DEREK J. AMAYA
Associate Sports Editor
In the 2011-12 season, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs were one game away to dancing into the 2012 Final Four tournament, but they lost to the New Mexico State Aggies 82-57 in the Western Athletic Conference Championship game.
This year, head coach Mike White and his young Dunkin’ ’Dogs think they have what it takes to go beyond the WAC Finals and make a statement before leaving the conference next year.
“I’m excited,” White said. “I feel like we are ways ahead of where we were a year ago in so many areas.”
White said his team was young a year ago, but now they are more mature physically and mentally to take on the 2012-13 season.
“We have a couple of junior college guys who received experience there,” he said. “Hopefully by December or January, we’ll have a little bit more experience than we did a year ago.”
Outside of sophomore guard Raheem Appleby, the team does not have a starting five set White said, but he has noticed his players have been practicing harder than usual for starting positions.
“We are very deep and interchangeable,” White said. “We have 10 or 11 who I think can play significant minutes.”
The ’Dogs added three transfers: junior forward Chris Anderson, junior guard Demario Johnson and junior guard Jaron Johnson, and White said he thinks they were valuable additions to the roster.
The senior leaders of the team, guard Brandon Gibson and center J.L. Lewis, will provide leadership for the young team.
“Brandon Gibson has taken on more of a leadership role already,” White said. “He’s been very vocal, but losing 15 pounds and getting into the best shape of his life has been a tremendous example for our team. He’s focused, committed and set for a big senior season.”
The Bulldogs’ schedule begins with a trip to College Station, Texas, to face Texas A&M University on Nov. 9, before they will return to the Thomas Assembly Center for their home opener against Arkansas-Little Rock on Nov. 14.
“Overall, college basketball is a long season,” White said. “You can’t just live for today. Conditioning will be harder and more intense to hit mid-season form earlier.”
WAC play begins at home against Denver University on Dec. 2.
“It will be interesting learning these new teams and old teams with new looks,” White said.
White said the team is ready for the season and want to continue the success of the football team.
Email comments to dja...@latech.edu.