Louisiana Tech in rebuilding mode
Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of articles previewing men’s basketball teams in the Western Athletic Conference. Today, the Appeal takes a look at Louisiana Tech.
BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
When Kerry Rupp became the 16th basketball coach in Louisiana Tech history, he knew he had plenty of work to do.
Rupp, who was an assistant at Utah, Indiana and UAB, inherited a team that was coming off a 10-20 season under Keith Richard and lost its top six starters to graduation. The cupboard is about as bare as it can get, and Tech is 1-4 going into its game at Texas Tech last night.
“We lost seven of our top players,” Rupp said. “We have five returners, but they don’t have a lot of experience.
“We’re going to be a work in progress. We’re going to start by building a good foundation; learning how to do things the right way on and off the floor.”
One of the first things Rupp did was to turn to his old friend, Karl Malone, for some help. Malone, a Tech grad and former NBA great, had given millions to his old school. Rupp managed to convince him to come back to Ruston, and Malone serves as director of basketball promotions and also works with Tech athletes in the weight room.
“It (the relationship) goes back to when I was a high school coach in Utah,” said Rupp. “He worked at a basketball camp I was involved with.
“He was raised well by his mother. He had success here and wanted to give something back, and now he’s moved back to Ruston.”
No doubt having a future Hall of Famer on the floor and involved with the program on a daily basis will be critical to Tech’s success, as Rupp tries to re-build Tech’s program from the ground up.
Rupp has just one starter returning – 6-foot-2 guard Drew Washington, who averaged 4.8 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Washington started 25 of Tech’s 30 games last season.
Senior forward Keith Smith (2.6, 0.5), sophomore guard Kyle Gibson (4.5, 1.6), junior guard J.J. Marshall (1.5, 0.0) and sophomore forward Adrian Rogers (1.1, 1.6) are the other returnees.
J.C. Clark, a JC transfer, is starting at one guard, and James Loe, another JC transfer, has also made some starts. Freshman Dwayne Lathan also is playing significant minutes.
At 6-7, Rogers and Smith are usually Tech’s tallest player on the floor. The Bulldogs certainly will give up some length to several teams around the WAC.