Tyler Junior College's Tapsoba, Nash Commit To Gillispie, Texas Tech
By JOE BUIE
A month ago, Tyler Junior College basketball standouts Kader Tapsoba and Jaron Nash did not see the Big 12 in their future. All that changed when Billy Gillispie was hired by Texas Tech on March 20 to replace the fired Pat Knight.
The coach who built programs at UTEP and Texas A&M invited the TJC players for an official visit last weekend, and they committed to the university before leaving Lubbock on Sunday.
TJC head coach Mike Marquis said they had not been recruited by Knight.
"It's just a real unique situation," Marquis told the Tyler Paper on Tuesday. "Kader couldn't even catch the ball as a freshman and now he's going to have a chance to make a contribution in the Big 12. And the biggest school to recruit Jaron out of high school was Arkansas-Pine Bluff."
Marquis added that this is a testament to the players' hard work and the TJC program's ability to develop talent.
Tapsoba, a 6-10, 200-pound center from Africa with a 7-2 wingspan, was being recruited by Northwestern out of the Big Ten along with Washington State and California. The quick and agile shot-blocker is also a Distinguished Academic All-American.
"I never expected this," said Tapsoba, who averaged 6.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game as a sophomore. "I worked hard. I'm very excited to be there. The (Big 12) game is very physical. I need to work on my strength and work on my post moves so I can be a good matchup for all the centers in the Big 12.
"I came to Tyler and didn't know much about basketball, and coach Marquis helped me a lot."
Nash, a slender 6-8 swingman from Waterloo, Iowa, will have three years of eligibility remaining after playing only one season for the Apaches. The athletic redshirt freshman was being recruited by DePaul and Auburn.
"It's something I've always dreamed of, just playing at a big-time school," said Nash, who averaged 11.0 points and 4.3 rebounds last season. "I'm really excited and just want to work hard to get the best out of my ability."
The players said they enjoyed their visit to the Lubbock campus, which included attending Tech's annual spring football game at Jones SBC Stadium.
"Those two are such great kids," Marquis said. "Kader's academics are well-documented. You only have to meet him for five minutes to see what kind of kid he is.
"Jaron is kind of a quiet assassin. He's extremely humorous, which most people don't know because he's so quiet in public. And he's an above-average student."
Tapsoba and Nash, who are expected to sign their national letters of intent next month, will join a Texas Tech program coming off a tough season. The Red Raiders were 13-19 overall and 5-11 in the Big 12, which tied them for 10th place.