Over the last couple of days, I have had a chance to catch up with UNT’s new basketball coaches Tony Benford and Mike Petersen and picked up some extra tidbits and thoughts to put on the blog.
I spent a few minutes with Benford to start on a profile (it’s just something you do with a new coach in a major sport like men’s basketball) and also talked with Petersen after he added Cayla Petree to his staff.
Benford spoke a little about this on his interview on TXA 21 last night, but he also mentioned to me how important this upcoming recruiting class will be for UNT’s future. He called it the biggest and most important class for UNT going forward.
It’s a good point, one I had not thought a lot about.
The assumption is that Tony Mitchell is headed to the NBA after this year, but you also have to figure in that Roger Franklin, Jacob Holmen, Justin Patton, NIko Stojkovic and Brandan Walton will be seniors this year.
That is a whole lot of talent to replace in one shot. UNT will have a six-man recruiting class this next year, and the staff is getting off to a bit of a late start considering the assistant coaches have just arrived.
New LSU head coach Johnny Jones, the guy who built UNT from a disaster of a program into a consistent winner, laid the foundation with a lot of players that Benford and his staff can build around. Benford said he has been impressed with the quality of the players he inherited not only in terms of their basketball talent, but also in the type of people they are. That has made the transition easier.
But there is still a lot of work to do.
Don’t sleep on David Anwar. Benford said he is a terrific recruiter. He signed Omar Thomas and Marvin Kilgore while he was working at UTEP. Thomas averaged 18.1 points in two years, while Kilgore averaged 12.7 points a game as a senior.
Rob Evans has contacts everywhere after being in the game for decades and Bart Lundy has experience as a head coach.
Benford is convinced that he has the right guys in place going forward.
UNT will continue to recruit both the Texas high schools, including the Dallas area, where the school has established something of a pipeline, in addition to the junior college ranks.
UNT has four players who will be sophomores in the fall, so the staff will have to be careful to rebalance the roster.
Benford is pretty excited about not only what he has inherited, and let’s be honest, he has inherited maybe the best batch of players UNT has had coming back in years, maybe ever.
But he is also really happy about P.J. Hardwick and Keith Coleman, the guys he added late after taking the job. Hardwick was committed to Mississippi State for a reason. He’s that good, and he seems like a great character kid.
Benford believes Coleman is the piece UNT was missing last year and will fit in great this season. One of the problems UNT had last season was being forced to move Tony Mitchell to the post after Kedrick Hogans suffered a pretty major knee injury.
The addition of Coleman solves that problem. He’s a legit 6-10 and Benford said he can run the floor and score.
UNT had a player with a skill set along those line in George Odufuwa, who was a big reason UNT made it to the NCAA tournament a couple of years ago.
Women’s basketball has flown a bit under the radar this spring and summer, largely because UNT lost Jones, brought on Benford and received the long-awaited invitation to Conference USA about the same time.
Petersen has quietly done a whole lot of rebuilding while not a whole lot of people were paying attention. The addition of former Georgetown assistant and TCU standout Ashley Davis and former Cisco coach and Texas Tech guard Cayla Petree gave UNT two assistants with a background in Texas and some serious skins on the wall.
Petersen also retained Wesley Brooks, a holdover from Karen Aston’s staff who seems to be an up-and-comer in the business.
Here’s a link to the story I wrote on Petree and the staff for today’s papers: Petersen completes staff
Petersen has also remade UNT’s roster without a whole lot of fanfare, adding TCU transfer Briesha Wynn and Hannan Christian, another former TCU player via Weatherford College. He also signed Alexis Hyder, who had been in contact with Aston’s staff and hung on to Kiara Davis, who signed with UNT while Aston was still the head coach.
UNT nearly snapped what is now a string of six consecutive losing seasons last year and should have a shot to end the skid next year before heading to C-USA.