During my senior year at Texas A&M, I enjoyed nothing more than going to a men’s basketball game. Most of my friends and classmates didn’t understand. We were terrible and ended up finishing the 2012-13 campaign at 18-15, 7-11 in SEC play.
The team lacked energy and attendance was awful. You could have found a better atmosphere in the West Campus Library, I promise. So why did I care so much about basketball in football-crazed College Station? Why couldn’t I just celebrate Kevin Sumlin’s rich recruiting haul or watch another Youtube clip of Johnny Football highlights?
Nostalgia is why.
As a freshman and sophomore, I saw Mark Turgeon lead my Aggies to the NCAA Tournament. This was back in 2010 and 2011, or what I unfortunately call the “good old days.” Reed Arena rocked. The student section was electric. I thought I resided in college basketball heaven. I was young and naive, I know.
The Aggies could play before my college days, too. Billy Gillispie took over as head coach in 2004 after a disastrous 0-16 record in Big 12 play the previous season. By 2007, Texas A&M was in the Sweet Sixteen. Even after Gillispie left for Kentucky, Turgeon kept the program in the Big Dance, before leaving for Maryland after four seasons.
So now I’m a junior. We’ve made the NCAA Tournament six years in row. Turgeon is gone, but new coach Billy Kennedy excelled at Murray State. We opened the 2011-2012 season ranked in the Top 20. Looked like another smooth transition right? I wish.
Kennedy was dealt a huge blow before the season even began when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I can’t even imagine how tough it must have been to coach and recruit while adjusting to his new life. It was an unfortunate start to a bad year as the Aggies finished 14-18, 4-14 in Big 12 play. We couldn’t score. Fans couldn’t watch. Seats emptied.
Let’s flash forward to today. The Aggies sit at 12-7, 3-3 in the mild SEC. Kennedy is in the middle of his third season as head coach and has a record of 42-40 with no postseason appearances. The announced crowd at the the last home game, a 66-55 loss to Vanderbilt, was 6,520. Many Aggies have lost faith. I have buddies that struggle to name even a single player on the roster. They would rather re-watch a Game of Thrones episode for the fourth time than see our boys play.
Is all hope lost for this once proud program? As an eternal optimist, I say no.
I’ve always been a “next year is our year” kind of fan and I won’t change that belief now. Sure, this season isn’t looking so hot, but help is coming next season. In a big way.
Aggieland, meet Alex Robinson, if you don’t know him already.
Robinson is a 6’1, 170 pound point guard out of Mansfield Timberview High School in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He is currently ranked as the 61st best player in the class of 2014 by ESPN and is rated #58 in the country by Rivals.
According to Rivals, Robinson fielded a multitude of offers, including successful programs such as Baylor, Marquette, Memphis, Oklahoma State, and Pittsburgh. So it might have been a little surprising that he chose the struggling Aggies over some those other schools back in September.
In an interview last fall with CBS college basketball writer Gary Parrish, the guard said schools actually used Kennedy’s Parkinson’s disease against the coach during his recruitment. Robinson, though, “just kinda brushed it off” and said it was “part of recruiting.” He also refused to tell Parrish the names of the schools using the negative recruiting tactics. A classy move, for sure.
Robinson is Kennedy’s best prospect to sign with Texas A&M since the Parkinson’s diagnosis. I’m sure there were plenty of critics to question his decision, but the Arlington native was confident in his choice. He closed the Parrish interview by saying this:
“If you talk to Coach Kennedy you can’t even really tell that he has Parkinson’s disease,” Robinson said. “And I’m not going to let something like that [affect my college decision] … because I know, in my heart, that he’s going to be there and that he’s going to be fine.”
This kid’s confidence and maturity has me excited about Aggie basketball again. Not only has our guy displayed tremendous character off the court, but he’s been terrific on the court, too. As of today, Robinson is averaging 17.1 points per game and 4.3 assists per game in his final high school season.
Also, let’s not forget that the Dallas-Fort Worth area has been a breeding ground for Texas A&M hoops talent. Acie Law (Kimball), Dominique Kirk (Bryan Adams), Josh Carter (Lake Highlands), Bryan Davis (Grand Prairie), Derrick Roland (Seagoville), and Donald Sloan (Seagoville) were all great Aggies during their time.
I’m hoping that Robinson can join this group one day. I’m hoping he can bring Reed Arena back to life. I’m hoping next year is our year.
Check out Alex Robinson highlights in this video from Ballislife.com: