Quick hoops recruiting tidbit — Whitewright star makes call

I caught up with Whitewright forward Mason Riggins this summer to talk about his college plans after he visited UNT.

Riggins announced where he’s headed tonight. The 30th-ranked player in the state, according to TexasHoops.com is …

UNT has already picked up its first commitment for 2015 in JaMichael Brown, a highly regarded point guard out of San Antonio.

No getting around it — Taylor’s injury is going to hurt

North Texas guard T.J. Taylor will be out four to six weeks after knee surgery. Taylor is expected to return for the regular season opener, but the practice time he will miss is another obstacle for UNT, which must rebuild its backcourt. (DRC file photo)

UNT received word from team doctors today that represented a classic case of good news-bad news.

First, the good news.

Senior guard T.J. Taylor’s knee surgery went well. He was experiencing some soreness and swelling. Doctors went in and cleaned the knee up.

Taylor will be out four to six weeks. UNT will open practice on Oct. 6 before its exhibition game on Nov. 10 against Oklahoma City. UNT opens the season on Oct. 14 with a home game against Arkansas-Monticello.

UNT believes Taylor will be ready to go when the season starts.

Now, the bad news.

Taylor is going to miss a ton of time in the preseason in a year UNT is going to have to rebuild its backcourt rotation and has a ton of questions to answer.

Here are the guys UNT has back

Jordan Williams, senior — 12.0 points, 6.3 rebounds a game

Williams led UNT in both scoring and rebounding and will be the Mean Green’s top returning player and one of the better guards in C-USA.

Maurice Aniefiok, junior, 6.7 points a game

One of the more talented players on UNT’s roster in terms of raw ability. Aniefiok is a good perimeter shooter who shot a team-best 37.1 percent from 3-point range last year.

T.J. Taylor, senior, 7.0 points a game

Taylor has all the talent in the world, but has never really put it together to become an elite player and is now on the shelf with a knee issue.

Williams is one of the more productive players UNT has rolled out there over the last several years. Head coach Tony Benford believes he will be among the best guards in C-USA this year.

The scary part for UNT is those guys are it in terms of experienced guards returning. No matter how one slices it and dices it, the Mean Green lost a ton of guards who contributed last year, including:

Alzee Williams — UNT’s second leading scorer as a senior at 11.1 points a game.

Chris Jones — UNT’s third leading scorer at 7.5 points a game and leader in assists with 127.

Vertrail Vaughns — The one-and-done fifth-year senior transfer averaged 7.3 points a game.

Brandan Walton — Hit team-high 42 3-pointers and averaged 7.2 points a game.

UNT was already going to depend on a host of newcomers to quickly develop, but will now have to lean even more on the following:

Todd Eaglin — Tyler JC point guard who ranked third among junior college players nationally with an average of 7.6 assists a game

DeAndre Harris — Tyler JC guard who sat out last season after averaging 13.5 points a game as a freshman

Carrington Ward — On his third college after averaging 16.0 points a game last season at San Jac

Greg White-Pittman — Louisiana Class 5A MVP who parted ways with Tulane before signing with UNT

J-Mychal Reese — UNT is hoping to get the Texas A&M transfer eligible this year, despite the fact he played six games last season with the Aggies before being dismissed

The bottom line is UNT has two good players coming back in Williams and Aniefiok and some good prospects arriving, but the overall situation was already ripe with questions and now includes another.

Knee surgery isn’t easy to come back from, even a minor one, in a short period of time. There is no way to know for sure if Taylor will be ready to start the season, and even if he is, he will have missed a ton of practice time.

The chances that he will be in good basketball shape are gone.

UNT also has no idea at this point if Reese will be eligible this year. He played last season at A&M. Even if he gets a waiver from the NCAA, he might not be eligible until the semester break.

That would leave Eaglin as UNT’s only true point guard. White-Pittman, a combo guard, might be the next closest thing to a second point guard UNT has.

Depending on newcomers is a dicey proposition at best. History shows us that. Taylor was expected to be an impact player last season, but averaged just 7.0 points a game in his first year with UNT.

Vertrail Vaughns (7.3 PPG), Colin Voss (7.3 PPG) and Maurice Aniefiok (6.7 PPG) were all solid, but weren’t huge difference makers in their first season  with the Mean Green either.

Armani Flannigan struggled and averaged 2.4 points a game. Keith Coleman also struggled in his first year at UNT.

UNT will have to hope that it has a few guards come through this year because it was already going to lack experience. The situation seems a little even more perilous now with Taylor entering the season off knee surgery.

Taylor’s surgery went well, out 4-6 weeks

Taylor

UNT guard T.J. Taylor underwent minor knee surgery today that has been deemed successful by the school’s medical staff and will be out four to six weeks, a school spokesman confirmed Thursday afternoon.

Taylor experienced swelling during individual preseason workouts, prompting UNT’s training staff to examine his knee. UNT elected to have Taylor undergo an an arthroscopic procedure this morning.

The former Denison standout averaged 7.0 points a game and started twice last year. He is expected to be a major contributor for the Mean Green in his senior season.

UNT’s first official day of practice will be Oct. 6. The Mean Green open the season on Nov. 14 against Arkansas-Monticello, four days after their lone exhibition against Oklahoma City.

Taylor flashed the potential that made him a top national recruit coming out of high school when he scored 24 points in a loss to Idaho and 21 in a double-overtime win over Portland during the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Portland, Ore., in November, but struggled to play at a consistently high level the rest of last season.

The Mean Green are counting on Taylor to take a major step forward this season to help fill the void left by the departure of four key guards, including Alzee Williams.

Williams was UNT’s second-leading scorer last season with an average of 11.1 points a game. Brandan Walton and Vertrail Vaughns were also seniors last season, while starting point guard Chris Jones transferred to Angelo State.

Benford said that Taylor, who missed the first two games of last season due to injury, had shown signs that he was prepared for a breakout season before experiencing knee problems.

Taylor was a three-time all-state selection at Denison and a consensus top 150 recruit nationally. He signed with Oklahoma, but left the school and made stops at Paris JC and Marquette before transferring to UNT, where he sat out the 2012-13 season.

Thursday morning news and notes — UNT may have to pay back $75.6 million

Our higher education reporter Jenna Duncan and our partners over at The Dallas Morning News had a humdinger of a story this morning — one that might impact UNT athletics down the line.

The state auditor’s office has recommended that the Legislature require UNT to repay the state at least $75.6 million over the next 10 years due to accounting irregularities over the course of several years.

That is a ton of money no matter how you slice it, and there is no telling how the state will require UNT to pay it back. The 10-year plan is only a recommendationj.

We reported earlier this year that UNT’s financial issues could push back the school’s plans to revive the program back to 2016.

There is no telling how UNT will go about tightening its budget if it is required to pay the money back, or even if athletics will be affected.

It is something to watch of the next several months, though.

And in other news …

We are in the in-home visit section of the basketball recruiting calender.

Mike Petersen was in to see UNT commit Brian Jolivette last night.

On the football front, UNT recruiting target Tyler Moore

UNT is pretty much out of it at this point, but does still have an offer out to Moore.

And finally, Denton city councilman Kevin Rhoden raised some questions on his website about the impact of UNT’s plans to acquire the Sack n Save property on the viability of a convention center on the school’s campus.

UNT guard T.J. Taylor to have knee surgery tomorrow

Taylor

North Texas guard T.J. Taylor will have arthroscopic knee surgery today to determine if there is any structural damage in the joint after he experienced swelling during individual preseason workouts this week.

“We hope it won’t be anything major,” UNT head coach Tony Benford said. “He was sore this week and had some swelling. He didn’t injure it on the court.”

Benford said UNT will not know how long Taylor will be out until after the procedure. UNT’s first official day of practice will be Oct. 6. The Mean Green open the season on Nov. 14 against Arkansas-Monticello, four days after their lone exhibition against Oklahoma City.

The senior has not experienced any previous knee issues, Benford said.

The former Denison standout averaged 7.0 points a game and started twice last year. Taylor flashed the potential that made him a top national recruit coming out of high school when he scored 24 points in a loss to Idaho and 21 in a double-overtime win over Portland during the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Portland, Ore., in November, but struggled to play at a consistently high level the rest of the season.

Taylor is expected to play a major role for the Mean Green this year after the departure of four key guards, including Alzee Williams.

Williams was UNT’s second-leading scorer last season with an average of 11.1 points a game. Brandan Walton and Vertrail Vaughns were also seniors last season, while starting point guard Chris Jones transferred to Angelo State.

Benford said that Taylor had shown signs that he was prepared for a breakout season before experiencing knee problems.

Taylor was a three-time all-state selection at Denison and a consensus top 150 recruit nationally. He signed with Oklahoma, but left the school and made stops at Paris JC and Marquette before transferring to UNT, where he sat out the 2012-13 season.

 

And now for the big challenge — winning on the road

UNT head coach Dan McCarney has put a premium on winning at home during his tenure with the Mean Green and has done a terrific job in that regard.

The record bears that out. Since McCarney took over before the 2011 season, UNT is a very solid 14-6 at Apogee Stadium, but is just 6-15 on the road.

UNT has already lost at Texas this year and will have to improve its overall performance away from its home field over the next month if it wants to jump back into the Conference USA West Division title chase after losing its league opener to Louisiana Tech at home.

UNT heads to Indiana for its next game on Oct. 4. That one looks like it could be a tough one for the Mean Green considering the Hoosiers are coming off an upset win over No. 18 Missouri.

UNT will then play at UAB and Rice with a home game against Southern Miss between.

Rice is not what people expected, but all three of those games will be challenging. Southern Miss and UAB both have won two games already this season and Rice has the talent to turn it around.

UNT did right the ship on the road a bit last season while winning at Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech and Tulsa during a season-ending run that led to the Mean Green landing in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

“We have been on the road in tough environments before,” UNT offensive lineman Mason Y’Barbo said. “Good teams know how to win on the road.”

That was the case last season, when UNT won when it had to away from Apogee Stadium.

The question for UNT now is if it can have that same kind of success on the road again this year.

 

Updating the UNT recruiting target series — former target Diamon Cannon to UTSA

We haven’t updated our UNT recruiting target series in a while. This seemed liked as good a time as any with the Mean Green in the middle of a bye week.

UNT has fared pretty well so far.

Oklahoma cornerback Ashton Preston is a great get, as is Canton defensive lineman Sam Miller.

I have tacked on a couple of UNT commits to the list and updated the list of players we talked to over the summer who have committed to other schools.

Admission — Yeah, I’m throwing some fuel on the fire by pointing out that Diamon Cannon, a Killeen Shoemaker linebacker with offers from Arkansas, Nevada, Northern Illinois and Texas State in addition to UNT, according the major recruiting services, committed to UTSA tonight.

I just don’t see UTSA going away as a school UNT is going to have to compete with for players and bowl bids in C-USA any time soon.

There are a select group of UNT fans who have already come to strongly dislike the Roadrunners.

This ought to add a little fuel to the fire.

UNT football commitments
DB Ashton Preston, Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe
WR Rodney Bendy, Tyler John Tyler
DB Nate Brooks, Whitehouse
DE Sam Miller, Canton
OL Abdul Beecham, Converse Judson
OL Chett Munden, Marshall
TE Kelvin Smith, Dekaney
CB Taylor Robinson, Keller Central
OL Cody Wheeler, Allen
CB Zavian Bingham, Southwest Mississippi Community College
S Cade Erwin, Flower Mound Marcus
OL Creighton Barr, Flower Mound Marcus
CB Jerbrell Lipscomb, Navasota
DL R.D. Wegmann, Wichita Falls Rider

Mean Green blog recruiting series
DE Dailon Holmes, Denton
WR D’erren Wilson, Dallas Bishop Dunne
OL Bryce Wilds, Brazosport—————————–Committed to Houston
DL Dustin McWhorter, Graham ——————–Committed to Texas State
DB Ashton Preston, Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe
DB Hayden Davidson, Richland
DB Cade Erwin, Flower Mound Marcus
OL Tyler Moore, Galena Park North Shore
OL Abdul Beecham, Converse Judson
WR Israel Williams, Waco Connally
DB Niko Small, Arlington Bowie——————————–Committed to TCU
OL Shane Block, Yukon, Okla.———————————-Committed to UTSA
OL Ken Marks, Beaumont Central———-Committed to Louisiana-Lafayette
OL Rowdy Clark, Denton
OL Judd Terry, Denton
CB Jerbrell Lipscomb, Navasota
LB Diamon Cannon, Killeen Shoemaker—————-Committed to UTSA
DE Sam Miller, Canton
WR Jarvis Baxter, Trinity Valley JC
DT Motekiai Maile, Tyler JC ———————– Committed to Oklahoma State
CB Taylor Robinson, Keller Central
OL Joseph Gonzales, Waco
OL Matt Hiter, Argyle
DB Nate Brooks, Whitehouse
LB Jordan Williams, Paris
OL Erik McCoy, Lufkin
OL Riley Daniel, Ringling, Okla.
DL RD Wegmann, Wichita Falls Rider
OL Evan Curl, Flower Mound
ATH Keith Washington, Brazoswood————————-Committed to Duke
OL Kaden Jackson, Kingfisher (Okla.)High———–Committed to Wyoming
LB Angelo Garbutt, Lewisville Hebron—————————Oregon State
LB Clay Holford, Lewisville Hebron————-Committed to Eastern Michigan
ATH Billy McCrary, Leander Rouse —————————– Committed to SMU
QB Chris Riddle, University Christian, Jacksonville, Fla.
CB Nafees Lyon, Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek———-Committed to Charlotte
DL Carl Thompson, Guyer—————————————Committed to Kansas
OL Beau Hott, Plano———————————-Committed to Oregon State
WR Akile Davis, DeSoto———————————Committed to BYU
ATH Jonathan Giles, Fort Bend Elkins ———— Committed to Texas Tech
OL Clayton Woods, Highland Park———————–Committed to UTSA
DL Keenan Kelly, Cedar Grove, Ga.

Quick Indiana note — Hoosiers lose two key backups for year

Indiana’s big win over No. 18 Missouri came with an unfortunate final chapter that appears to loom large for UNT

The Hoosiers lost key backups in cornerback Kenny Mullen and linebacker Marcus Oliver to season ending knee injuries.

David Woods at the Indianapolis Star has the story.

UNT will face the Hoosiers on Oct.4 after its bye week. Indiana faces Maryland this weekend in what will be a huge game for the Hoosiers, who at 2-1 can take a key step toward the magical six-win mark and a bowl game with a win before facing UNT.

Hoops TV schedule out, et cetera

The initial Conference USA men’s basketball television schedule was released today.

UNT will have two games televised this year, and they are both pretty interesting for different reasons. The Mean Green’s home game against Creighton at 2 p.m. on Dec. 21 is on the slate, as is a 4:30 p.m. game against UTSA on Jan. 4.

Creighton finished 27-8 last year and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament before falling to Baylor. Doug McDermott made that team largely what it was before finishing up his career last season as one of the most prolific college players of all time. Creighton will be down, no doubt.

That game is still going to be a tough one for UNT and maybe its highest profile game of the year.

Craighton hammered UNT 71-51 back in the 2012-13 season, and that was back when the Mean Green had Tony Mitchell, Roger Franklin and Alzee Williams.

Austin Chapman, who played at The Colony, averaged 8.1 points a game as a junior for Creighton last season. Creighton also has highly regarded small forward Ronnie Harrell arriving this season.

UNT’s game against UTSA will also be a big one. The Mean Green went just 6-10 in its first season in C-USA and lost three of its top four scorers (Alzee Wiliiams, Chris Jones and Vertrail Vaughns), its leader in assists (Jones, 127), its leader in steals (Jones, 48) and its leader in 3-pointers made (Brandan Walton, 42).

UNT expects to improve on its six conference wins this year, largely behind a host of newcomers who are completely unproven on the Division I level, including Jeremy Combs and JUCO transfer Muhammed Ahmed. Beating UTSA would be a key step in getting there. UTSA went 4-12 last season.

On the football front, here’s a story I wrote for today’s paper on the development of sophomore Darvin Kidsy in the return game. 

Kidsy has always been a talented player and was already contributing to UNT’s offense. UNT is hoping Kidsy can spark its punt return team and lighten the load a little on Carlos Harris, who is heavily involved in just about everything UNT does in the passing game, running game and returns kicks. He was also returning punts before UNT turned to Kidsy.

Monday night notes (Kidsy story coming tomorrow, recruiting tidits)

UNT’s players were available today. I posted a few notes and a video with Dajon Williams and Darvin Kidsy earlier.

I will have a story on Kidsy’s big day returning kicks in tomorrow’s paper.

There are a couple of items of note that I didn’t get to earlier, including the notable fact that it is Mason Y’Barbo’s birthday. UNT’s standout out guard and his teammates noted the milestone on Twitter.

On the recruiting front, Oklahoma offensive lineman Kaden Jackson, who we talked to for our UNT recruiting target series

And finally, interest appears to be picking up in Rowlett guard Michael Kolawole. He now holds on offer from Illinois-Chicago. UNT has been in the hunt for a while.