Newcomers aim to make impact for Texas A&M vs. North Florida

NCAA Basketball

Texas A&M will look to get its 2021-22 campaign off on the right foot when it hosts North Florida on Wednesday in College Station, Texas, in the season-opening game for the Aggies.

The Aggies were 8-10 in their coronavirus-shortened campaign last season and finished 13th in the 14-team Southeastern Conference before losing to Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC tournament.

Texas A&M was picked to finish 12th in the SEC preseason poll.

The Aggies lost eight players to the transfer portal, but Quenton Jackson (10.4 points, 2.4 rebounds per game) is back and should be one of the team leaders. He was the team’s second-leading scorer and shot 41.1 percent from beyond the arc last season.

Joining Jackson are returners Andre Gordon, Hassan Diarra and Hayden Hefner as well as the transfers — Tyrece Radford (Virginia Tech), Henry Coleman III (Duke) and Javonte Brown (UConn). That trio of incoming players is expected to make an immediate impact for Texas A&M.

Freshman Manny Obaseki is also fighting for a starting spot.

“It does feel like a reset,” said Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams, who is beginning his third year at the Aggies’ helm.

“There’s just been so much that’s transpired. Some of it good but a lot of it bad. Through the practices we’ve had, we’re better and we’re faster,” Williams added. “We have more guys that can pass, dribble and shoot. I hope that it’s the strength of our team.”

The Aggies’ final tuneup for the regular season was a 76-72 exhibition win over Texas A&M-Kingsville on Nov. 1.

North Florida (0-1) heads to the Brazos Valley after an 89-74 loss at Texas Tech on Tuesday in its season opener. The Ospreys got 14 points each from Carter Hendricksen and Jarius Hicklen, with Jadyn Parker and Jose Placer adding 13 apiece.

The Ospreys were outrebounded 44-23 in the loss and gave up 54 points in the paint.

North Florida will be facing Texas A&M for the first time in program history. The Ospreys finished 8-15 last season and were picked to finish seventh in the 12-team Atlantic Sun Conference preseason coaches poll.

Nine players return for the Ospreys, four of them starters. Leading the way are Hendricksen, a preseason All-ASUN selection after garnering conference first-team honors last year, and Placer, a second-team choice in 2020-21. Five of North Florida’s top six scorers return from last year’s squad.

This is the third time the Ospreys have started a season with back-to-back games on consecutive nights in different locations, after playing at Florida State and Pittsburgh in 2010 and then at Michigan and Michigan State in 2017.

“We are about to embark on possibly our toughest non-conference schedule since we began here but it’s really nothing we haven’t prepared for before,” North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said of the challenging start. “We are super eager and excited for this group.”

–Field Level Media

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