Kennedy reflects on historic recruiting class
Published: Monday, May 7, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07
It looks a bit out of place, really. Wedged between a placard denoting his accomplishments while at Murray State and a picture of him holding his youngest daughter, Anna Kate, rests a nondescript sticky note with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to coin, I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to the light that I have.”
Billy Kennedy knows where his allegiances lie: faith, family and Texas A&M basketball. After enduring one of the most tumultuous inaugural seasons in recent memory, the Aggie basketball coach stayed true to his tenets and has finally “caught up” to where he wants his program to be.
“We like the group coming in,” Kennedy said. “You never know until you get them, but we like their personality and their toughness and we think they’re going to help us in those areas.”
Kennedy, his associate head coach Glynn Cyprien, and the rest of the staff have begun distancing themselves from last season’s disappointments by bringing in six new recruits, two from the junior college ranks. The transfers and injuries that riddled last year’s squad led Kennedy and company to mine the nation for fresh talent and they’ve succeeded in spades.
“We had a lot of holes to fill,” Kennedy said. “But we’ve got a great product here, great facilities, a great institution, a great academic reputation throughout the country. Now we just need to put the personal touch on it and I think that’s what we’ve been able to do.”
Cyprien said the recruiting staff began at a disadvantage—“working behind the 8-ball”—because everyone was new and unfamiliar last season. Now a year into his tenure in College Station, he’s been able to set out a recruiting plan for the future and is focused on finding talent that fits into Kennedy’s game plan.
“Coach likes guys who are versatile and can play multiple positions,” Cyprien said. “But I think the main thing with Billy is that he likes toughness, guys that can make tough plays. That’s been our biggest sell for guys out there when we talk about coming to play for Coach Kennedy.”
The new class brings an infusion of grit and experience that last year’s team simply lacked. Guard Fabyon Harris and forward Andrew Young, considered two of the top junior college talents in the country, bring their winner’s mentalities to a program that came out on top in only four of its 18 conference games in 2012. Harris led the Golden Eagles to the NJCAA tournament in his two years at the helm, garnering First-Team All-American honors this year, and Young’s impressive averages of 21.8 points/game and 14.2 rebounds/game led the state of California.
The Aggies bulked up even more on the inside with the acquisition of 6 foot 8 inch Antwan Space, a transfer from Florida State. Shawn Smith, a combo guard who had originally committed to future SEC rival Missouri, also signed on to wear maroon for the next four years.
“Relationships are the key to what we recruit,” Kennedy said. “We’re here to develop the complete person and to help them get to where they want to get. When all that is put into place, we get to where we want to get, and that’s winning championships.”
A key relational bridge that Kennedy built immediately upon entering A&M was with John Reese, the longtime Bryan High School head coach whom Kennedy hired last season. Reese is considered a master of the AAU circuit and is the father of J’Mychal Reese, a left-handed scoring machine and the No. 11 point guard in the country. Reese, who committed to A&M early last November, will be joined by another local product, 6 foot 5 inch guard Alex Caruso of A&M Consolidated High School.
The new blood brings plenty of questions alongside its talent, but Cyprien is confident the team can figure out the answer to unlocking what could be the most impressive recruiting class in A&M basketball history.
“There are a lot of things involved in putting so many guys together,” Cyprien said. “We’ve got six new guys right now. Chemistry’s a factor, getting here, playing time, everything. But we feel good — we’re cautiously optimistic.”