Coming into the season TAMIU's mens basketball team knew there would be massive changes. Gone was the heart and soul of the team that won back to back heartland conference championships. But a chance for others to step up and shine has this team back in within shouting distance of another NCAA tournament appearance. After a few lackluster non conference wins TAMIU would go to perennial power St. Marys and get thumped by 21, scoring only 38 points in the process.
"Anytime you are adding 10 new players to your program, it's going to take a while to mesh and to develop chemistry." (Bryan Weekley, TAMIU Head Coach)
More unimpressive games following the loss to the rattlers had many wondering if the Dustdevils would even sniff the postseason, but once Heartland Conference play resumed the team started to come together.
"We were struggling at first and then we all came together and found a way to make it happen." (Johnel Gray, TAMIU Forward)
"Guys had to step into roles where they weren't use to and as the season has gone on and they've gotten more minutes, they've done a great job. I'm proud of these guys."
As new players like Jordan Clark, Kevin Jefferson and Matt Culiver became more comfortable in the system they were able to add to what Gray and the others were doing on the court.
"They definitely stepped up and played big roles for us. Matt played hard all year and led our team defensively and steals and just getting us to go in practice and in games."
The wins started to come a little easier and before they knew it the excitement around the Dustdevils team was back again.
"We were competing for 3rd place in the conference last week, we came up a little bit short but with our injuries and some of the things that happened this year, I definitely think it's been a positive season for us."
After making the conference tournament for the 4th straight season gray sees nothing but positive things ahead for this young team.
“It gives me a lot of confidence going into next year with all these returners coming back. To start off the year we'll all know the system and know our roles."
The Dustdevils will enter the heartland conference as the number four seed and will take on Arkansas Fort Smith Friday night. The two teams split their regular season match ups with TAMIU winning in double overtime at home in their last meeting.