North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball to lose productive senior class

Men’s basketball to lose productive senior class

Men’s basketball to lose productive senior class
February 23
23:41 2015

Scott Sidway / Staff Writer

When senior day approaches for collegiate athletes, there are typically many emotions that come with it. After all, it is the seniors’ last opportunity to play in front of the crowd that has supported them for years.

But to men’s basketball head coach Tony Benford, coaching a group of seniors on a basketball team goes beyond the hardwood.

“I look at it like [they’re] my own kids. You try to keep helping them grow and mature,” Benford said. “And they’ve done that. All of them.”

When the 2014-2015 season ends, the Mean Green men’s basketball team will potentially graduate four seniors that account for nearly 38 points per game. That is more than half the team’s total scoring average this season of 65 points per game.

Guard Jordan Williams, forward Colin Voss, forward Armani Flannigan and guard T.J. Taylor will all play their final home games this week with the potential exception of Taylor, who is looking to get an NCAA waiver to earn an additional year of eligibility.

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Senior guard Jordan Williams tries to shoot a one-handed layup in traffic during the game against UAB on Feb. 12 at the Super Pit.

The final stretch will be even more special to Williams, who is the only member of that group who has played his entire collegiate career at North Texas.

“Some people say, ‘Man, why did you go to North Texas? You should have went to a bigger school,’” Williams said. “But I mean, I learned a lot. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Williams’ loyalty to the program has paid off, as he currently sits at ninth place on the school’s all-time scoring list with a chance to move up to eighth before the season ends. He was the team’s leading scorer last season, averaging 12 points per game, and he continues to lead the team this year by averaging 15.6 points.

Benford, who recruited Williams while coaching at Marquette University and did not offer him a scholarship then, said Williams’ has grown a lot since his recruitment.

“He’s one of the better basketball players to ever play here and one of the better wings to ever play here,” Benford said. “He’s become a complete player since we’ve been here.”

The other three seniors are only playing their second season with North Texas after transferring from other schools, but Voss said that has not prevented the class from becoming a close-knit group.

“It’s been a great relationship on the court as well as off the court,” Voss said. “Those guys are friends for life for me.”

Even though it has taken them some time, the class is finally starting to find its groove on the court. The Mean Green is currently riding its longest win streak of the season at four, with the run fueled by the strong play of Voss, Taylor and Williams.

“We’re just starting to play good at the right time, and we’re trying to leave our mark before we leave,” Voss said.

Being seniors on a team means an extra layer of responsibility.  Despite taking time to gel on the court, Williams said they still took it upon themselves to step up and learn from last season’s seniors to become better leaders.

“We just looked up to Brandan [Walton] and Vertrail [Vaughns] last year, them being seniors,” Williams said. “So we just took it upon ourselves this year to try to be leaders of the team and try to bring the guys along since we’ve been here the longest.”

The guys Williams and the seniors have been bringing along are the ones who will be asked to fill their shoes after graduation. The Mean Green has established a young nucleus of players who have played big roles this season, including freshman forward Jeremy Combs and sophomore guard DeAndre Harris.

Harris said this senior class has been influential on his development as a player.

“They know what to do, the right things to do, and how to impact the game,” Harris said. “So I just learn from them, take words from them, and they keep pushing me.”

One thing the class has preached to Harris is to never settle for the status quo.

“They tell me to keep pushing myself,” Harris said. “Don’t let anything get in front of you. Don’t let anyone hold you back. Just keep pushing.”

Harris has taken heed of those words in recent games, becoming a focal point of the Mean Green offense to close out games. Benford said Harris’ growth and the rest of the young players give him confidence that North Texas will be in good hands after the seniors graduate.

“Our program is on the upswing with as many good young players as we have,” Benford said. “We already have the best freshman in the league. So when you’ve got a guy like that who is a cornerstone of your program along with a point guard and some other really good players, we’ve got a chance to be really, really good next year and moving forward.”

But with four games and a conference tournament left to play, Benford said the most important thing on these seniors’ agenda is the legacy they will leave behind.

“You always want to leave a legacy because your legacy is what people make of you,” Benford said. “And that’s what the guys want to do. They’re good people, they’re good kids and they left an impact here on our program. So hopefully we can finish strong.”

Featured Image: Senior forward Colin Voss attempts to get a shot off while under pressure from a University of Alabama at Birmingham defender. Photos by Ryan Vance – Senior Staff Photographer

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