Posted: Wednesday November 15, 2006 1:55PM; Updated: Wednesday November 15, 2006 6:08PM
By Luke Winn, SI.com
THE REAL-WORLD ARCHITECTURAL EQUIVALENT TO TEXAS A&M
We asked Scott Schiamberg, a senior associate at HOK Sport, which designed such venues as Camden Yards and the new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets, to match up the Aggies' profile with a prominent, real-world architectural project:
Tate Modern (London) Architects: Herzog & de Meuron Year: 2000
The Aggies' program and the Tate Modern followed similar paths. The Modern was a gigantic building -- a big eyesore -- on valuable real estate across the Thames River from St. Paul's Cathedral. Texas A&M was a struggling team, at a powerful athletic school, in the middle of a fertile basketball state. In London, HdeM came in and revived an old, ugly power station, making it into one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. The Modern was a sleeping giant sort of like the Aggies, who are now a top-10 team.
PRIMARY MATERIALS: Said Gillispie: "It was awfully important to have Acie Law. And it was awfully important for us to have Joseph Jones. Those were guys who came to A&M in back-to-back classes, and we inherited each of them."
Law (16.1 ppg, 4.0 apg), a gritty senior point guard, and Jones (15.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg), a 6-9 junior power forward, were incredible rebuilding pieces. They handled the bulk of the scoring, bought into Gillispie's defensive philosophy and could both be selected in the 2007 NBA Draft if this season goes according to plan. Law is among the best clutch players in the country; he sunk a buzzer-beating three to stun Texas last March, and then had 23 points and five assists in the Aggies' first-round NCAA upset of Syracuse. Jones, who had had five double-doubles and scored more than 25 points four times, is first-round material. Another member of Jones' recruiting class, guard Dominique Kirk, has emerged as the team's top lockdown defender.
BUILDING LOCATIONS/YEARS: Gillispie, once a high school coach in the Lone Star State, said that "it's important for us to have as many Texas players on our roster as possible." And in the world of big-time Texas recruiting, inroads into Dallas and Houston are vital to a team's success.
The Aggies' classes of '06 and '07 were signs of major urban breakthroughs. In '06, Gillispie landed two four-star prospects from the Dallas area, power forward Bryan Davis and shooting guard Donald Sloan. In '07, A&M made a move into the Houston market by getting a commitment from five-star prospect DeAndre Jordan, who was rated the No. 2 center in the nation by scout.com. Jordan is joined in that class by three-star, Houston-area point guard B.J. Holmes.
DESIGN QUIRK: While Gillispie's renovations were conducted at warp speed -- from O-fer in the Big 12 to the big dance in two years -- the Aggies have been playing an extremely slow-paced brand of basketball. They ranked 262nd (out of 334) in the kenpom.com tempo stats, at 64.5 possessions per 40 minutes. A&M didn't have bench depth -- or even elite talent across the board in its starting lineup -- so it deflated the ball and tried to win grueling, halfcourt battles.
WHY IT COULD BE FINAL-FOUR FUNCTIONAL: The Aggies showed promise in last year's NCAA tournament, coming within a Darrel Mitchell three-pointer of heading to the Sweet 16. Gillispie has already instilled a strong defensive mindset; he just needs his team's offense (80th nationally in efficiency) to catch up, and Law and Jones to have the kind of final seasons that propel them into the first round of next year's NBA draft.