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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

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Aggies head to Myrtle Beach, S.C., with No. 24 ranking in hand

Photo by Robert O’Brien

Junior F Henry Coleman III (15) celebrates after dunking on the ACU basket during Texas A&M’s game against ACU at Reed Arena on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022.

As the Texas A&M men’s basketball team heads to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to take part in the Myrtle Beach Invitational, it will do so with a feeling it hasn’t experienced since the 2017-18 season.

For the first time in five years, the Aggies find themselves ranked within the Associated Press Top 25 poll at No. 24. The last time the program was ranked, coach Billy Kennedy roamed the hardwood as the maroon and white reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and finished the season with a 22-13 record.

Now, coach Buzz Williams and A&M look to prove they belong with the big boys of college basketball as they prepare to take on Murray State to open the Myrtle Beach Invitational. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m., on Thursday at the HTC Center, home of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.

“We’re thankful that we’re ranked, but we also understand and have foresight that that’s probably not the most important thing relative to what we’re trying to accomplish,” Williams said.

Through just an exhibition and two regular season games, the Aggies appear to be a different, more developed team compared to those of years past. Long gone are the days of struggling to just barely prevail over system schools and other small opponents. Last season, they took down Texas A&M-Kingsville by just four points in an exhibition, following it up with a double-overtime, 1-point win over Abilene Christian. 

This year has been a different story. A&M clobbered the Javelinas by a 43-point margin of victory in an exhibition on Nov. 4 before defeating a scrappy team of Wildcats by 19 last Nov.11. 

“I love the human beings in our program,” Williams said. “Not because of their talent, just love their character, I love the togetherness that they work with. Not just the players, [but] the staff. It’s the synergy among all of them. I’m not around all the time with our coaches, and I’m not around all the time with our players, but you can sense it when we’re all together.” 

Sophomore guard Wade Taylor IV has anchored the Aggies’ offense through the first two contests, dropping 18 points in the season-opener versus Louisiana-Monroe before scoring 21 against Abilene Christian, both of which led the team. Junior forward Henry Coleman III and graduate guard Dexter Dennis have been close behind with 27 and 24 total points, respectively. Taylor and Dennis have been lights out from 3-point range, while Coleman and senior guard Tyrece “Boots” Radford have been forces on the glass as A&M’s leading rebounders.

In both games this season, the Aggies have rocked a starting lineup of Coleman, Taylor, Radford, Dennis and freshman forward Solomon Washington. The 2022 Gatorade Louisiana Boys Basketball Player of the Year tallied a team-leading 15 points versus A&M-Kingsville but has been held scoreless in the first two matches.

Murray State will undoubtedly provide a test to A&M, as the Racers finished last season as one of the country’s top mid-major programs with a 31-3 record and an unblemished 18-0 mark in the Ohio Valley Conference. Coach Matt McMahon led his team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where it fell to Cinderella story Saint Peter’s. 

McMahon has since flocked to greener pastures by taking over as coach at LSU, handing over the reins of the Racers to Steve Prohm. Prohm previously coached at Murray State from 2011-15, where he compiled an impressive 104-29 record and two conference titles. He then took over at Iowa State from 2015-21, amassing a 97-95 mark. Coincidentally, Prohm also formerly served as an assistant coach under Kennedy.

The Racers currently sit at 1-1, dropping their first game to Saint Louis 91-68 before rebounding with a 90-53 win over NAIA Lindsey Wilson University. Junior guard and Stetson transfer Rob Perry leads the team with 32 points through two games. Perry forms a trio with junior forward and Queens University transfer Jamari Smith and sophomore guard and Northeast Oklahoma A&M transfer Brian Moore Jr. as Racers with over 1,000 career points. Junior guard Quincy Anderson isn’t far behind with 884 points at Minnesota State-Mankato.

“That might be the only team in the country that can say that,” Williams said.

Depending on the results of Thursday’s matchup, the Aggies will return to the court on Friday at 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. to take on Colorado or Massachusetts. After an upset loss to Grambling State last Friday, the Buffaloes took down then-No. 11 Tennessee 78-66 on Sunday. The 1-1 Minutemen are led by former South Carolina coach Frank Martin, whose Gamecocks defeated A&M 74-63 last season. From there, the Aggies will face either Boise State, Charlotte, Loyola-Chicago or Tulsa on Sunday.

“I love where I think we’re headed, and it’s a lot of fun,” Williams said.

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