Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

October 18, 2012

Texas Tech back on court after bumpy offseason

Big 12 basketball notebook

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The past year hasn't been kind to Texas Tech's basketball program.

After a disastrous eight-win season, the Red Raiders endured the fall of Billy Gillispie, their one-time hotshot coach who resigned under scrutiny on Sept. 20, citing health concerns and with the university investigating allegations that he mistreated some of his players.

Chris Walker was been given a six-month contract to shepherd the team through this season, and he admitted Wednesday that finally getting on the court for practice has been a blessing.

"They've had adversity, and the true guys have come out," Walker said during an interview with The Associated Press. "They've handled it with class, and they've handled it with integrity."

Now, they're ready to start playing games.

Texas Tech won a single Big 12 game last season, and its 8-23 record was its worst in more than two decades. Several players have come and gone, but the roster that Walker — a disciple of Jay Wright and Steve Alford — has taken over looks similar to the one that finished last season.

"Everybody's excited about practice. Fired up about it. Trying to stay focused, working hard and just taking advantage of the time," said Jordan Tolbert, the team's leading scorer.

Tolbert called all the adversity "a learning experience," but acknowledged the challenge in adjusting to the recent changes. Walker took over day-to-day operations of the program Sept. 7, but wasn't elevated to interim coach until Oct. 4, just over a week before the start of practice.

"We're trying to understand him," Tolbert said, "and he's trying to understand us."

Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt has said a report on its investigation into allegations of additional practice-time violations than ones previously reported to the NCAA has been submitted to the governing body. He has so far declined to comment further.

The Red Raiders open the season Nov. 11 against Troy. Hocutt hasn't said whether Walker will have a shot at the permanent job, but that doesn't seem to be affecting the interim coach's disposition — or his outlook on this season.

"It's all about attitude," Walker said. "I was remarking with someone the other day, in a joking manner, that there have been a lot of interim coaches out there and they just don't know it.

"People look at this like I've been diagnosed with cancer or something, like I've got six months to live," he said. "I look at it like I've got six months to give."

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