Preseason MVP: Mason Harrell averaged 8.9 points per game last year, the second-highest average on the team and 0.5 points ahead of Terry, but missed six games due to a concussion. The Midwest City, Oklahoma native sinks shots from everywhere on the court and could see his number of attempts go up in Pearson’s absence.
The Ceiling: The Bobcats avoid a drop-off in scoring by fielding a more democratic offensive approach and maintain the tough-as-nails defensive attitude that they’ve had the last few seasons. The team picks up where it left off last season and remains a high seed in the Sun Belt tournament.
The Floor: Texas State has a relatively high floor. Even if the offense sputters without Nijal Pearson and Eric Terry (both graduated), the defensive prowess and depth of the roster should keep the Bobcats afloat as a mid-tier team in the conference. It’s just up to Johnson to blend it all together.
Game of the Year: Georgia State, February 13
Projected Starting 5
G | 5-9 | Jr. | Midwest City, Okla.
G | 6-2 | Gr. | Houston, Texas
G | 6-3 | Sr. | Converse, Texas
F | 6-8 | Sr. | Jersey City, N.J.
F | 6-7 | Jr. | Houston, Texas
Interim Head Coach
Impact First-Year Player
Texas State has been bombarded by bad news since March.
The Bobcats’ 2019-20 season ended with an 85-68 statement win over Appalachian State in the quarterfinal round of the Sun Belt tournament on March 11. Former head coach Danny Kaspar said he had never felt more confident in a team to win the league title. No. 3-seed Texas State was scheduled to face No. 2 South Alabama in the semifinals but the conference suspended all spring competition the next day due to health and safety concerns with COVID-19.
It marked an abrupt end to the careers of Nijal Pearson and Eric Terry, who had each spent four years with the Bobcats and were the team’s leading scorers as seniors. Senior forward Chandler Davis, who had redshirted the season with a back injury, transferred to Young Harris College at the end of the spring semester.
In a tweet on June 4, former Texas State point guard Jaylen Shead accused Kaspar of routinely making racially insensitive comments during the player’s time in San Marcos, which led to Shead’s transfer to Washington State in 2019. Director of Athletics Larry Teis launched an internal investigation to look into Shead’s claims, which is currently being handled by the school’s Title IX department, eventually leading to Kaspar’s resignation and Johnson's appointment.
The San Marcos Daily Record attempted to obtain a copy of the investigation’s findings through an open records request on July 28. The university appealed the request, believing it would “interfere with, and potentially compromise, the ongoing compliance investigation.”
There is good news for the program heading into this season, though.
The team should be one of the deepest in the Sun Belt. Aside from Pearson and Terry, the Bobcats return their entire rotation from last year.
Redshirt junior forward Alonzo Sule has been groomed under Terry’s wing the past two seasons and will likely finally be promoted from being the first big off the bench to jumping for tip-offs. The team also brought in true freshman Nate Martin and Collin County CC transfers Nighael Ceasar and Mason Hix to restock the frontcourt’s depth chart.
Pearson’s spot in the lineup will be trickier to replace, but the team has a bounty of options. Redshirt senior point guard Marlin Davis has shown versatility playing as the off-guard alongside junior point guard Mason Harrell. Senior Shelby Adams could slide up from shooting guard to form a three-guard lineup. Sophomore Caleb Asberry, Broward College transfer Darien Jenkins and incoming freshman Dylan Dawson could do the same. But sophomore Drew Tennial and import Addison Wallace, who teamed up with Caesar and Hix at Collin County, both have the size at 6-foot-5 to be more natural fits at the small forward position and will be deserving of minutes.
In the lone game Pearson missed during the 2019-20 season, Kaspar went with a starting group of Harrell-Davis-Adams-forward Isiah Small-Terry. With less than a day’s notice Pearson would miss the game due to the birth of his daughter, the team fell 60-57 to the Mountaineers on Feb. 8.
Texas State’s defensive identity should remain unchanged, especially with Small using his condor-like wingspan to come up with stops. The junior led the team in combined blocks and steals with 59. No other player reached 50.
The toughest question for the Bobcats will come on the opposite end. Pearson was the program’s all-time scoring leader and he leaves behind a heavy burden on the offense. The team will try to split his touches up among multiple players. But if Texas State can crack the offensive riddle, the team could be in for some very good news very soon.