On March 7, 2023 at Michelob Ultra Arena, the Tarleton Texans won their first-ever Division I postseason basketball game. Freddy Hicks, Shamir Bogues, Javontae Hopkins, Jakorie Smith, and Shak Daniel were all key players in the historic win.
Fast forward about six and a half months. Five of those six players are no longer in Stephenville. Freddy Hicks transferred to his father’s Alma Mater at Arkansas State. Shamir Bogues is now at Vermont. And Javontae Hopkins is finishing up his collegiate career at Prairie View A&M. Along with these three, Shak Daniel signed a professional contract.
So, what will the Texans have in store for the college basketball world in 2023-24? The offseason got off to a bang when the Texans broke ground on a new event center, something head coach Billy Gillispie calls a ‘game-changer’ for Tarleton athletics.
— Tarleton Athletics (@TarletonSports) August 23, 2023
Jakorie Smith returns and is a dark horse for Player of the Year. Lue Williams is back. But, there are going to be a lot of new faces, on the floor and on the bench, including the coaching staff.
Can the Texans do more damage in their final year of the 4-year transition period? It remains to be seen. What doesn’t remain to be seen is how difficult it is to win at Wisdom Gym. Just ask GCU and Utah Valley.
Billy Gillispie, 4th season
Record at Tarleton:
41-44 overall, 23-25 WAC
Lost in WAC Quarterfinals to Utah Valley, Lost in overtime to Radford in first round of CBI
- Jakorie Smith – 6’6, Senior
- Lue Williams – 6’5, Senior
- KiAndre Gaddy – 6’6, Senior
- Nasan Ayala – 6’3, Senior
- Adam Moussa – 6’3, Senior, G – Black Hills State
- Gavin Wilburn – 6’3, Junior, G – San Diego City College
- Dario Domingos – 6’8, Junior F – UT Arlington
- Blake Brinkmeyer – 6’9, Redshirt Junior – Kirkwood Community College/Indiana State
- Devon Barnes – 6’1, Sophomore – Triton College
- Izzy Miles – 6’2, Freshman, G
- Quinton Perkins – 6’1, Freshman, G
- Kaya Mutambirwa – 6’5, Freshman, G
- Mambourou Mara – 6’7, Freshman, F
- Bubu Benjamin – 6’7, Freshman, F
- Kevin Paul Jr. – 6’9, Freshman, F
- Jalen Thomas – 6’1, Senior, G – Oklahoma Panhandle State
- Emmanuel Innocenti – 6’5, Freshman, F
- Traivar Jackson – 6’6, Junior, F – Pima Community College
- Miles Lewis – 6’0, Junior, G – Contra Costa Community College
- Freddy Hicks
- Tiger Booker
- Shamir Bogues
- Shakur Daniel
- Javontae Hopkins
- Coreyoun Rushin
- Garry Clark
- Rod Brown
- Noah McDavid
At Virginia. At Tennessee. As you can see, the Texans are once again stacking up the non-conference schedule. There was the near miss at Arizona State to start the season. Then, at the Paradise Jam, there were wins over a good Belmont team and an ACC foe in Boston College.
However, things may be a bit challenging in Stephenville in 2023-24. Three starters are gone. Seven of the top-9 scorers are gone. And there is a lot of youth with minimal size. Sure, UT Arlington transfer Dario Domingos has a season in the WAC and is a load to handle down low.
But, how will former Indiana State Sycamore Blake Brinkmeyer figure into the rotation? The other question is on the guard line. Yes, Lue Williams and Jakorie Smith return and will be the floor leaders in Stephenville. But, who will replace Freddy Hicks? Or Shamir Bogues and his length? What about the leadership of Shak Daniel? Or the quickness and speed of Tiger Booker and Javontae Hopkins? There are a lot of question marks surrounding the Texans heading into 2023-24.
Two things that you can’t question are that Tarleton will play anyone, anytime, anywhere and the Texans will defend the perimeter. It is the way they win games. Just ask former Utah Valley guard Trey Woodbury about the frustration the Texan guards cause on the perimeter.
Along with that, teams that go into Wisdom Gym struggle. There were only two WAC teams who went into Wisdom Gym and came out with a win in 2023-24. One of those two teams is no longer in the WAC. Both GCU and Utah Valley got beat by double digits. GCU was down by 30 at one point.
It is the final year of the 4-year transition period to Division I. After winning a game in the WAC Tournament in 2023, can the Texans take another step at WAC Vegas? With a young roster, and new faces that have to step into some big shoes, it may be one of the more challenging years head coach Billy Gillispie has faced since taking over four years ago.
There are four non-conference games that we know of for the Texans. Tarleton will open the season at Virginia on Nov. 6. On Dec. 21, the Texans head to Knoxville to take on Tennessee. Tarleton will also compete in the SoCal Challenge where they will face Nicholls State in the first game and either Sacramento State or Cal State Bakersfield in the final round.
Along with that, the Texans host Jacksonville State and play at FIU in the WAC/Conference USA Challenge. Tarleton opens WAC play at SFA on Nov. 29 before hosting UTRGV on Dec. 2.