Preseason MVP: Konstantin Dotsenko is a 6-foot-7 forward from Russia whose style of play reminds Gillispie of Luka Doncic.
The Ceiling: Billy Gillispie has recruited many players from his successful run at Ranger College. Gillispie is known to get the most out of his talent and the Texans could be a surprise team towards the top of the standings in the WAC if they survive their early season battles against top teams.
The Floor: Transitioning to Division I basketball may not be easy in the first four years for the Texans, even with Billy Gillispie at the helm, and they could easily end up competing with Dixie State to avoid the cellar in the conference as the programs finds its footing.
Projected Starting Five:
G | 6-3 | So. | Cedar Hill, Texas
G | 6-4 | Fr. | Killeen, Texas
G | 6-5 | Sr. | Everman, Texas
F | 6-7 | So. | Vorkuta, Russia
F | 6-7 | Sr. | Clarksville, Texas
Game of the Year: Texas A&M
Impact-First Year Player: Shamir Bogues
Lonn Reisman casts a long shadow over the Tarleton program after building the Texans into a perennial NCAA Division II powerhouse in 25 seasons.
When Reisman, who currently serves as Athletic Director, sought to hire a new head coach to take the program to the Division I ranks, he found one of the few coaches able to fill his shadow.
Billy Gillispie has been head coach at multiple Division I schools including UTEP, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Kentucky but this will be the first time he has been tasked with transitioning a school to Division I.
Gillispie has overcome many obstacles throughout his career and the Abilene native is excited to begin this new challenge.
"I'm really excited. I grew up 60 miles from here and I've always known about Tarleton,” Gillispie said. “After I took the job, I found out how much I didn't know. It's an exciting time to be in Stephenville and an exciting time to be at Tarleton.
"They've won 692 games under coach Reisman over the last 32 years and there are not very many programs at any level that's accomplished that and the only thing that's going to be different is our schedule and conference will be quite a step up."
Gillispie and his coaching staff hit the ground running and has completely remade the Texans roster bringing in 10 recruits.
Among the recruits for the Texans this season are four of Gillispie’s former players from Ranger College including senior Jonathan Jackson, junior Shakur Daniel, Heritier Ngalamulume and Tre Gipson.
Gillispie also added four impressive freshman recruits in Freddy Hicks, Joey Madimba, Caleb Golden and Shamir Bogues whose older brother Shannon plays for the Milwaukee Bucks G-League team.
"Everything has gone great so far during a very difficult time,” Gillispie said. “There is nothing good about COVID-19, but I don't think our roster would be near this good if that hadn't hit when it did."
Tarleton will also rely on three returning players led by senior defensive specialist Clashon Gaffney who averaged 9.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and recorded 55 blocked shots for the Texans last season.
Sophomore Isaiah Range had an impressive freshman season last year averaging 9.4 points and 3.8 rebounds while starting 20 games. Fellow sophomore Javontae Hopkins will be another key contributor this year after averaging 6.7 points per game off the bench last season.