Texas State men’s and women’s basketball hosted a Media Day on Wednesday, with both head coach Danny Kaspar and head women’s coach Zenarae Antoine giving their remarks as they kick off the season.
Following the conference, the men’s team opened their season with a decisive 91-54 win over Cameron in an exhibition match at home on Friday. The game goes along with the team’s goal to keep last year’s momentum.
The men’s basketball team finished the 2018-2019 season with a strong 24-10 record, but injury and illness contributed to ultimately falling 59-46 to Georgia State in the Sun Belt Championship semi-finals.
Seven-year head coach Danny Kasper said significant players were lost going into this season.
“We’re going to miss the three seniors that left,” Kaspar said. “They were good players, but their basketball IQ’s were exceptional. They were smart players. Peacock, Nottingham, and Shed, they were very smart players. Can we replace their basketball IQ? I do think we have some people we brought in whose athleticism and skill level is comparable but those [that left] had what I had in mind, and they had it down pretty good last year.”
Despite the loss of key starters, Kaspar is optimistic about the team surrounding him, according to Kaspar.
“We have a great player in Nijal Pearson coming back, we have a one-two punch in Eric Terry and Alozo Sule, we have some key subs and Marlin Davis and Mason Harrell,” Kaspar said. “That’s a very good battle. At the two-guard spot that is the unknown. Shelby Adams wants to play there; I’m even looking at Marlin Davis there. At the three, you’ve got Nijal and you’ve got Shelby playing behind him. We have a nice freshman named Drew Tennial from Oklahoma City who’s learning our system. He just has some natural gifts that I haven’t seen in many freshmen. He’s one of the more promising freshmen we’ve had. Isaiah Small is a very good player. He needs to be more aggressive in terms of scoring but he’s a very good player and he could be a tremendous defensive player.”
The Bobcats are going to need major contributions from senior forward Nijal Pearson if they intend to continue their success, Kaspar said.
“I’d like him to go to the basket and finish better,” Kaspar said. “I’d like for him to become a three-way scorer, hit the three, hit the midrange, finish at the bucket and either get fouled or score. I think he’s improved his midrange game and his three-point game tremendously since high school. I think he could use some improvement on finishing at the basket when he drives.”
Closing the 2018-2019 season with a narrow 68-67 loss to Troy University in the second round of the Sun Belt Championship, Antoine emphasized continuing their success for the upcoming season.
With eight seasons under her belt, Antoine said this team is different due to its younger lineup and inside-out scoring strategy.
“I’m really excited about being a part of it. As I look to this team this year, we look different than we ever have. I told quite a few people we look more like the first team I had,” Antoine said. “We have more balanced scoring, we have inside presence this year, we have post players that can score and I think that’s exciting because we look different.”
Antoine also discussed senior guard Brooke Holle, the definitive leader of the team on and off the court. The team was disappointed that Holle was snubbed from the Sun Belt’s top 15 players snub, Antoine said.
“Brooke Holle is a starter and leader on this team for us. The conference poll just came out; to not see her name come out as one of the top 15 players is very upsetting, I think Brooke Holle deserved that opportunity,” Antoine said. “As far as what she’s done at Texas State, the games that we’ve won, what she means to this program from a basketball perspective, and if you add to that what she means from a culture perspective, the fact that she’s has the highest GPA as well on this team, I can’t lie I’m disappointed that people don’t understand who Brooke Holle is and what she means to Texas State women’s basketball and the overall Sun Belt Conference.”
The team wasn’t bothered about the team’s projected rankings at ninth place for this season, Antoine said.
“I’m not too concerned about nine,” Antoine said. “If you go back just two years ago where they had us ranked number six, we finished second. I don’t worry as much about the team ranking because a lot of times we don’t know what the transfers look like, what the chemistry looks like, a lot of time we may not know each other’s player personnel so I think if you take a look at that and you see what we’ve lost compared to the other teams and who they’re returning maybe that’s how you come up with that number.”
With the loss of last year’s leading scorer Toshua Leavitt’s, who headed the team with proficient outside shooting, the Bobcats will have a new look on offense, Antoine said.
“We’re not going to be the prolific three-point shooting team that you’ve seen over the last eight years,” Antoine said. “What you are going to see is a more balanced attack scoring wise. It’s going to be a different look for our opponents, more so from a scouting prospective, the student athletes that know Texas State know the scoring is truly going to be inside-out.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams kick off their regular season at home on Tuesday. Both teams will take on Texas Lutheran at Strahan, with the women’s team taking the floor at 5:30 p.m. and the men’s finishing the night at 7:30 p.m.