Currently, for the Texas A&M Aggies, two things are certain.
They are playing like one of the hottest teams in the nation, and graduate guard Dennis Dexter is playing some of the best basketball of his career.
Coach Buzz Williams’ team, who had an underwhelming start to the season, has seemingly figured things out, most recently completing their sweep of Florida Wednesday night to improve to 5-0 in conference play.
As wins continue to pile on for the Aggies, especially after a shaky start, teams around the league — as well as the media — are beginning to take notice.
“I'm thankful for the first two and a half weeks,” Williams said. “[After that], there was a lot of work within the staff. I met with every single player on the team, and told them the truth … that we weren't representing what I believe our institution and our program should be about.”
“I think [since then], we've made some further changes,” he said. “I think that that's helped us.”
So how far can a streaking Texas A&M team really go?
ESPN says not far — putting them in the first four teams out in its latest bracketology — and the AP would agree, as it is still yet to rank the Aggies for their impressive SEC start.
But the Aggies say differently.
They have and will continue to rely on some of their newly acquired players from the transfer portal, like junior forward Julius Marble, who has only improved his play since being awarded SEC honors, and Dennis — who has no signs of slowing down.
“Winning is always fun,” Dennis said. “[But] after the win, you celebrate for a little bit, and the next day it's right back to the next game. It's a constant grind … you [have to] get to the next game quick, [and] you can’t really dwell on the win. You [have to] be really tough mentally and physically because it is demanding.”
Throughout the season, Dennis has proven to be a consistent shotmaker for Texas A&M. Having been a starter for each of his 18 games, he has averaged 8.4 points and 5.7 rebounds a game, but has scored double figures for eight of those games and the last three in a row.
Even more than points, however, the transfer guard has found other ways to lead on the court — which Williams and his teammates have not taken for granted.
“The effort that he is playing with on things that are not [on the stat sheet] I don’t know that I’ve seen in my [career] as a head coach,” Williams said. “Our players know it too. He commands a level of respect because of the consistency that he works with.”
Williams credited Dennis for his consistency and ability to fit into the team’s offense right away, but while he was consistent on the court, that was not exactly the case off the court ahead of his official transfer to Texas A&M.
“It was a strange recruiting,” Williams said. “In this new model [of recruiting with the transfer portal], you need to get the kids here as fast as you can. You have to work more in the summer now than you ever have before … you can’t wait until the fall to start teaching them how to play.”
Instead of being able to join the team during the summer as expected, Dennis was told he had to hold off due to a 400-hour-long internship that was required for him to graduate.
“At that point, I was a little unsure,” Williams said. “I also think Dexter was a little unsure. … It wasn’t a stalemate, but there was a pause.”
Luckily for the Aggies, Dennis followed through with his transfer and joined the team during the later part of the summer.
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“He was behind the curve,” Williams said. “But man he has absorbed every single thing that we’ve done … he’s changed our team.”
This year, Texas A&M has shot an unprecedented number of free throws, which Dennis has also played a role in, shooting close to 79 percent from the line on the year.
Those free throws have been on display during the team’s win streak, as the Aggies continue to lead the country in free throws attempted, but as a result, in its closer games, they have struggled to get to the line.
“We are dependent as the number one team in the country on free throw makes and free throw attempts,” Williams said. “Our points per possession are dependent on free throws and [against Florida was] the least number of fouls that we've had all season long.”
When the free throws do not come for the Aggies, Dennis and the rest of the team have been able to look to a somewhat new factor for Dennis for their success: the Reed Arena home crowd.
“I think always having [our] crowd at home benefits us,” Dennis said. “I'm not gonna lie, I was a little shocked. There was a lot of people up top too, so that was really impressive to see.”
Williams attested to that as well, saying that the crowd plays a big role when the team is at home.
“We just want to win,” he said. “We're thankful for the support of the community — specifically the students. I thought the environment was off the chart … and it changes the environment at Reed when we have that level of support.”
Ahead, the Aggies have six remaining home games and seven on the road, so finding ways to win on the road will be important for them, and Williams is determined to make sure that happens.
“I think I was immature [with] how I handled [the] non-conference [games],” he said. “What I'm trying to do is make sure that the consistency of my effort … my preparation … and the consistency in how we prepare [is shown] in how we practice.”
As the Aggies continue to play for an NCAA tournament berth, learning consistency is a must-do. For the second-place team in the SEC, that falls on the players’ abilities and ability to trust their teammates.
But that does not seem to be a problem for one of Texas A&M’s newest players, who has made his first year in Aggieland one to remember.
“[Dexter is] the best listener I've ever coached,” Williams said. “And I've [said] that before, but the consistency and who he is as a person … [I’m] just so grateful that he’s here.”
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