James Dickey's Mother Lode

James Dickey's Mother Lode

Joe Yeager takes a blast to the past an compares some of the best players from the James Dickey and Gerald Meyers eras at Texas Tech.

Unlike the Kansas', Kentuckys, North Carolinas and Dukes of the college basketball solar system, Texas Tech is rarely replete with stars. As one index of Tech's historical talent deficiency, the program has sent only nine players to the NBA. The schools mentioned above sometimes accomplish that in two seasons.

 

There was, however, one inundation of basketball skill that drenched Tech's desiccated roundball landscape. In the early to mid nineties, James Dickey managed to amass a collection of talent that, at least in one magical season, was comparable to what coaches such as Bill Self, John Calipari, Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski are used to having on hand. This influx, which featured four players who would see time in the NBA, produced the magical 95-96 season that saw the Red Raiders go undefeated in conference play, demolish North Carolina in the NCAA tournament, and advance to the Sweet 16.

 

Gerald Myers, James Dickey's predecessor at the helm of the Tech basketball program, never enjoyed such an embarrassment of riches in his 20 years coaching the Red Raiders. Like the university itself, he usually had to make do with less. That Myers did, winning conference titles, SWC postseason tournaments, and guiding one squad to the Sweet 16.

 

As an illustration of Myers' comparative lack of personnel talent, it might be interesting to examine what a game between Myers' best players and Dickey's 95-96 team might have looked like. 

 

Center: Rick Bullock versus Tony BattieUntil Andre Emmett came along, Bullock was the leading scorer in Tech basketball history. He was also the Southwest Conference's number four scorer and number two rebounder. Bullock, however, never stuck in the NBA.

 

Statistically, Battie's Tech career was less impressive than Bullock's, but Battie enjoyed a 16-season NBA career after being selected in the first round of the draft.

 

Battie was a better defender than Bullock, but Bullock, the more rounded player, would do more damage in this matchup.

 

Edge: Myers All Stars

 

Power Forward: Will Flemons versus Darvin Ham—Flemons was a Myers recruit who played most of his Tech career under Dickey. We here count him as a Myers All Star.

 

Flemons, a gentle giant, was a very workmanlike player. He was a master at establishing post position, and was a very good rebounder, but did not have much consistent range on his shot.

 

Ham, despite putting up modest stats at Tech, was a force of nature. He may have been the strongest player in Tech history, and was definitely the most explosive. Ham brought tremendous energy to the court, and his defense erased many a big man in his day. I suspect Ham would have negated Flemons.

 

Edge: Dickey's Sweet 16ers

 

Small Forward: Mike Russell versus Jason SasserRussell, six-foot-seven and 205 pounds, played one year at New Mexico Military Institute (averaging 27 points and 19 rebounds per game) before joining Myers' Red Raiders. As a junior and senior he had monster seasons and, along with Bullock, was the leader of Tech's 1976 Sweet 16 team. The Kansas City Kings selected Russell in the third round of the draft, but he never suited up in an NBA game.

 

Sasser, nicknamed "The Ultimate Warrior" by Dickey, was a relentless if unorthodox player. There was nothing pretty about Sasser's game, but he could score from anywhere on the court, rebounded better than his size, and was a very good defender. The battle between he and Russell would be something to see.

 

Edge: Dickey's Sweet 16ers

 

Off Guard: Jeff Taylor versus Koy Smith—Taylor learned to press, defend and run from legendary coach Ralph Tasker of Hobbs, New Mexico, and he transposed those skills to Southwestern Conference ball under Gerald Myers. Taylor was a leaper who could score in myriad ways, but sticky defense was his claim to fame. Taylor played two seasons in the NBA.

 

Smith, the pride of Hale Center, Texas, was a stone shooter. And although mild-mannered, Smith was a tough-minded player who rarely made mistakes.

 

Edge: Myers All Stars

 

Point Guard: Geoff Huston versus Jason Martin—By general consensus, Huston is the best point guard ever to don the scarlet and black, and he continued, even expanded his success at the NBA level. Huston was slick, smooth and dished the rock precisely and wisely. He was also, like all great point guards, a judicious player who didn't shoot a great deal, but connected frequently when he did.

 

Jason Martin is the forgotten element on Dickey's great team, and as such, is its most underrated player. After the Red Raiders destroyed North Carolina in the NCAA tourney, Tar Heel forward Dante Calabria termed Martin "one of the best distributors of the ball I've seen." That describes Martin in a nutshell. He simply ran the offense perfectly and made sure his teammates got the ball in position to do damage.

 

Edge: Myers All Stars

 

Bench: Bubba Jennings, Clarence Swannegan and Sean Gay versus Cory Carr, Gionet Cooper and Stan Bonewitz

 

Both Myers and Dickey could go to the bench for a couple of the better pure shooters in recent college basketball history in Bubba Jennings and Stan Bonewitz, and both could grab frontline bruisers in Swannegan and Cooper. Gay was a tremendous lead guard who would have been capable of spelling Huston and Taylor equally well, while Carr was a huge scoring threat at all times. And of all the bench players, Carr is the only one who saw any time in the NBA.

 

Edge: Myers All Stars

 

Dickey's Sweet 16 team had four NBA players while the Myers All Stars had only two players reach the game's highest level. Nevertheless, Myers' overall depth advantage would see him to a narrow victory over Dickey. Myers' outstanding bench coaching would also help the cause.

 

 

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