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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

Brazos County officials are distributing free backpacks, school supplies and gift cards for K-12 students on July 12 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Bryan High Silver Campus Cafeteria.
Brazos County to distribute free school supplies
‘Back to School Bash’ invites K-12 families on July 12
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • July 11, 2024
Graduate G Tyrece Radford (23) drives to the basket during Texas A&Ms game against Nebraska in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee, on Friday, March 22, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
How Tyrece Radford can catch the attention of NBA scouts
Roman Arteaga, Sports Writer • July 10, 2024

After 5 years of college basketball at Virginia Tech and Texas A&M, Tyrece Radford is furthering his athletic career with the San Antonio...

Craig Reagans 1973 brown Mach 1 Mustang features custom stickers of Craig and his wife, and is completely rebuilt from the ground up. The interior was completely torn out and replaced with new dashboard and radio.
Compassion in the car community
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • July 9, 2024

This past Sunday, Cars and Coffee welcomed exactly one car: a sleek, brown Mustang that stood alone like a lone ranger in the Wild West. This...

Chancellor John Sharp during a Board of Regents meeting discussing the appointmet of interim dean Mark Welsh and discussion of a McElroy settlement on Sunday, July 30, 2023 in the Memorial Student Center.
Analysis: Chancellor Sharp’s retirement comes with new dilemmas
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • July 2, 2024

Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp announced Monday he will be retiring on June 30, 2025.  A figure notorious in state politics,...

Perfect puzzle: The starting 5

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Sophomore guard Hassan Diarra (5) is lifted up by his teammates to dunk in Madison Square Garden on Thursday, Mar. 31, 2022.

A third-year returner wondering if he made the right decision to stay.
A Duke transfer and country boy at heart, looking for a home.
An undersized, freshman 3-point-shooting guard who faced fear with confidence.
A young, promising talent whose improvement landed him a starting spot.
A fighter who never left coach Buzz Williams’ side, nicknamed after the material on his feet.
These men are Texas A&M’s starting five.
Walking onto the practice court for the first time, these five players stepped on the hardwood with no idea where their last steps of the season would be taken.
“It’s new players, so it’s a different atmosphere,” graduate guard Quenton Jackson said. “This team is looking real promising. I enjoy playing with these guys.”
They had no idea what the season had in store. They barely even knew each other. They were a collection of personalities, ages and backgrounds, but one thing was for sure: they believed in themselves and Williams.
At the start of the season, the group had not quite come together. Williams made changes in the starting lineups for the first 27 games, rotating players to find the right fit, but nothing stuck.
The hot 4-0 start in the SEC was a distraction from the fact that the Aggies never had distinguished leaders, more so players who would step up and fill each role when needed.
That kind of dynamic can only get a team so far.
In front of a record-breaking crowd at Reed Arena, the Aggies’ first SEC loss came at the hands of then-No.12 Kentucky. Loss after loss, the Aggies fell into an eight-game slump, five of which were single-digit games they couldn’t quite finish. Emotions were drained, and the Aggies simply lacked an answer. Amid the streak, changes were needed.
“I don’t know if there’s a specific answer on what is the right way to handle an eight-game losing streak,” Williams said. “If there is, I haven’t read the book on it.”
Williams and his staff gathered around and looked at the differences in how they prepared for the games lost versus games won. Among the common denominators was the starting lineup. Williams and his staff tested out nine different starting combinations throughout the season until one stuck.
The Aggies responded with two wins after their skid, but it wasn’t until the Georgia game on Feb. 22 that their 10th and final starting lineup was announced.
It was another SEC matchup at Reed Arena. A&M announcer Andrew Monaco read off the provided starting list.
“At forward, 6-foot-6 sophomore from Richmond, Virginia, Henry Coleman III.”
Out of high school, Coleman was a top-100 recruit whose talents landed him at Duke. After a year, he realized it was not the right fit and transferred to A&M. Coleman bought into the spirit of the 12th Man with ease. He loved the meaning behind being an Aggie, and dedicated every effort into making his university proud.
“At guard, 6-foot-5 graduate from Los Angeles, California, Quenton Jackson.”
Jackson was the oldest player of the five, and his plays on the court strengthened him as a person off the court. He considered transferring after the 2020-21 season, but quickly realized he had no reason to. He loved Williams and College Station, and his growth as a person and player over the past couple years was recognized by Aggies everywhere. His dunks demanded attention, and he simply loved the game of basketball.
“At guard, 6-foot-4 freshman from Allen, Texas, Manny Obaseki.”
Obaseki started the season as an underdog freshman and quickly turned into a momentum creator for the Aggies. He was a 4-star recruit out of high school with 11 offers, according to 247Sports, who chose A&M because Williams invested in him, not just as a player, but as a person. Obaseki’s improvement in a single season wowed the 12th Man, and he still had three more years to play. He was the team’s proof that hard work pays off.
“At guard, 6-foot-2 junior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Tyrece ‘Boots’ Radford.”
Not only does Radford’s nickname describe his toughness, it describes his work ethic. His true aggressiveness and athleticism as a guard completes this group of five. When Williams was hired at A&M, Radford stayed behind at Virginia Tech, but made the decision the next season to transfer to the coach that recruited him. The bond formed between the coach and the player refused to be separated by distance.
“At guard, 6-foot freshman from Lancaster, Texas, Wade Taylor IV.”
The 18-year-old undersized guard stepped on the floor with no fear. Some of his opponents towered him by 11 or 12 inches, but he had more heart than any of them. He was the true 4-star point guard out of high school the Aggies needed, and the only person who believed in him more than himself was Williams.
One by one, their names echoed throughout Reed Arena. Each of them had started before, but never together. They all were unique in their own way, but it worked.
Two had multiple seasons of NCAA experience, while two had none. Coleman’s height could guard the bigs, while Taylor stood eight inches shorter than him. Radford was a fighter, while Obaseki improved each and every game. Each starter was a handcrafted puzzle piece, joined through fate and hard work. The five-piece puzzle made a permanent impact on the program of A&M men’s basketball.
On the road at Ole Miss, the same lineup was announced. Williams liked the direction they were headed. The starting 2-0 with this group quickly became 4-0 as SEC play concluded, and the only direction left to go was east.
The Aggies headed to Tampa, Fla., attempting to make a statement to the NCAA that they were a postseason team. With the same lineup, the Aggies powered past Florida in an exciting overtime battle in the first round of the SEC Tournament. Next came the shocking upset over then-No. 4 Auburn that proved they could compete with the big dogs.
“We look for a dog-fight,” Radford said. “We don’t expect nothing to be easy. We just gotta keep playing our ball all the way down until the last buzzer.”
Beyond the starting lineup stood the guards: freshman Davin Watkins, sophomores Hassan Diarra and Hayden Hefner, juniors Andre Gordon and Aaron Cash and senior Zach Walker.
The forwards stood even taller behind them: graduate Jalen Johnson, senior Ethan Henderson, juniors Everett Vaughn and Aaron Janecek and freshmen Ashton Smith and Javonte Brown.
Once again, they were all different, each building onto the five-piece puzzle. They may have been the filler pieces or even the corners, but one could not complete the puzzle and see the picture without them. At the heart of the puzzle was Williams, who connected to each of the pieces in a different way.
At the SEC Championship game, A&M fell to then-No. 9 Tennessee. The starters’ perfect 7-0 winning streak was halted by a fast Volunteer offense. The Aggies returned to College Station, waiting to see what direction they would head next, but this time, it was determined by the NCAA.
Questions swarmed their minds.
“‘Were they a tournament team? Was their performance in Florida good enough? Why did they lose eight in a row?’”
The team was hungry. The players wanted to make noise. On Selection Sunday, they huddled around as a team, praying, wishing and hoping to hear “Texas A&M” called on the TV. It was Jackson’s final year and he had never been to The Big Dance, and he wanted to go oh-so bad.
All 68 teams were announced, and their hearts sank. The NCAA deemed their performances as “not good enough,” but in a way, they had just fueled a fire.
“It defies logic why we are not in the NCAA Tournament,” Williams said with tears in his eyes. “What has transpired is wrong. I am so sad for all the young men in our program, especially those who decided to stay at Texas A&M with their COVID[-19] year of eligibility.”
A&M was selected as a No. 1-seed at the National Invitational Tournament, and the Aggies could not wait. The same five took the floor in every game of the NIT, gliding past Alcorn State, Oregon and Wake Forest by double-digits. A&M was Big Apple-bound.
As they arrived, the crisp New York air reminded them of the final challenges that lay ahead. A win over Washington State in the semifinals raised the starters’ record together to 11-1. Each time those five took the floor together, there was a 92% chance A&M would win the game.
Then came their final challenge together: the championship game. It was Jackson’s final game as an Aggie, while the other four still had years together to improve. They all bought into Williams’ culture back in November, and it was moments like these, in March, that it would be put to the test.
The entirety of the championship game against Xavier was a back-and-forth battle. Everyone in Madison Square Garden and watching nationwide knew the winner of the game would be determined in the final seconds, and both teams deserved to win.
A&M’s 151-day season came down to a final 3.1 seconds. The Aggies were one shot away from finishing the job they had started. Radford lifted the final shot into the air, and time froze. The ball rattled in and then out.
After the championship, Coleman answered his final question of the season, attempting to choke back the tears. Jackson consoled him by patting him on the back. Williams admired them, just as a proud father figure would do.
“It’s not a numerical stat, [and] it’s not something you can write down,” Coleman said. “It’s in your heart. These guys mean a lot.”
They were two boys who grew up on opposite ends of the country. That single moment represented not only the five who started, but the spirit of the team. They cared so deeply for one another. It was a raw, unfiltered kind of love.
Love, trust and brotherhood glued the puzzle pieces together. There was not a force big enough in this world to separate the men of A&M basketball. Every piece had different colors, shapes and sides, but once those pieces interlocked, it created one memorable picture.
It was the start of something special to come.
“The belief, the work, the trust, the love, player to player, coach to coach, player to coach, coach to player, has scarred my heart in a way that I will never, ever forget,” Williams said. “[It has] changed our program forever.”

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