In his third season, Texas Tech's Chris Beard did not shy away from saying what he felt would be a key to a successful season.
In fact, the third-year Red Raiders coach put all four seniors -- Norense Odiase, Brandone Francis, Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens -- front and center Tuesday before the first official practice of the season inside United Supermarkets Arena.
"I've said it many times, and it's a not a clichè, I really mean it: one of the most important parts of college basketball is the seniors," said Beard, who was named the 2018 Big 12 Co-Coach of the Year after guiding Texas Tech to a 27-10 record and the program's inaugural appearance in the NCAA Elite Eight last season. "The guys that have fought through it for four years and they get to that senior year and they've got special things they want to accomplish -- both as a team and as individuals. ... We're looking forward to a great season led by these four guys in a lot of ways."
Odiase and Francis, both returners from what arguably could be considered the best season in program history, know this season is a new chapter in their respective stories. More importantly, it's a senior journey they will share with Mooney and Owens -- both graduate transfers -- who are expected to play key roles if Texas Tech plans to continue to validate its success from a year ago.
"It's special, but it's not just for me," said Odiase, who took a medical redshirt after multiple foot injuries shortened his 2016-17 season. "It's for these three other guys sitting here with me. We all have our different journeys and what we've battled through. ... These guys have stories to tell, as well. Us, as a team, it's going to be a special year for us."
With Jarrett Culver expected to enjoy a stellar sophomore season, and a bevy of talented freshmen and sophomores, the Red Raiders have plenty of reasons to believe they're set up for another deep NCAA Tournament run.
But, in order to do that, Francis knows players must adhere to a saying Beard has been preaching throughout the offseason: "Consistency."
"Coach Beard has been preaching (consistency), especially for me," said Francis, who netted 5.1 points last season. "I've just got to be more consistent on and off the court. As a senior, I've got younger guys looking up to me. I relied on Norense a lot. He's a very disciplined older guy, and he just (taught) me the way so I can be the best for the team."
The team-first mindset is something that stood out to Mooney, who transferred in from South Dakota. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard is not only coming in with strong shooting credentials -- netting 76 three-pointers and averaging 18.7 points with the Coyotes -- but he's also hoping to lead the way in the effort department.
"Coach Beard has instilled an unselfish culture here," Mooney said. "What's a lot different about this program, is everybody works. (Brandone Francis) was just talking about consistency, just showing up everyday ready to work and get better."
Put it all together, and Owens -- a 6-10, 215-pound forward who transferred from St. John's -- feels like Texas Tech has the makings of a future winner.
The four Texas Tech seniors have their own stories on how they got here, but are ready to come together to lead the team this season. Watch to hear from Brandone Francis, Norense Odiase, Tariq Owens and Matt Mooney. #4To1 pic.twitter.com/G5RznwdNZT— Texas Tech Basketball (@TexasTechMBB) September 25, 2018
"I think it's really special, I think we can have a really special year," said Owens, who collected 94 blocks to lead the Big East Conference last season. "I'm just looking forward to really going to battle with these guys. ... It's been a good summer, so I'm really looking forward to the year."
The best ever?
Culver has embraced high expectations since the former Coronado High School standout announced his decision to play at his hometown Division I university two years ago.
After averaging 11.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in his first collegiate season, the sophomore will be expected to raise his game to another level.
"I say these things very confidently and with 100-percent belief, Jarrett Culver has a chance to be one of, if not, the best player to ever play at this school," Beard said. "And I say that will all do respect to all the great players before him."
Beard, who has not shied away from saying the sophomore guard is an NBA prospect, believes Culver's work ethic is what will provide the necessary tools to be successful a the next level.
"It comes from his day-to-day habits, and how he works and how he eliminates distractions," Beard said. "Simply stated: Gets in the gym everyday and works at his craft. I don't want to put the weight of the world on the young guy's shoulders, but I will tell you I'm proud to be his coach, I expect great things and I think when it's all said and done he'll go down as one of the best players to play at this school."
Freshman Khavon Moore received good news from the training staff a couple weeks ago, according to Beard.
Freshman SZN🗣 pic.twitter.com/dJwII9dGt7— _shelovesKD (@KhavonMoore) September 24, 2018
"He came here this summer, but wasn't cleared to play," Beard said of the freshman guard. "He's worked really hard in the weight room, he's worked extremely hard on his rehab. He was cleared a couple of weeks ago for certain types of contact and non-contact drills. Simply stated: I think the leg is healing, but it's a process to get back to where he once was and where he'll be one day really soon as a basketball play."
Moore, a Macon (Ga.) Westside standout, suffered a broken leg back in January. The current 6-foot-7, 217-pound forward ended his prep career with school records in points (2,020), rebounds (978) and assists (408). He also set the mark for the most points in a season (646) and most points scored in a single game (53).
This article is written by Carlos Silva Jr. from Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.