Plug and play: Men’s basketball looks to fill gaps in the starting lineup

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Plug and play: Men’s basketball looks to fill gaps in the starting lineup

Guard Jaylen Shead attempts a layup Feb. 21 during the basketball game against ULM. Photo by Kate Connors.

Guard Jaylen Shead attempts a layup Feb. 21 during the basketball game against ULM. Photo by Kate Connors.

Guard Jaylen Shead attempts a layup Feb. 21 during the basketball game against ULM. Photo by Kate Connors.

Guard Jaylen Shead attempts a layup Feb. 21 during the basketball game against ULM. Photo by Kate Connors.

Sean Anchondo, Sports Reporter

The lights turned off one last time at Strahan Arena for the 2018-2019 version of Texas State men’s basketball team following the team’s 87-81 loss to Florida International University in the Colleges Insider Tournament this March.
Cutting short a once-promising season with NCAA Tournament implications, the season ended in the jaws of the Panthers’ speedy offense. The unexpectedly quick end to the season left the Bobcats with more questions than answers as they head into the offseason, especially after losing senior forward Alex Peacock, senior guard Tre’Larenz Nottingham.
Peacock was the swiss army knife of the team, using his versatility to fill in key gaps for the Bobcats. The forward led the team in rebounds, but could also make three-pointers when the shot was open. This year, Peacock averaged around eight points a game with 50 percent from the field as well as five rebounds a game.
Head coach of the Bobcats Danny Kaspar said Peacock’s presence on the court may be hard to replace in the next recruiting class.
“He’s a good player…when he plays he is tough,” coach Danny Kaspar said. “We have to replace him. That’s a concern of mine.”
Nottingham was the assassin for Texas State, leading the team in three-point shots made. As a player who kept streaks like no other, once he got hot, Nottingham scored in bunches. In his senior year, Nottingham averaged 8.2 points per game. In his last game, with Nijal Pearson out with injury, he scored a season-high 27 points.
Kaspar said he watched the guard develop from solely a scorer to a player they had to rely on for the majority of the postseason this year.
“Tre’s development from this year to last year is amazing,” Pearson said. “When he came in, he was just a scorer. He was a good teammate, don’t get me wrong, but he wanted to score the ball. But he’s translating into just playing hard. He doesn’t care if he’s got eight points or 25, he’s going to dive on the ground, hustle, take charges, rebound. He wants to win every single game. I love playing with Tre.”
Jaylen Shead was the unsung hero of the team in his role as a true point guard. Leading the team in assists, he was able to facilitate and help the star players around him shine. With a high basketball I.Q. and lockdown defense, Shead might have been the most important tool for this team. This past year, Shead averaged 7.9 points per game, shot 44 percent from the field, and averaged a little under 5 assists a game.
“Playing with these guys, they give me a lot of shots,” said Nottingham. “Jaylen, his IQ, he finds me a lot.”
Unfortunately, the team may have to function without the three pivotal cogs in their offense. Peacock and Nottingham were seniors who graduated in May and Shead entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal, so unless Shead does not like what he sees, he will most likely not be part of next year’s team.
Peacock, Nottingham and Shead accounted for 42 percent of the points for the year. Shead had 33 percent of the team’s assists and 11 percent of the steals. Peacock accounted for 12 percent of the rebounds for the year. Losing these players puts a massive hole in production that needs to be filled.
Despite a rough ending to the season, the Bobcats finished with a successful record of 24-10. Originally picked to finish eighth in the Sun Belt, Texas State rose above expectations to end their season in second place. A big factor towards their success was the solid players that surrounded star junior shooting guard Nijal Pearson. Pearson himself attributed the success he had in the season to his teammates.
“Those are some unselfish guys,” Pearson said. “Those guys do a lot of little things that (are) unseen in the stat book. If you know basketball and really sit there and watch the game, you watch how big of an impact they have.”
Every year, college basketball teams have the task of replacing players due to graduation, transfers, and/or the NBA draft. Although replacing the nucleus of your team is no easy task, some young players had the opportunity to gain experience this year, including Akiem Daschner and Mason Harrell.
Akiem Daschner filled in for Alex Peacock during senior Night due to an illness and showed out as a first-time starter, grabbing six points and seven rebounds that night. With another year of experience, he may be able to fill Peacock’s shoes at forward.
Former 2018 Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year Mason Harrell had a stellar freshman year. By scoring double figures three times in the last six games and maintaining a 41 percent FG percentage during that time, Harrell looks to be a solid replacement for Nottingham.
With possible contenders for the former two slots, the biggest question now lies in who can replace Jaylen Shead. Marlin Davis and Shelby Adams, two players already on the roster, could bring experience to the position. Davis will be returning from an injury suffered back in January of 2018 for his senior year. Adams, who had a limited role coming off the bench, will have the offseason to acclimate.
A strength for next year could come from the frontcourt. Players like Eric Terry, Alonzo Sule, and Quentin Scott will bring back athleticism under the rim. With another year under their belt, the most experienced position on the court will be the forward and center position. Terry and Sule can help dominate the boards and contribute to the second chance points, which will be important with a new starting five next year.
Texas State will have a new dynamic next year as key players like Peacock, Nottingham and Shead leave, but it is possible that needed replacements are already on the team. As long as Kaspar brings in solid playmakers behind leader Nijal Pearson, then the Bobcats should be able to rebound and build on one of their most successful seasons to date.

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