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The Lowdown
Coach: Billy Gillispie
2004-05 Record (Big 12): 2110 (88)
Key Losses: G Bobby Leach (8.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.3 apg), F/G Antoine Wright (17.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.2 apg)
Postseason: NIT: Defeated Clemson 8274, defeated DePaul 7572, lost to Saint Joseph's 5851 in the quarterfinals
Returning Players
No. Player. Pos. Ht. Yr. PPG RPG APG
4Edjuan GreenF6'7"Sr.3.43.10.5
30Joseph JonesF/C6'9"So.12.77.30.8
22Dominique KirkG6'3"So.6.62.32.2
1Acie LawG6'3"Jr.12.03.54.9
42Marlon PompeyF6'8"Jr.4.53.10.5
10Chris WalkerG/F6'5"Sr.4.53.11.1
5Kenneth WhiteG6'1"So.1.60.50.3
Fresh Faces
No. Player Pos. Ht. Cl. School
--Jeffrey AddaiG6'2"Jr.Houston, TX/Garden City (KS) CC
-- Martellus BennettF6'7"Fr.Alief, TX/Taylor
-- Josh CarterG6'5"Fr.Dallas, TX/Lake Highlands
-- David DevezinG6'1"Fr.Sugar Land, TX/Marshall
-- Josh JohnstonG6'2"Jr.Lumberton, TX/Transfer from UTEP
-- Antanas KavaliauskasF6'10"Jr.Vilnius, Lithuania/Barton County (KS) CC
-- Logan LeeG6'2"Jr.San Antonio, TX/Transfer from Hawaii
-- Beau MuhlbachG6'3"So.Lufkin, TX/Transfer from Arizona
-- Eddie SmithG6'2"Sr.Springfield, IL/Moberly Area (MO) CC
40Slade WeishuhnF6'9"Fr.Wall, TX/Redshirt 2004-05
Kavaliauskas, who played with the Lithuanian Junior National Team last summer, is a big presence with a big upside, while Smith was the NJCAA National Player of the Year. Those two will play a major role immediately. So could Lee, who could split time with Smith at the point. Devezin is the point guard of the future, while Carter is a talented swingman. Weishuhn, a redshirt freshman, can draw bigger players out of the paint with his smooth outside shot and prized football recruit Bennett could provide muscle in the middle by mid-January.
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After orchestrating the biggest turnarounds in college basketball the last two seasons -- first at UTEP and last year at Texas A&M -- Billy Gillispie proved he possesses the turnaround touch. Now, he faces a different type of challenge: developing a contender.

"We probably exceeded my own expectations (last year)," says Gillispie, who guided A&M to a 14-win improvement. "But now we need to continue moving forward and build on what we accomplished. That won't be easy without guys like Bobby Leach and Antoine Wright. But we have a good nucleus coming back, and I believe we will play hard, play smart and play together."

Those traits were primary reasons why the Aggies advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT, the school's deepest postseason run since 1982. If talented newcomers can help fill the scoring void created by the departure of Wright, the No. 15 pick in the NBA Draft, the Aggies should be making consecutive postseason appearances for the first time since 1986-87.

Frontcourt

Gillispie says A&M fans who have been wowed by Joseph Jones are in store for much more. Jones was a monster in the paint as a freshman, recording seven double-doubles. He was at his best in the postseason, averaging 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in A&M's NIT wins over Clemson and DePaul.

"(Jones) keeps getting better, and he's a guy who doesn't make the same mistake twice," Gillispie says. "He showed as much toughness as you can see for a freshman, and he never backed down from a battle."

Jones is still a bit raw offensively, but if he can improve his back-to-the-basket game, he could emerge as an All-Big 12 first-teamer.

Marlon Pompey, a versatile and athletic forward, should continue to make strides, easing the burden on Jones. Edjuan Green features a nice shooting touch and has the ability to be an outstanding rebounder. Green could be a major presence if his confidence level increases.

The Aggies will also receive a boost from walk-on Chris Walker, who provided instant energy with his hustle and fearless play. But the big difference-maker in the paint this year could be Antanas Kavaliauskas, a 6-10, 250-pounder who averaged 17.6 points and 10.0 rebounds last year at Barton County (Kan.) Community College.

Backcourt

The Aggies need a leadership lift from Acie Law, a hard-nosed defender who averaged 4.9 assists. Law is probably a more natural off guard than a point, and he'll get the chance to play more at the 2 with the addition of newcomers Eddie Smith, Logan Lee and David Devezin.

Law has an unusual shot -- there's almost no rotation -- but he is effective, shooting just less than 50 percent last season. He is also a creator in the open court. "You always want to have players who can make something out of nothing, and Acie can definitely do that," Gillispie says.

Dominique Kirk, who started all 31 games last year, is a valuable role player. He isn't flashy, but he brings a defense-first mentality.

The key to the backcourt's development, however, will likely be the newcomers. Lee is a transfer from Hawaii who impressed coaches last year in practice with his hustle and court savvy. Meanwhile, Smith earned first-team NJCAA All-America honors last season and led Moberly (Mo.) to the national championship game.

Final Analysis

The Aggies may possess enough talent to make a serious run at their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1987. But with so many newcomers, it's also not out of the question that A&M could take a step back.

Gillispie has brought the excitement back, transforming Reed Arena from quiet to chaotic. The Aggies went 17-3 at home last year. If A&M can steal a few more wins on the road, and if Jones, Law and Green continue to improve offensively, the Aggies could continue their rapid rise up the Big 12 food chain.

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