The UT Arlington men’s basketball team had an interesting first year in its return to the WAC. Sure, there were a lot of struggles in the non-conference slate. Yes, the Mavericks were 4-7 before their West Coast road trip. However, three of the four wins came against non-Division I opponents.
The good news was the West Coast road trip started off with a big win over a good San Francisco team. The bad news is the Mavericks followed that up with a really ugly loss at Cal two days later.
Five straight losses were not what Maverick fans were hoping for to open WAC play. But, a road win at New Mexico State followed by a win over UTRGV brought back some life in the DFW Metro area.
There was also that shocking win over Sam Houston, by double digits, on Feb. 4. And a few weeks later a road win at SFA. The icing on the cake was a thrilling, buzzer-beating win over Utah Tech on Senior Day at College Park Center.
From that point, three straight losses, all by double figures, wrapped up a roller coaster of a season. Did we mention that head coach Greg Young was let go following a 64-58 win at UTRGV on Feb. 9?
So, what will first-year head coach KT Turner do in his return to UT Arlington? Lots of new faces but some key returners. The cupboard isn’t all bare in the DFW Metro area. College Park Center could be one of the best home court advantages in the WAC. The facilities are really good as are the resources. It is a matter of time before the Mavericks are contending for WAC titles year after year. Could that happen in 2023-24?
KT Turner, First Season
11-21 overall, 6-12 WAC
Lost in first round of WAC Tournament to GCU
- Chendall Weaver – Transfer to Texas
- Dario Domingos – Transfer to Tarleton
- Brandon Walker – Transfer to Montana State
- Kyron Gibson – Transfer to Drake
- Taj Anderson – Transfer to Nicholls State
- Damonze Woods – Unknown
- Pedro Castro – Graduated
- Montez Young Jr. – Unknown
- Marion Humphrey – Transfer to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
- Phillip Russell – 5’10, Junior, G – Southeast Missouri State
- Makaih Williams – 6’1, Freshman, G
- DaJuan Gordon – 6’5, Graduate, G – New Mexico State
- Akili Vining – 6’2, Graduate, G – Texas Wesleyan
- Dwayne Koroma – 6’8, R-Sophomore, F – Iona
- Freds Pauls Bagatskis – 6’8, Sophomore, F – Georgia Tech
- Kade Douglas – 6’2, Freshman, G
- Sterling Gaston-Chapman – 6’4, Junior, G – Tulsa
- Darrius Miles – 6’10, R-Sophomore, F – Western Kentucky
- Fabio Basili – 6’4, Sophomore, G – Louisville
- Shemar Wilson – 6’9, Junior, F
- Brandyn Talbot – 6’5, Junior, G
- Aaron Cash – 6’6, Graduate, G
There is a lot of excitement surrounding the UT Arlington men’s basketball team heading into 2023-24. Jon Fagg went out and got his guy in KT Turner to lead the Mavericks. Sure, Turner is in his first season as head coach. So, perhaps we should temper expectations a bit.
However, with the connects KT Turner has in the DFW Metroplex, and around the country, UT Arlington will be in the mix on a yearly basis moving forward. Turner and his staff brought in SEMO transfer and proven scorer Phillip Russell. Turner and his staff also convinced Shemar Wilson, Aaron Cash and Brandyn Talbot to stay in Arlington. There are other Division I transfers including former New Mexico State guard DaJuan Gordon, Louisville big man Darrius Miles and Dwayne Koroma from Iona. Add in Freds Paul Bagatskis from Georgia Tech and there is a good deal of Division I experience on Turner’s first roster.
The big question, though, is if Phillip Russell will actually be eligible in 2023-24. Russell is dealing with the two-time Division I transfer rule and is waiting to see if his waiver will be approved. If not, that leaves a big hole in the rotation for the Mavericks.
Will UT Arlington be in the mix for a WAC title in 2023-24? A lot hinges on that decision by the NCAA regarding Russell. However, with size, athleticism and experience, the Mavericks won’t be a pushover. KT Turner said that the goal is to win now, not wait and develop. They want to be competitive immediately. Coming from coaching stints under Larry Brown and John Calipari among others, KT Turner knows how to win. As the man in charge, and the ultimate decision-maker, can Turner turn UT Arlington back into a winner?
The Mavericks open up with one of the best games of opening night. UT Arlington hosts Oral Roberts at College Park Center. It may not be the same Oral Roberts team we have seen the past few years but it will be a good test to open the season.
UT Arlington also has Arizona and Texas Tech on the slate plus get to face former Maverick and WAC Freshman of the Year Chendall Weaver on New Year’s Day in Austin. The first WAC test comes at College Park Center against Abilene Christian on Nov. 29 before heading to GCU on Dec. 2.
The non-conference slate in KT Turner’s first season might be one of the best in the WAC. Three Power 5 games, multiple games against Division I Texas schools, games at New Mexico and against Air Force at Dickie’s Arena. It will be a challenge but it could set the Mavericks up to be in good shape as WAC play really ramps up in January.