Texas Tech men’s basketball’s return to the Sweet Sixteen this week has been a team effort for the Red Raiders.
It’s also been the result of some phenomenal play from the squad’s youngest stars. Of those to highlight — Jarrett Culver and Zhaire Smith — both native Texans, and both with intriguing journeys to putting on a Texas Tech uniform.
At an average of 22.8 points per game combined, they make for the highest-scoring duo of freshmen in the history of the program. And the Red Raiders might not be benefiting from the two if it hadn’t been for the efforts of second-year coach Chris Beard.
Culver, who hails from Lubbock, told the AP’s Stephen Hawkins that Beard’s vision and sincerity in recruiting him out of high school was what ultimately led him to play for the Red Raiders instead of venturing elsewhere to continue his basketball career, as he planned.
“I had dreams of going other places, bigger places … On the first day or the second day [Beard] got the job, he offered me, so I felt like that spoke volumes to me.Even though I’m a homegrown Lubbock person, he just recruited me hard and stayed on me, and wanted me bad. The things that he was saying about the culture he’s building and stuff, I felt like that would be good, and I felt like this was the best fit.”
Had that domino not fallen, Texas Tech fans may have never seen Smith — who knew Culver from high school basketball camps — put on a Texas Tech uniform either. There also likely would never have been the opportunity for him to dazzle everyone in round one with perhaps the play of the 2018 NCAA Tournament — a 360 alley-oop lobbed to him from none other than Culver.
Like his counterpart, Beard was also the final selling point for Smith to commit to Texas Tech, describing the Whataburger-loving, former Texas basketball player as “real trustworthy.”
Now, Beard, Smith, Culver and co. are a win away from inching one step closer to the dream of a national championship.
Texas Tech faces Purdue on Friday night at TD Garden in Boston, Mass. The triumphant team will face the winner of Villanova and West Virginia in the Elite Eight — creating for a possible all-Big 12 matchup, should the Red Raiders and Mountaineers advance.
The post Freshman-duo Jarrett Culver, Zhaire Smith reflect on journey to Texas Tech, praise Chris Beard appeared first on Diehards.
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