Two seasons removed from being the National Championship runner-ups, Tech fans have plenty of reason to be optimistic heading into the new year. Tech men’s basketball head coach Chris Beard has put together an exciting group headlined by names like Nimari Burnett, Mac McClung and Terrance Shannon Jr. Here, I’ll be counting down the five most interesting and exciting players on the roster for the upcoming season.
#5 Kyler Edwards
Starting off our list is the 6-foot-4 Arlington native that has, in the wake of Davide Moretti’s departure, become the longest tenured Red Raider on the roster. Edwards, who is entering his junior season, has come a long way for Tech in a short period of time.
It seems like yesterday he was a freshman putting up 12 efficient points off the bench in the NCAA Championship Game against Virginia.
Now, he is coming off a season in which he averaged 11.4 points per game in 33.4 minutes per game for Tech, while having started in every contest along the way, according to Tech Athletics. Furthermore, Edwards has logged more minutes in the red and black than anyone else on Tech’s roster with 1734, which is good for 14th on the team’s all-time list.
Last year, with a much bigger role on offense, his field goal and three point percentage took a hit, but it’s hard to believe he won’t find a way to improve his numbers with more playmaking talent surrounding him.
Edwards has played in 69 career games, and he’s seen all there is to see in the Big 12, so there’s plenty of reason for the fan base to have faith in him and his development this season.
#4 Mac McClung
This ranking comes with a sort of asterisk. If junior guard McClung was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA by now, then he’d be ranked second on the list with a legitimate case for the top spot. But alas, as of Oct. 21, he has not been so lucky to get the waiver, so the following passage will be based on the assumption that he will eventually receive said eligibility.
The high-flying transfer has gone viral on social media numerous times.
How else could you describe the man who eclipsed Allen Iverson’s scoring record in the state of Virginia, according to Tech Athletics, the man who in 2019 led all Big East Conference freshmen in scoring and the man whose dunks single handedly awarded him national online acclaim?
Standing at 6-foot-2, McClung can bring an aura of flash and excitement that Tech fans have not been particularly accustomed to over recent years.
Finally, we have a name the likes of Kentucky and Texas are used to gearing up with each season, and he is merely an addition to the tough, gritty, defensive squad of players Beard is used to trotting out.
But I digress, there still is plenty of room for improvement, mainly in three-point shooting and defense, but it’s hard to see a world where his premiere slashing ability does not represent a huge advantage for Tech’s offense.
He has averaged 14.2 points per game in his collegiate career on .393 percent shooting, according to Tech Athletics. Overall, not too shabby a replacement for Moretti.
#3 Marcus Santos-Silva
What does 6-foot-7 Santos-Silva have in common with memorable former Tech players TJ Holyfield, Chris Clarke, Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens? They’re all grad transfers, and given the success with the aforementioned players, it’s easy to see how Tech fans can be excited about the now former VCU forward.
Senior forward Santos-Silva is coming off a season in which he averaged 12.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game while shooting 56.9 period from the field, according to Tech Athletics. These are efficient numbers for any player. Not to mention, he has the most collegiate experience of anyone on Tech’s roster, with 1,900 career minutes logged.
He will provide much needed help in the trenches for a Red Raider team that lost its best shot-blocker in TJ Holyfield to graduation.
#2 Terrence Shannon Jr.
Sophomore guard Shannon Jr. played quite well for Tech in his freshman season. The 6-foot-6 Chicago southpaw put up 9.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game on 47 percent shooting while starting in 21 out of 29 games, according to Tech Athletics.
NBA Draft boards, such as NBADraft room, rave about Shannon’s athletic ability. In fact, the same source references it as world class. Shannon is a potential first round pick and will look to take the next step toward an NBA career entering his second season in Lubbock.
His biggest issue thus far has been his three-point shooting. Shannon shot a measly 25.7 percent from beyond the arc in his freshman season, and more remarkably, never attempted more than two triples in a single contest, according to Tech Athletics.
Shannon remains a breakout star candidate in the Big 12 thanks to his physical tools, but it will be up to him to make the jump. In the meantime, all we can do is wait and see.
#1 Nimari Burnett
At long last, we finally reach the finish line. Five-star recruit, freshman guard Nimari Burnett was the crown jewel of the 2020 recruiting class for Beard and his staff.
The 6-foot-4 combo guard from Chicago will enter his Red Raider career as the second-highest recruit in team history, according to 247Sports Composite rankings.
This past year, he was invited to play in both the McDonald’s All-American game and the Jordan Brand Classic, but unfortunately, both games were canceled. His EYBL circuit numbers were quite impressive with 19.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game, according to ESPN.
His playmaking ability and defensive prowess are his biggest strengths. The bottom line is he’s arguably the highest touted true freshman the program has ever had and comes to the team with lofty expectations.
If we can see him on the floor this year at the same time as the four players mentioned prior, it will certainly be an exciting and energetic sight to behold.