North Texas Daily

Overlooked JUCO products play major role for men’s basketball team

Overlooked JUCO products play major role for men’s basketball team

Overlooked JUCO products play major role for men’s basketball team
February 17
10:00 2022

Heading into its last six games of the season, men’s basketball sits at 18-4 overall and 11-1 in Conference USA with much of its production coming from junior college transfers.

Senior guard Mardrez McBride, senior forward Thomas Bell, senior guard JJ Murray and junior guard Tylor Perry all played for junior colleges before coming to North Texas. Perry is the team’s top scorer while coming off the bench and the other three are starters for a Mean Green squad out to its best conference start in school history.

“Junior college will mold you in a different way,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “You have to go to places that people do not want to live. When you have been through those things you appreciate what you have.”

Each of these players tops the list in at least one statistical category. Perry averages a team-high 13.5 points per game, Bell paces the group with 6.9 rebounds per game, McBride leads the squad with 54 made 3-pointers and Murray has the most steals with 38.

While leading the team in statistics, the junior college transfers have also come up in key moments. In a road game against Louisiana Tech University on Jan. 29, Perry landed a game-winning 3-pointer after a blocked shot and offensive rebound by Bell.

“Four guys in our top seven that are from junior college were not recruited out of high school,” Perry said. “When you feel like you are overlooked your whole life, you walk around with that initiative.”

Murray, who started out at Dallas College Eastfield campus (formerly known as Eastfield College) in Mesquite, Texas, before walking on to North Texas, said the experience playing for the Mean Green is drastically different from junior college. He said the biggest difference was in the size of the crowds after playing in front of minimal fans in his time at Eastfield.

The experience of playing for a junior college team is something Murray said gives players a work ethic.

“It helps when you have those guys from junior colleges that have that chip on their shoulder,” Murray said. “They have that working culture and it helps pass along to everyone else.”

Amassing a record of 97-55 since being hired by North Texas in 2017, McCasland hails from a similar background to his junior college transfers. He walked on to Baylor University’s men’s basketball team in 1995 and later began his coaching career at several junior colleges. Perry said the players’ feeling of being overlooked extends to all of the coaches as well.

“Those guys felt like they were overlooked in a lot of places too,” Perry said. “We all just have that type of swagger on our shoulders.”

The Mean Green’s primary offensive focus is on efficiency as they possess the second-slowest adjusted tempo in the nation, according to Kenpom. The team’s emphasis on efficiency is shown through Perry who currently possesses the best single-season player efficiency rating, true shooting percentage and win shares per 40 minutes in school history, according to Sports Reference.

McCasland said playing at small schools has helped teach Perry and the other junior college transfers what it takes to be successful.

“They have the willingness to do what a lot of other people are not willing to do in order to win,” McCasland said. “We feel like the more efficient you can be on both sides, the better the team is. That’s what we strive to do.”

Carrying a conference-best 11-1 record, North Texas is eyeing another run at the C-USA Championship after winning last season’s tournament. The team leads the conference’s west division by two games over the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Louisiana Tech which are tied for No. 2 with six regular season games remaining.

“The only thing we think about here is championships,” Perry said. “I have never been around a team that believes in the guy next to him as much as I have this year.”

Featured Image: JJ Murray and Abou Ousmane help Thomas Bell up after he was fouled on Feb. 7, 2022. Photo by Kristian Freeman

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Tyler Luker

Tyler Luker

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