Buzz Williams (copy)

A&M's first season under Buzz Williams will kick off on Friday.

Texas A&M will usher in the Buzz Williams era Friday night as the men’s basketball team takes on Division II opponent Texas A&M-Kingsville in an exhibition at Reed Arena.

Other than their new face at the helm, the Aggies will have a different look on the floor too, after losing several key players over the offseason to graduation and transfers.

The Aggies will have to work without the post presence of center Christian Mekowulu, perimeter threat in guard Brandon Mahan and reserve point guard Chris Collins.

More notable is the new system Williams brings from Virginia Tech, which he said is still growing on the players.

“We’ve had to restart multiple times,” Williams said. “Not necessarily because they’re not together, [but] just because it’s brand new. We try, and it doesn’t work, so we come back a few hours later and try it again. There’s been a little bit more of a gap in that than there has been in the past.”

With the loss of some key role players of the offense, leading scorer guard and forward Savion Flagg returns after testing the NBA draft process over the offseason.

“I don’t really want to speak on last year’s team, because this is a brand new team,” Flagg said. “But I feel like things are definitely different, and I feel like we’re going in the right direction … The decision [to return] was pretty easy.”

In addition to Flagg, point guard T.J. Starks comes back after sustaining a season-ending right shoulder injury late in conference play. According to kenpom.com, the junior took 31.2 percent of the team’s shots last season prior to his injury.

Guards Wendell Mitchell and Jay Jay Chandler also return as consistent threats in the paint, combining for 21.3 points per game in 2018-19.

Power forward and center Josh Nebo is another key role player who is expected to step up for his senior season after backing up Mekowulu, recording a team-high 69 blocks a year ago. Williams said Nebo’s status is unclear as he recovers from a hamstring injury sustained over the offseason.

“Nebo hasn’t practiced, so it’s hard to say relative to what he will be able to do or if he’ll be able to play,” Williams said. “He hasn’t been a part of anything we’ve done for a long time.”

A&M-Kingsville travels to College Station after finishing 12-15 last season, and a first round exit from the Lone Star Conference tournament.

The Javelinas are without their leading scorer in Darius Mickens, who took his talents to the junior college level over the offseason. However, Kingsville returns its next three leading scorers in guards Rashon Thomas, John Mouton and Chauncey Thomas, respectively.

A&M will tip off with A&M-Kingsville at Reed Arena at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1.

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