College basketball season is still almost three months away and already there are rumblings from Texas Tech’s camp that would make the most stoic Red Raider fan vibrate with anticipation.
Strength coach John Reilly regularly posts information about the extraordinary gains Tech players have made in terms of size, strength and leaping ability.
We hear faint whispers that freshmen Clarence Nadolny, Tyreek Smith and Russell Tchewa may be even better than advertised, and that graduate transfers Chris Clarke and T.J. Holyfield are the real deal.
Chris Beard praises the athleticism of his rebuilt roster and says it gives Tech a chance to be good defensively from “day one.”
And most tantalizingly of all, Beard has let it be known that freshman Kevin McCullar will, at some point, be a force.
The quote from Beard’s press conference that still reverberates through the ether surrounding United Supermarkets Arena is as follows. He first stated that McCullar’s “talent, basketball IQ, love of the game and skill are right there.” Beard then detonated the charge: “[McCullar] has the chance to be one of the best players ever to play in this program.”
Now just in case you think Beard experienced some sort of a vapor lock or temporary loss of sanity, he not only doubled down on his red-letter statement, but tripled down. He related that “we see greatness in this guy’s future,” and that, “as he gets healthy he’s gonna be special.”
So Beard has issued a prophecy about McCullar that is now part of the public record. There is no possibility of denial, and his remarks are so clear that Beard could not claim we misinterpreted them. And that means two things–first, that he means what he says, and second, that McCullar is mentally tough enough to not falter under the weight of what now are rather extravagant expectations.
Perhaps the most wonderful thing about Beard’s remarks is that they apply to a player who was arguably somewhat under the radar. If Beard said what he did about Jahmius Ramsey, or even Terrance Shannon or Joel Ntambwe, folks probably wouldn’t be too stunned because those three players come in with unimpeachable pedigrees. But McCullar falls more into the sleeper category than the superstar.
However, those of us who have studied McCullar from the moment he appeared on Texas Tech’s radar screen were mightily impressed from the get-go. McCullar’s most essential feature is that he is a 6-foot-6 player who is a legitimate point guard. Texas Tech has never had such a player. Few programs have. And 6-foot-6 point guards are somewhat uncommon even in the NBA.
McCullar’s size at the point makes him a unique weapon. It allows him to survey the court more clearly than shorter point guards. And it allows him to post up, which he did to terrific effect in high school.
But McCullar is more than a pure point guard. He is also a three-level scorer. McCullar can catch and shoot; he can hit pull-up jumpers from deep and midrange; he can score with his back to the basket on fade-aways, and he has the blow-by to get all the way to the cup on a regular basis. Additionally, McCullar owns a hesitation dribble on penetration that is sheer murder. In short, guarding McCullar, whether in facilitator or scorer mode will be tremendously unpleasant.
Now if that was all there was to McCullar, you’d be thrilled to pieces. But there’s more.
Many people have wondered where Beard will find the intangibles that left the program when Norense Odiase, Tariq Owens and Matt Mooney departed. Well, Kevin McCullar is part of the answer. He plays with the sort of effort one saw in Odiase and Owens, and he’s far more concerned with making the next play than he is with celebrating the previous one. Taking care of business is McCullar’s name.
But you need not take my word for it. Last season Beard himself, on more than one occasion, noted that McCullar cares about one thing, and that’s winning. That is why he came to Tech. And based upon what we’re hearing about McCullar and his current teammates, he will winning but plenty in his time in Lubbock.