The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
Southern slugfest
May 23, 2024
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
A fighter jet squadron flies over during the National Anthem before Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas at Olsen Field on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
Bryan-College Station Regional participants announced
Ian Curtis, Sports Writer • May 27, 2024

For the second time in three seasons, No. 3 national seed Texas A&M baseball will host the Bryan-College Station Regional, where it’ll...

Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
Bee-hind the scenes
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • May 1, 2024

The speakers turn on. Static clicks. And a voice reads “Your starting lineup for the Texas A&M Aggies is …” Spectators hear that...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
'I was terrified'
April 25, 2024
Scenes from 74
Scenes from '74
April 25, 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Aggie bench players look to make an impact in SEC Tournament

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Freshman F Solomon Washington (13) takes a selfie while sports editor Grant Gaspard talks to sophomore G Manny Obaseki (35) during media availability on Tuesday, March 7, 2023.

One of the most important parts of the game of basketball is not often found on the court, but rather on the sidelines.
Some of the most impactful plays this season have come from someone off the maroon and white’s bench. From junior forward Andersson Garcia’s game-winning steal against Ole Miss to junior guard Hayden Hefner’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Arkansas to end the first half.
That is why I sat down with four players from the A&M basketball program who helped the Aggies earn the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament and listened to their individual journeys from this season.
Here’s what they had to say:
Manny Obaseki
In his second year at A&M, this guard faced an obstacle that would set him back for over a month and the majority of the SEC conference season. On Jan. 4, Obaseki left in the middle of the Aggies’ first SEC game against Florida with a fracture in his shooting hand during the game.
“It was tough,” Obaseki said. “One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through, if not the hardest. Being away from the game for so long … It’s hard.”
However, Obaseki found a silver lining in the situation.
“I’m grateful and I am thankful that it happened,” Obaseki said. “It helped me realize a lot. It helped me get stronger as a player and a person. It helped me realize how much more I love this game and that I can’t take anything for granted.”
The Allen native surrounded himself with a solid core group of people that walked next to him on every step of this journey.
“I had a great support system at home,” Obaseki said. My girlfriend, Koko Wooley, she’s been my rock. My mom and my dad talk to me every day. My godfather … Just the coaching staff and these players for checking in on me and making sure that I am good. Big shoutout to [strength and conditioning coach][Steve] Gep[hardt] and [athletic trainer] Eddie Benion, I mean without them I wouldn’t be here doing what I am able to do with my hand still healing.”
On Feb. 28, Obaseki returned from injury and back in the maroon and white uniform to help the Aggies outlast Ole Miss and No. 2 Alabama at home. With two tournaments left to play, he promised the team and the fans to do whatever it takes to help them reach their ultimate goal.
A national championship.
“I am just going to bring my best,” Obaseki said. “Do whatever I can to help. Whether that is playing defense, if they need me to put the ball in the basket or if they need me to make the dirty plays. I’ll do whatever it takes just to make sure this team will win.”
Hayden Hefner
Despite not being the oldest, Hefner is the most experienced player on the team when it comes to playing the SEC, other than senior guard Andre Gordon.
Since the 2020-21 season, the junior forward has played consistent minutes off the bench and has been the go-to guy when it comes to a must-needed bucket.
Despite not receiving an abundance of minutes at 11.5 per game, Hefner remains focused on the bigger picture and makes sure to stay patient until his number is called.
“I just have to stay the course and never lose sight of my goal,” Hefner said. “My time is always coming … I just need to keep working for what I know is what I want and I believe good things will follow.”
Solomon Washington
Since his time in New Orleans, the freshman forward has always made his presence known on the defensive end. Impressive enough to earn himself a nickname that has stuck with him since playing AAU in high school.
“I got the name [5 Star Stoppa] playing for Team Thad, my AAU coach,” Washington said. “The first weekend, we had a few five stars play. I played great [defensively] against them so I got the name.”
With 15 blocks and 12 steals for the season, it’s safe to say The “5 Star Stoppa” has made his defensive presence known in College Station as well.
However, this intensity doesn’t stop at the AAU level or the regular season. Washington said he plans on bringing this energy on Friday, March 10, as well.
“For the SEC Tournament, I am going to bring that same energy I always bring on defense and just be that dog.”
Andersson Garcia
Next to Washington on the bench is a junior forward from the Dominican Republic who plays a similar style.
“Me and [Garcia] are kind of the same player,” Washington said. “We bring the same energy, play defensively and rebound our butts off.”
When talking about individuals’ journeys throughout the 2022-23 regular season, it would be impossible not to bring up the most efficient players in the nation off the offensive glass.
“I knew Andy was going to make a big change for us in just the first couple of weeks I met him,” Hefner said. “Playing open gym and just realizing the number of times he would go up for an offensive rebound in the open gym … you know it’s just annoying, but just seeing how the guy changes the complete makeup of the game as soon as he checks in is incredible.”
“Andy” Garcia leads the team in offensive rebounds with 62, a career-high in his three-season collegiate career.
However, it took Andy a while to become comfortable with the new team and culture after spending his first two years at Mississippi State. As time went on, he said he became more comfortable with the team and eventually that transitioned into the game.
“Coming from another school, you have to build relationships,” Andy said. “As the environment in the locker room developed, so did my love for my teammates. No matter how bad I would feel at the beginning of the day, when I go into the locker room they change my mood no matter what … That’s why it has been working pretty well recently.”
In the first six games of SEC play, Garcia played 12 minutes per game. Now, Andy plays 21 minutes per game and has taken double the shots he had early in the season.
“Seeing his development since early in the season has been amazing,” junior forward Julius Marble said. “He went from not really talking to anybody, not knowing the sets, coverages, didn’t know where to be defensively to now being one of our best defenders.”

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
  • Sports editor Grant Gaspard talks to junior G Hayden Hefner (2) during media availability on Tuesday, March 7, 2023.

  • Sports editor Grant Gaspard talks to freshman F Solomon Washington (13) during media availability on Tuesday, March 7, 2023.

  • Sports editor Grant Gaspard talks to junior F Andersson Garcia (11) during media availability on Tuesday, March 7, 2023 at Reed Arena.

Navigate Left
Navigate Right

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Battalion

Your donation will support the student journalists of Texas A&M University - College Station. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Battalion

Comments (0)

All The Battalion Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *