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September 3, 2008


Head coach: Mark Turgeon
Last season: 25-11 overall, 8-8 in Big 12
Postseason: Lost to UCLA 51-49 in second round of NCAA Tournament.
Breakdown: Probable starters | Backcourt | Frontcourt | Offense | Defense | Outlook

BACKCOURT

Former high school teammates Donald Sloan and Derrick Roland were billed as Texas A&M's backcourt of the future when they signed with the Aggies three years ago. They will get their chance to show why this season.

Texas A&M's Josh Carter is one of the Big 12's best 3-point shooters.

PROBABLE STARTING FIVE
G Donald Sloan, 6-3/Jr.
9.5 ppg, 3.4 apg
G Derrick Roland, 6-4/Jr.
5.6 ppg
G/F Josh Carter, 6-7/Sr.
12.2 ppg
F Bryan Davis, 6-9/Jr.
8.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg
C Chinemelu Elonu, 6-10/Jr.
2.7 ppg
TOP RESERVES
F David Loubeau, 6-8/Fr.
True freshman
G Dashan Harris, 6-0/Fr.
True freshman
Sloan will slide from the wing to the point to replace four-year starter Dominique Kirk. Sloan, whose strength is attacking off the dribble, has a scorers' mentality. But he can be more of a playmaker when needed. He played quite a bit at point in the latter stages of last season and dished out six assists in the Aggies' first-round NCAA Tournament win over BYU.

Roland will move into a starting role after emerging as a reliable contributor off the bench. The Aggies need Roland to look for his shot more and become a steady scoring threat.

The return of veteran swingman Josh Carter, who flirted briefly with the idea of leaving school early, gives the Aggies an experienced leader and one of the top outside shooters in the Big 12. Entering his fourth year as a starter, Carter has shot 42.5 percent (222 of 522) from 3-point range over the course of his career. The Aggies want Carter to diversify his offensive game by putting the ball on the floor and attacking the basket more. He'll also be needed to help rebound.

Freshman Dashan Harris likely will be one of the first players off the bench. A top-100 prospect, Harris is the Aggies' point guard of the future. The Aggies lack depth on the wings, which means Roland and Carter must be prepared to play heavy minutes.

FRONTCOURT

The loss of four-year starter Joseph Jones and 7-footer DeAndre Jordan, who was taken in the second round of the NBA Draft, leaves the Aggies relatively thin on the inside.

Junior power forward Bryan Davis is the only post player back with any starting experience, and senior center Chinemelu Elonu is the only one with any other significant playing experience.

Fortunately for the Aggies, Davis was one of the Big 12's most improved players last season. After seeing limited action in his first year, Davis proved to be a major piece of the team, ranking fourth in scoring (8.7 ppg) and third in rebounding (4.9 rpg). With more opportunities, he'll likely raise those numbers into the 12-14 points per game and 6-8 rebounds per game range.

Elonu, who averaged 9.3 minutes last season, is a project, but has good athleticism and size. The Aggies are hoping the fourth-year junior can develop into a great shot-blocker in the middle of their defense.

Freshman David Loubeau will provide immediate help. Ranked the No. 63 power forward in the 2008 class, Lobeau has a good skill set and a great motor. He could work his way into the starting lineup.

OFFENSE

Turgeon didn't tinker much with the offense last season, keeping a motion attack based on balance and patience. That will remain the focus, but with Jordan and Jones gone, the Aggies will look to run more. Sloan's ability to penetrate and create is pivotal.

DEFENSE

The Aggies will use man-to-man as much as possible. Last season, it was the backbone of a defense that gave up the third-fewest points (61.6 per game) in the Big 12.

A quick glance at the Aggies' roster may lead you to think they should be ranked higher in our countdown. Three of the top four scorers return from a team that nearly knocked off UCLA in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But Kirk and Jones were major parts of that team. Take one of those guys away last season and the Aggies would have missed the field of 65. Losing Jordan's size also hurts. Sloan, Davis and Carter give the Aggies one of the best trios in the Big 12. They'll keep the Aggies in the hunt for an NCAA bid, but ultimately we think they'll be settling for an NIT invitation.

SHOES TO FILL

Jones and Kirk. Losing Jordan early to the NBA isn't as detrimental as losing either Kirk or Jones. Both were far more reliable. Kirk was one of the top defenders in the Big 12, and Jones was the team's top inside scoring threat. Their leadership and experience were underrated.

MUST STEP UP

Elonu. The Aggies have brought Elonu along slowly, but there is no more time for patience. The guards, along with Davis, can carry the offense. But A&M needs Elonu for rebounding and defense.

IMPACT NEWCOMER

Harris and Loubeau. Turgeon and his staff won big recruiting battles to land both of these four-star prospects.

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.



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