D.J. Hogg, a high school teammate of Davis, appeared in every game as a freshman last season with three starts. The 6-9 forward averaged 6.2 points and 2.9 rebounds last season but will be counted on for more scoring this season in taking over for star Danuel House.
Texas A&M is also looking for a big year from fellow sophomore Admon Gilder. The guard will move into the starting lineup this year after averaging seven points a game in a reserve role last season.
Some things to know about the 2016-17 Aggies:
The Aggies will be very young this season after having four senior starters a year ago. This team has 13 freshmen and sophomores, just two seniors and one junior and will likely start only one player that isn't a freshman or sophomore. It's a change for Kennedy, who he's not used to playing with a team filled with freshman and sophomores like teams like Kentucky are.
''This is new territory for me,'' he said.
SIZE AND LEADERSHIP
Six-foot-10 junior Tonny Trocha-Morelos will pair with Davis to give A&M great interior size. Trocha-Morelos contributed seven points a game last year in a reserve role, but is looking to do more this season and help guide the younger players.
''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,'' he said.
The Aggies have several new players who could play important roles this season led by forward Robert Williams, who was rated as the top recruit in Louisiana last season. They also added ESPN top 100 recruit guard J.J. Caldwell and graduate transfer J.C. Hampton, who made 92 starts in three seasons at Lipscomb. Another intriguing addition is 6-11 forward Eric Vila, who passed up a chance to play professionally in his native Spain to join the Aggies. Vila could create problems for defenses with his ability to play inside paired with an ability to sink 3-pointers.
Texas A&M opens the season with three straight home games. They Aggies will host Northwestern State to begin the season on Nov. 11, followed by a game against American and then USC before hitting the road for their next three games.