Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Quick Holiday Note

Everyone, with all of Texas A&M's teams on a much-needed break, we will follow suit and be on haitus until the new year. I hope you have a fun, memorable and SAFE holiday season, and here's to a great 2009!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Wishes, Aggie-Style

While my list is full of things like a new tape recorder, some pens that work for more than three days and an intern to type up quotes from all my interviews, those involved with Aggie athletics have some more interesting items on their Christmas wish lists. 12th Man On Campus set off recently to discover what a few of A&M's coaches and athletes are hoping Santa delivers to them this Thursday. --True

Coach Gary Blair, women’s basketball – I want to have a sellout here without having to give away the product. Our crowds have gotten better with each game this year, and I just hope to keep drawing. Some day, before I ever leave here, I’d like to see a sell out of this place. I also hope Bob Gates is making the right decisions (overseas) to get our troops home as soon as possible.

Kristen Heiss, swimming – A backpacking backpack and steak knives…haha interesting combo, I know!

Coach Tana McKay, equestrian – We need a second barn; that is definitely on our list!

Josh Carter, men’s basketball – I just want to win some games.

Ashley Snoey, equestrian – Spur straps or horse treats

Coach Mark Turgeon, men’s basketball – I am looking forward to a few days off and being around the family. I don’t feel like I’ve been around them very much lately. Winning a few games leading up to it will help the mood around the house.

Cailey Dreyer, equestrian – I would love some extra time with my trainer from Santa, so I am prepared for the second half of the competition season, which starts back in January!

Sarah Woods, swimming – A puppy that hides from the landlords

(Sarah also made wishes for a couple of her teammates…)

- Julia Wilkinson would like a new shoulder.

- Kristen Heiss would like Sarah and Julia to empty the dishwasher more.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Weekend By The Numbers

73 – A&M student-athletes who graduated this semester. Among some of the notables are: Dan Campbell (football), Melissa Garey (soccer), Khalid Ballouli (baseball), Amanda Scarborough (softball), Travis Schneider (football), Misi Tupe (football) and Clora Williams (track and field).

5,395 – Season-high crowd inside Reed Arena for the A&M-TCU women’s basketball game on Sunday. The previous high was 3,602 for the Texas State game on Dec. 13, and the big crowd this weekend went home happy after the No. 3 Aggies scored a 14-point win.

10 – Consecutive wins for the women’s team to begin the season, the best start in school history. It’s also the best start ever for coach Gary Blair, whose previous best was a 9-0 mark with Stephen F. Austin in 1989-90.

14 – Rebounds for La Toya Micheaux against TCU, enough to move her into sixth place on the all-time Aggie list. Micheaux has accumulated 658 career rebounds.

6 – Consecutive games in double figures for Josh Carter. Carter scored 19 points during the Aggies’ win over LSU on Saturday.

50 percent – A&M’s shooting percentage against the Tigers, marking the third time the Aggies have made at least half of their shots.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Avoiding The Upset

It’s already happened several times this season, and it’s bound to take place several more times before the final buzzer sounds in March. Whether it be a buzzer-beating miracle or just a good old fashioned whippin’, college basketball inevitably turns out several unexpected upsets every year.

For coaches, making sure their team doesn’t fall prey to the underdog is often a delicate balance, particularly during the pre-conference schedule.

For one, it’s difficult for players to ‘get up’ for game after game, particularly when the opponent features a directional-type name. Second (and unlike the normal Wednesday-Saturday Big 12 schedule), games center around preseason tournaments and random clusters where teams can play three or four games in a week (see the A&M men’s Saturday-Monday-Wednesday-Saturday schedule this week).

Already this season on the men’s side, we’ve seen Western Kentucky over No. 3 Louisville, Cleveland State over No. 11 Syracuse, Arizona over No. 4 Gonzaga, Michigan over No. 4 UCLA and Maryland over No. 5 Michigan State, just to name a few.

In the Aggies’ case, a slip-up to Tulsa at the South Padre Invitational is the team’s only blemish, but a few games this week were surprisingly tight coming down the stretch. Wins against Florida A&M and SMU this week have finished as 10 point victories, but both were one possession games late in the second half.

Throw studying for finals into the mix, and December can be a dicey proposition for hoops teams everywhere.

“That’s a tough stretch for you to keep your kids (focused),” said A&M coach Mark Turgeon. “Seven or eight days off in between games (during finals), you see teams that are rusty and don’t play quite as well. Then, we’re cramming four games in eight days, and it’s hard to get up for every game.”

“And there are a lot of really good players out there. There are those elite teams that have the best players, and then the rest of us. There’s a fine line between our talent. You have to be ready to play every night.”

While parity hasn’t taken hold on the women’s side as much as it has for the men, that hasn’t stopped a couple big-time upsets from stealing the headlines so far this year. We’re nowhere near March, but the madness has clearly already begun.

Upsets thus far include TCU over No. 5 Maryland, TCU over No. 3 California, Arkansas-Little Rock over No. 19 Oklahoma State and California-Riverside over No. 16 Vanderbilt.

Those scores should send a shiver down spines across College Station. A&M hosts TCU this Sunday at Reed Arena, when the Aggies will try to avoid becoming TCU’s third top-five casualty.

Thus far, Gary Blair’s squad has taken care of business, picking up road wins at Michigan, Arizona, Pepperdine and Stephen F. Austin. In home games against Mercer, SMU and Texas State, A&M has cruised to an average victory of almost 40 points per game. In those possible upset-type contests, the Aggies have jumped out early and carried a hefty double-digit lead throughout the second half.

“Don’t put yourself in a position to allow a 60-footer or a referees call at the end of the game (to sink you),” Blair said. “You better take care of your home court. Sometimes, you give credit to your opponent. They didn’t just get off the truck; they can be pretty good.”

That’s certainly what Blair is expecting when TCU visits this weekend. A&M players said Tuesday they had already received a scouting report on the Horned Frogs, something that usually doesn’t happen until the day before a game. A&M and TCU have played in each of the last two seasons, with TCU claiming a win in the NCAA Tournament in 2006 and the Aggies returning the favor in Fort Worth last year.

“This will only be our second game against a top 25 team,” Blair said. “It will be good for us.”

That is, as long as A&M doesn’t become another statistic in the early-season upset parade.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Knock On Wood, Aggies Seeing Success At Free Throw Line

Aggie basketball coach Mark Turgeon did his best to avoid too much discussion Tuesday about his team’s recent prowess from the free-throw line. That’s why, after being peppered by reporters with questions about his team’s recent success, he eventually offered a quick quip to change the topic.

“I don’t want to jinx my guys here,” said Turgeon, “with you all writing too much about them.”

His final comment was made only half-jokingly, but it served its purpose of moving the conversation along to a different topic. And for good reason, as the Texas A&M men’s basketball team is on quite a roll from the charity stripe.

Aggie players have shot better than 80 percent in each of the last four games—all wins—and have ascended into one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the Big 12. Monday night’s 20-for-20 performance against Florida A&M kept the contests a two possession game down the stretch and eventually helped the Aggies (8-1) avoid the upset, 67-57.

Free throws have played an important role in the team’s recent winning streak in which the margins of victory have been six, one, eight (in overtime) and 10. While the eight-point margin against Alabama might look comfortable, the Aggies had to overcome a five-point deficit with less than 20 seconds to play to force the extra session.

Even then, it was a missed free throw by Alabama’s Mikhail Torrance with 12 seconds remaining that allowed B. J. Holmes’ long 3-pointer to send the game to an extra period. Turgeon could empathize with Tide coach Mark Gottfried, as Turgeon’s squad often struggled from the line last season.

“I’ve never gone through anything like we did last year,” said Turgeon of last year’s team that finished last in the conference in free-throw percentage. “That was pretty tough for me because we worked so hard on it.”

This year, it appears to be carrying over in games.

Except for the Tulsa loss in which the Aggies shot just 57.1 percent, the Aggies in all other games the Aggies are hitting 75.5 percent of their foul shots. That is a particularly good percentage when you consider Baylor lead the Big 12 last year with a 74.3 mark.

“We’ve been shooting them really well in practice, but it just hadn’t been carrying over to the games,” said senior Josh Carter, who is 39th in the nation with an 87.5 percent success rate. “But it’s starting to work for us. I’m sure we’ll struggle at some point, but you never know with us.”

As for coaching, Turgeon doesn’t believe in messing around too much with anyone’s form. Rather, he wants each player to make sure they follow the same routine, shot after shot.

“I don’t care what (their routine) is as long as it’s the same every time,” Turgeon said. “You have to have a checkpoint, whether it’s finish high, follow through, back rim, or something they say that makes them feel good about themselves. We ask them to do it during practice, because in the game if they’re thinking about their routine and checkpoint, they’re not thinking about the ramifications of the free throw.

“Knock on wood, the last couple of games we’ve shot them pretty well, but we work hard on it.”

Donald Sloan has also upped his percentage, making 33-of-40 (82.5 percent) so far this season after turning in a 67.2 mark during conference play last year. Aggie fans used to cringe when Sloan stepped to the line, but A&M’s players and coaches don’t blink twice these days when Sloan gets fouled.

“I don’t worry about Sloan,” Carter said. “Last year when he had his little funk, it was more mental. As long as he stays in his groove, he’ll be fine.”

Turgeon said the same goes for the rest of the team, as confidence may have as much to do with a player’s success as anything.

“I don’t want to get in their head because shooting is such a delicate thing,” Turgeon said. “I want guys to feel comfortable. It’s very important when you’re sitting over there with two minutes to go in a game for your guys to step up and knock them down.”

Game time tonight against SMU is at 7 p.m….This will be the first time SMU (3-4) has traveled to Reed Arena, as the two teams have not met since the final year of the Southwest Conference (1995-96 season)…The Aggies travel to Houston on Saturday for a neutral site game against LSU at the Toyota Center. The game is part of the H-Town Holiday Shootout, with Texas and Michigan State also playing. Buying a ticket gets you into both games, and there are still seats available at For you cash-strapped students, $20 seats are still available, so get on it!...Chinemelu Elonu is one of six A&M players from the Houston area, but the 6-foot-10 forward said he won’t have many family members in the stands. His parents are traveling to their native Nigeria this weekend to visit family and friends during the holidays.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Weekend By The Numbers

1.1 – Seconds remaining in regulation when B.J. Holmes sank a 3-pointer to send the A&M-Alabama men’s basketball game to overtime on Saturday. Holmes’ trey capped a frantic comeback in the final 23 seconds of the game.

1 – Point allowed by the Aggies in the final 3 minutes, 15 seconds of overtime in Alabama. A&M didn’t allow a single Crimson Tide field goal in the extra session.

5 – Different swimming events in which Aggie senior Triin Aljand holds or shares the Estonian national record. Over the weekend, Aljand set the 50 freestyle record twice, as well as the 100 butterfly. She also has her name on national records in the 50 backstroke, 50 butterfly, and as a member of the 200 medley relay.

59 – Rebounds by the women’s basketball team against Texas State on Dec. 13. The total matched a Reed Arena record and was the most by the Aggies since they pulled down 50 against McNeese State on Nov. 21, 2006.

23-2 – Run to start the women’s basketball game against Texas State. The hot start set the table for a beating, as the Aggies cruised to a 94-45 victory. Seven players scored in double figures for No. 3 A&M, which is off to a 9-0 start.

0 – Quarterbacks in A&M football history who were more accurate than Stephen McGee. McGee, who won the Aggie Heart Award at last weekend’s year-end banquet, finished his career 485-for-815, a 59.5 completion percentage.

Weekend By The Numbers

1.1 – Seconds remaining in regulation when B.J. Holmes sank a 3-pointer to send the A&M-Alabama men’s basketball game to overtime on Saturday. Holmes’ trey capped a frantic comeback in the final 23 seconds of the game.

1 – Point allowed by the Aggies in the final 3 minutes, 15 seconds of overtime in Alabama. A&M didn’t allow a single Crimson Tide field goal in the extra session.

5 – Different swimming events in which Aggie senior Triin Aljand holds or shares the Estonian national record. Over the weekend, Aljand set the 50 freestyle record twice, as well as the 100 butterfly. She also has her name on national records in the 50 backstroke, 50 butterfly, and as a member of the 200 medley relay.

59 – Rebounds by the women’s basketball team against Texas State on Dec. 13. The total matched a Reed Arena record and was the most by the Aggies since they pulled down 50 against McNeese State on Nov. 21, 2006.

23-2 – Run to start the women’s basketball game against Texas State. The hot start set the table for a beating, as the Aggies cruised to a 94-45 victory. Seven players scored in double figures for No. 3 A&M, which is off to a 9-0 start.

0 – Quarterbacks in A&M football history who were more accurate than Stephen McGee. McGee, who won the Aggie Heart Award at last weekend’s year-end banquet, finished his career 485-for-815, a 59.5 completion percentage.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Finals Week Note

I know most of you students are wrapped up in finals this week, so I'm not going to bother posting too many updates for the next few days.

Once we get through this week, we're going to hit the basketball coverage--both men's and women's--pretty hard as we get ready for conference play. As always, if there's anything you'd like to see in the future, please don't hesitate to shoot me an email with any suggestions (or if you just want to talk Aggie sports).

That's it for me....everybody have a great week!


Monday, December 8, 2008

Weekend By The Numbers

4 – Season-low number of turnovers for the men’s basketball team against Arizona on Friday night. No Aggie player had more than one turnover, while the Wildcats committed 15 turnovers.

20 – Number of seconds in which the Aggies led Arizona. After training by as much as 13 points in the second half, sophomore Nathan Walkup capped the A&M comeback with a 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining.

1,525 – Career points for senior guard Takia Starks. Starks moved into third place on the A&M career list during her 21 point performance against SMU on Sunday.

3 – Opponents that have been held under 20 points in the first half against the women’s basketball team. SMU scored just 18 points in the opening frame to join SFA (12 points) and Mercer (15 points) as Aggie casualties.

4 – Baseball players named to the 2009 Brooks Wallace Award preseason watch list. First baseman Luke Anders, outfielder Kyle Colligan, and pitchers Travis Starling and Kyle Thebeau made the list. The award is presented annually to the nation’s top collegiate baseball player.

10 – Career Big 12 Diver of the Week or Month honors earned by senior Eric Sehn. Sehn earned the award most recently in late November after his performance in the local Art Adamson Invitational.

0 – Number of A&M sporting events taking place this week. It’s gonna be a long few days until the women’s basketball team hosts Texas State on Dec. 13.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Heartbreak, Part Two

The scene last Sunday night had all the makings of being a classic team party. Almost everyone associated with the Aggie volleyball program gathered together, balloons adorned the living room, and pieces of cake were passed around. After the finish the Aggies had to their regular season, reeling off must-win victory after must-win victory, there were plenty of reasons for happiness and anticipation as everyone awaited the NCAA Tournament selection show.

Indeed, it had been a finish for the ages for A&M. After being left for dead at the bottom of the conference standings at the mid-way mark of the schedule, the Aggies rattled off six consecutive (and resounding) victories to climb all the way to a tie for fourth in the Big 12. Surely, with a finish that high, plus a conference and overall record on the happy side of .500, A&M would be invited to college volleyball’s biggest stage.

Only the words “Texas A&M” never appeared on the screen. The Aggies had been frozen out. Again.

Last year, A&M posted a solid 21-10 (10-10 Big 12) record but was left at home. As tough as that was to stomach 12 months ago, it was equally difficult this time around.

“It was enormous (heartbreak),” said coach Laurie Corbelli, who was obviously still upset several days after the fact. “When the last bracket showed, you could tell there wasn’t an ‘A&M’ listed. Then, the sobbing started.”

Certainly, the Aggies were far from a guaranteed tourney participant, as the team’s 16-14 (11-9 Big 12) record was far from overpowering. But, the way the team played in the final seven matches showed A&M would have been a dangerous draw in bracket play.

After losing an extremely tight 3-2 decision to No. 3 Nebraska on Nov. 5, the Aggies picked up consecutive wins against Iowa State Baylor, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas Tech and Missouri. Just days before the Nebraska near-miss, A&M battled No. 16 Kansas State to five sets. The Aggies couldn’t break through in either game, and an extra point here or there would have given Corbelli a signature victory for the selection committee to consider.

As the season wound down, the players kept the faith. The win streak, they thought, would put them in a good position to claim an at large berth. The Aggies had even returned to the ‘receiving votes’ column of the AVCA coaches poll.

Instead of celebrating, however, everyone in attendance was left wondering what if.

“It was pretty bad in there,” recalled Corbelli. “I told them how proud I was of the season. It really wasn’t enough, because they didn’t want to hear any of it. All they wanted to hear was that we were going (to the tournament). I told them a couple of times not to forget how they were playing and the feeling they had when they were playing so well.”

The season-ending winning streak will certainly stick with the players and coaches over the off-season, and the second consecutive NCAA snub will provide ample motivation once the team begins gearing up for 2009. A&M has missed the postseason in each of the last three years, and the soon-to-be senior group of Sarah Ammerman, Jennifer Banse, Mary Batis, Dylan Faulkner Jola Kelner and Kristen Schevikhoven won’t want to end their careers without stepping into the tournament spotlight.

“You have to make adjustments and changes,” said Corbelli. “We’re bringing in four new players already who I feel are going to really make a huge impact. We have to figure out a way for our disappointment in ’08 to show up in September and stick around through November.”

One of those changes will be the team’s pending move from G. Rollie White Coliseum to Reed Arena. The upcoming MSC renovations will likely take over much of G. Rollie for office space, with the MSC Bookstore possibly taking over the current playing floor.

Corbelli is certain, however, that a fresh start could be a welcome sight after three trying years.

“(Moving) is going to be a really good thing for us for a while, even if it is just for a while,” said Corbelli. “We need a new look. It certainly can’t hurt us to have a new look, a new home, a new approach. If it’s a time of change, this is perfect.”

Maybe next year’s selection show party will be perfect, also.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bryan Davis Q&A

Every week, 12th Man On Campus brings you a Q&A with an Aggie student-athlete or coach. This week, junior hoopster Bryan Davis was kind enough to take a few questions as the Aggies prepared to host Arizona on Friday night in the Big 12-Pac 10 Hardwood series, one of the biggest non-conference home games in recent memory.

Q: Do you feel like the team needs to redeem itself after the way the Arizona game went last year?
BD: Yeah I feel like we do need to redeem ourselves. Last year, we didn’t come out and play as well as we should have in the second half, and we have a good opportunity to come out here and put together 40 minutes on Friday.

Q: The Arizona crowd got into it a lot last year, so are you excited to get them at your place this year?
BD: Actually, I think everybody was looking forward to playing them at their house last year. Just being at home is a plus for us so we can be in front of our fans. Overall as a team, everybody is pretty much looking forward to playing them.

Q: What kind of atmosphere are you guys expecting here on Friday night?
BD: I’m hoping for a pretty good basketball atmosphere. We haven’t had a whole lot of good turnouts lately, but Arizona is a good basketball school. I think our fans will come out and support us.

Q: We’ve seen a couple of times so far this season that you guys have made just about every free throw toward the end of the game. Is that some mental toughness that you’ve improved since last year?
BD: I think it’s mental toughness, and the fact that we’re the type of team that, when it comes down to it and we have to hit those free throws, we’re going to hit them. We have to be more consistent with it throughout the game, though, so we don’t get in those situations. We need to knock our free throws down earlier in the game, because we missed a lot of free throws during the Tulsa game.

Q: Do you feel like you guys learned some things in the South Padre tournament that will be beneficial on down the road?
BD: A loss is never good, but (losing to Tulsa) was definitely a wake-up call for us. It let us know that anybody can be beaten. Everybody in our circle, in our team, we all know that we’re going to be good. So, that was a wake up call telling us we have to be better and more consistent during the whole game and not just during five- and 10-minute spurts. We have to play a full game.

Q: If you could grade yourself thus far, what would your grade be?
BD: Probably about a C+.

Q: How do you get up to B+ or A?
BD: I need to be more consistent and limit my turnovers. I also need to be more of a leader on the court, and off of it, also.

Q: Do you consider yourself a mentor to some of the other big men on the team?
BD: Yeah, I feel like I’m mentor to them. Sometimes you have to be more than vocal with them—you have to lead by example and let them see you doing the things the right way.

Q: Do you see a lot of potential in Denzel Bowles and David Loubeau?
BD: There’s a lot of potential in those guys. Denzel is really showing some good things, and David has really come a long way.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

BEHIND THE SCENES: Schwarz Steps Off For Aggie Band, Steps Up For Women's Basketball

Nathan Schwarz vividly remembers one of his first up-close-and-personal encounters with the Aggie Band. Early in his high school career, the youngster from China Springs, Texas, took a family trip to College Station, where Nathan’s sister, Rebecca, Class of 2006, would soon be attending college.

Nathan wasn’t a complete stranger to Aggieland prior to that visit several years ago (his father, Duane, was Class of 1982 and a member of the Aggie Band), but he stared in awe as he watched the band form up on the Quad and begin it’s regular pre-game march to Kyle Field. Nathan, who played in his high school band, took it all in as he followed closely behind.

Nathan’s mother, Kim, easily recalls that sunny Saturday afternoon.

“He said the hair on his arm was raised (as he watched the band),” said Kim from the family’s home in China Springs, located a few minutes northwest of Waco. “He followed them out before the game, and he said ‘That’s what I’m going to do.’ From that day on, we knew he was definitely going to be in the band.”

What the family didn’t know that day was how much more Schwarz would accomplish once he arrived at Texas A&M.

Instead of following, Schwarz, a senior kinesiology major, now helps lead the Aggie Band out during every halftime performance as a member of the bugle ranks. In addition to stepping off on Kyle Field, he also plays a big role across Wellborn Road, where Schwarz is a key component of “The Guy’s,” the group of male students who work out daily with the women’s basketball team.

His role with the practice squad for the last two years may be one of Schwarz’s most important duties on campus, as the Aggies have been ranked in the top 10 in both seasons. Schwarz is a left-handed point guard who operates the scout team with precision, and the role he plays isn’t lost on head coach Gary Blair.

“He gives us the look that we have to have, particularly this year because we don’t have many point guards,” Blair said. “He’s exactly the right size, about 5-foot-9, and he has a great personality. He can go in there and get (elbowed by) Micheaux like many of our players have, and he just gets up, doesn’t say anything and plays hard on the next play.

“He has helped us more than any men’s practice player I have ever had. He may be the ultimate 12th Man.”

The humble Schwarz discounts that idea, but his job on the men’s practice team says a lot about the type of person he is. Team members are held to the same grade requirements as Blair’s players, which means they have to be in good academic standing and enrolled in at least 12 hours every semester.

This semester, Schwarz makes the trek to Reed Arena four days a week for practice, which means showing up around 1 p.m. and leaving sometime after 4, not a simple task when you consider he’s also enrolled in 16 credit hours and has several daily obligations with the Corps of Cadets. All he receives for his time with the team is a pair of shoes, said Blair.

But, it’s all in a day’s work for Schwarz, who also serves as A-Company’s athletics officer and helps schedule the group’s intramural teams.

“I like coming out here and knowing I’m making them better,” Schwarz said. “Last year when they made it to the Elite Eight, it felt really good to know that I had a behind-the-scenes part in that. I like being a quiet helper and coming out here to practice with them and help them get better every day. That’s the best reward, watching them play and watching them win—I feel like I’m doing my job out here with them.”

In addition to countless hours at practice, Schwarz is a regular in the crowd at the team’s games.

“ I know they’re always struggling with attendance, so I want to do my part in practice and in the stands. (The team) started getting better right when I started school, so it’s been easy to come out and watch. I enjoy going to any sport, and it’s always good to support another Aggie team.”

Between his time toiling away during basketball practice and his hundreds of hours spent drilling and performing with the Aggie Band, his support for Aggie Athletics may not be surpassed by any student on campus.

Schwarz is set to graduate in August, but he plans to apply to graduate school at A&M and work toward being a strength and conditioning coach after that. His last halftime performance on Kyle Field was at the Oklahoma game on Nov. 8, but he’ll be eligible to work with the basketball team through the end of the season.

His parents, meanwhile, can’t help but to smile when they contemplate everything Nathan has done. The Schwarz’s haven’t missed a home football game since Nathan joined the band. Kim said they haven’t made it to any basketball practices yet, but her son has said they are welcome to come down and watch any time.

“It’s a pretty neat thing,” Kim said. “There are only 12 other moms this year who can say they have a son in the bugle ranks. We’re pretty proud of all his accomplishments. A couple of weeks ago, the basketball team presented him with a Benjamin Knox painting and told him how much they appreciated him. It was the Friday before the last football game, and they told him good luck on his last march. (That made him feel like) he was doing something right, and he was very proud of that. That means a lot to us.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Weekend By The Numbers

5 – Ranking of the A&M women’s basketball team in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll. Over the weekend, the Aggies (6-0) picked up wins against Penn State and host Pepperdine to claim the Timeout 4 HIV/AIDS Tournament.

18 – Scoring average for Takia Starks in the Pepperdine tournament, enough to earn tournament MVP honors. Starks scored 19 against Penn State and followed that with 17 against Pepperdine.

102 – Minutes it took for top-seeded North Carolina to put away the Aggie soccer team. A&M narrowly missed its first-ever appearance in the Final Four, losing a heartbreaker, 2-1, in double overtime in Chapel Hill, N.C.

5 – Players in double figures for the men’s basketball team against Kent State on Saturday. Bryan Davis, B.J. Holmes, Josh Carter, David Loubeau and Donald Sloan all finished with at least 12 points. Davis posted his second career double-double, with 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

57.1 – Season-best shooting percentage by the Aggies, achieved against Kent State. It was a dramatic change from Friday’s game against Tulsa when A&M made a season-low 30.9 percent.

6 – Consecutive wins for the volleyball team to close the regular season. Despite the late season heroics and a fourth place finish in the Big 12, the Aggies were left out of the NCAA Tournament.

4 – Former Aggie softball players that have signed or played with the Philadelphia Force in the National Pro Fastpitch league. The most recent Aggie to sign was former centerfielder Jami Lobpries. Last year, Megan Gibson was the No. 2 overall pick in the NPF draft, and former players Rocky Spencer and Sharonda McDonald have also spent time with the Force.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Open Letter To Stephen McGee


Let me start by saying that I hate the way this season has turned out for you. For a guy who has left it all on the field for the Aggies in the previous two-and-a-half seasons, getting hurt against New Mexico in game two obviously wasn’t what you had in mind while you were playing with precision during summer practices.

But, if I know anything about you and the kind of guy you are, you took it all in stride—the injury, the criticisms and the less-than-complimentary jabs sent your way by faceless message board posters. I say that because nobody has been a better team player than you in the last few years, so when Jerrod Johnson came off the bench to throw for three touchdowns I know you were happy because the Aggies won.

You also gave all Aggies fans plenty of reasons to be happy during your career. And since it’s Texas week, this is the perfect time to bring up a couple of those magical moments.

You almost did the impossible in 2005 when the juggernaut Longhorns rolled into Kyle Field. It had been more than a month since A&M had won a game, but former coach Dennis Franchione awarded you with your first start that Friday afternoon. The Horns jumped on top early, but you persevered, absorbed crushing hit after crushing hit, and had your team in contention for what would have been one of the biggest upsets in rivalry history. I guarantee you that nobody in the stadium will ever forget the sequence when you scored a touchdown one play after almost getting your head knocked off:

What you didn’t quite accomplish that day was more than made up for the following year in Austin. That year, the Longhorns were one win away from playing for the Big 12 South title, but you guys kept their high-powered offense off the field with your clock-eating drives. I vividly remember that fourth-quarter, game-winning drive from my seat in the end zone at DKR…you and Jorvorskie Lane battered their defensive backs to convert third down after third down, the final one which resulted in an 8-yard TD run. I still have that game saved on my TiVo, and that final drive still gives me goose bumps. (Maybe you can show it to the team before the game on Thursday—there are some good highlights at:

After you beat them on the ground in 2006, last year’s game at Kyle Field was an all-out aerial assault. While speculation about Franchione dominated the pre-game headlines, the post-game story was all about how the unheralded Aggies sliced and diced another stellar Texas defense, shredding them to the tune of 362 passing yards and three touchdowns. The double-lasso dance was particularly impressive:

The coaches aren’t saying whether or not you’re going to get one last chance to suit up in this game, but I guarantee you the last person the Texas coaches want to see out on the field Thursday night is a guy in a white jersey with a maroon No. 7 across his chest. They should be scared, too, because you’ve outfought, out-gutted and out-hearted their whole team in the last two years.

Fortune hasn’t been kind to you this year; yet, all along the way you’ve been a stand-up guy who has handled the hardship with true character and resolve. Because of that, I sincerely hope you get one more opportunity to take the field against the hated Horns.

Thanks for representing our school with so much heart. You make me proud to be an Aggie,


True Brown
Editor, 12th Man On Campus

Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekend By The Numbers

46 – Number of seconds the Texas A&M soccer team needed to net two first-half goals against Florida on Sunday. The outburst prompted a 2-1 victory over the Gators and pushed the Aggies into the Elite Eight for the second time in three seasons.

4 – Elite Eight appearances for coach G Guerrieri and the soccer team. A&M will shoot for its first Final Four when it squares off with North Carolina on Friday at 2 p.m. in Chapel Hill, N.C.

232 – Career 3-pointers for senior Josh Carter. Carter’s five triples against Jackson State lifted the senior from Dallas into a tie atop the A&M record book, matching former player Bernard King’s mark.

210 – Wins recorded by Gary Blair while he was the coach at Stephen F. Austin. Blair will be inducted into the SFA athletics hall of fame during halftime of the A&M-SFA game in Nacogdoches on Dec. 2. Blair led the Ladyjacks to six NCAA Tournament appearances.

5 – Over the weekend, senior swimmer Triin Aljand turned in the fifth-fastest time in NCAA history in the 100-yard freestyle. Aljand set the mark during the Adamson Invitational at the Student Rec Center Natatorium during the weekend.

.402 – Season-high hitting percentage recorded by the volleyball team during its sweep of Colorado on Saturday. The Aggies smoked the Buffaloes, pounding out 44 kills and committing just nine errors in a match that lasted just 1 hour, 10 minutes.

1993 – The last year the A&M-Texas football game was played on Thanksgiving.

3 – Games against top-five ranked (by The AP) teams this season for the football team. This will be the first time in A&M history it will have played three regular season games against top-five teams. The Aggies played No. 5 Texas Tech and No. 4 Oklahoma already and will face No. 4 Texas on Thursday.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

LAST CALL: The Road Gladly Traveled

Coaches in virtually every sport at every school in the nation bemoan having playing on the road. Tough travel schedules, hostile fans and unfamiliar locker rooms all play a role in the universal disdain for leaving home, but Texas A&M soccer coach G Guerrieri is taking a glass-is-half-full approach as the 3-seed Aggies prepare to travel to Gainesville, Fla., for a Sweet 16 match against second-seeded Florida.

It helps that A&M has seen a fair amount of Florida in recent years, including an exhibition game prior to last season. It also helps that this year’s A&M squad has been pretty darn good when they’ve ventured outside of College Station.

The Aggies are 5-1-1 in true road games this year, the school’s best record away from the Aggie Soccer Stadium since the 2004 team posted a 6-1 mark. The fact that Sunday’s contest with the Gators will be played in warmer conditions also helps.

“Those are good things for us,” Guerrieri said. “If we were having to go to the snow belt and play someone we’ve never played against, we would be in a much different match-up that what we will see Sunday.”

A&M’s road prowess this year is interesting considering the amount of underclassmen contributors the team counts on. Eight of the Aggies’ 11 starters in the team’s second-round game against Washington were freshmen or sophomores. The Aggies upended the Huskies by a 3-1 tally, and two of those goals were scored by freshman Rachael Balaguer and sophomore Whitney Hooper.

The fact that this team has performed so well in front of hostile crowds says a lot about the type of steel-willed players Guerrieri has recruited, as well as the chemistry the team began developing during a pre-season trip to—interestingly enough—Florida.

The Aggies spent several days in mid August in the Sunshine State, training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and playing an exhibition game against Florida International. A&M picked up a 3-1 win against the Golden Panthers, but more importantly, Guerrieri said the team began to bond during their days away from home.

“The reason we did that was to get us in an environment where we were completely on our own,” Guerrieri said. “It was a big growing up for a lot of our players, not that they were shocked into having to grow up, but they were able to grow together quickly. The team gets along together very well, and in women’s sports more than men’s sports, chemistry and respect and communication and how the team kind of breaths together is a very important part of your success.”

Midfielder Laura Grace Robinson, one of just two seniors on the roster, has played in plenty of tough games in her career. She said in a way, it can be a little easier to focus before a game away from home.

“When you’re on the road, you can focus completely on the game,” Robinson said. “You’re not going to class on Friday and you’re in the hotel—we’ve done a good job of staying focused. We know that since we draw such a great crowd at home that it isn’t going to be that (friendly) on the road.”

If the regular season was any indication, the Aggies will be primed up to play the Gators. A win would catapult A&M to its second Elite Eight showing in three years and would likely set up a contest against North Carolina to advance to the Final Four.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Five Minutes with Soccer Senior Laura Grace Robinson

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This week, we sat down with Laura Grace Robinson as the Aggies prepared for Sunday’s Sweet 16 match-up against the Florida Gators.

True Brown: What is the biggest difference between the way the Big 12 Tournament unfolded and how the team played in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament?
Laura Grace Robinson: Because our team is so young at least half of our team hasn’t been in the NCAA Tournament, so I think everyone was really excited. We know that it’s a win-and-advance or lose-and-go-home (situation). We played really well, and I think you could see the urgency of how each game counts. People mark your season on how you played in the Tournament, so it’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time it’s a lot of fun.

TB: What do you do now to kind of keep things rolling?
LGR: Going to the Sweet 16 is really exciting, so it’s not going to take much to get us pumped up for this game. We’re going to have a lot of time this week since the game is not until Sunday, so we need to stick with the same things we’ve done all season. There’s going to be another excitement level because it is the Sweet 16 and Florida is a great team. It won’t be hard to get up for this game.

TB: What kind of game will Florida try to play?
LGR: They are really athletic, so it will be a fast-paced game. They have a really nice field so it won’t be slow at all. They are the type of team that we like to play, so I think it will be a good game.

TB: As a senior, does the NCAA Tournament take on an added meaning since every time you take the field could be your last game ever?
LGR: Honestly, I try not to think about that too much. Winning matters just as much to me as it does to our freshmen. We all want to go as far as we can, so I try to keep it in perspective and not put extra pressure on it. All season long, I’ve had fun and soaked up my last year of playing. I think everyone has that sense of urgency—everyone wants to win.

TB: Personally, what kind of goals did you have before this season started?
LGR: Obviously, you set the standard high. I was hoping to get the fifth Big 12 championship in a row. It didn’t happen but we had a good regular season. The Big 12 Tournament was a little disappointing, but the goal all along has been to win as many games as possible and advance as far in the NCAA as we can. We’re off to a good start so hopefully we can get past Florida.

TB: Are you surprised the freshmen on the team are playing such a big role?
LGR: Maybe if you would have asked me in July and told me what they would have done, I would have been pretty shocked. Seeing them in preseason, though, it hasn’t surprised me that they’ve been such an important part of our team. I think it’s really unique that from the freshmen to the seniors, everyone has played a big part. Every victory we’ve had this year have been total team victories. The team chemistry we have makes playing a lot of fun.

TB: The game this weekend is on Sunday—do you like waiting around that long or would you rather get it over with on Friday?
LGR: I’d probably rather play it on Friday, but this gives us a little more time to prepare. When it comes down to it, the game is just a game no matter when you play it. It doesn’t matter when we play it.

TB: What’s in store for you after your playing career is done and you’re through with college?
LGR: I’m a finance major, so unfortunately prospects aren’t too great right now. Before I get a job, I’m planning on traveling for a little bit with my roommates. Hopefully we will have some fun adventures before I have to go out into the real world!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A&M's (soon-to-be) White House Connection

It’s no secret that Brazos County votes mostly conservative during presidential elections, but one Aggie coach has a legitimate tie with president-elect Barack Obama.

Women’s basketball assistant Kelly Bond, a Chicago native, attended the same high school as Michelle Obama, the wife of Senator Obama. Both attended Whitney Young High School in Chicago, albeit they graduated several years apart.

According to Wikipedia, Whitney Young is a highly selective magnet school in Chicago, which is routinely ranked as one of Illinois’ best public institutions. The site claims more than 9,000 students applied for 450 available spots in the 2007-08 school year.

Bond has worked for A&M head coach Gary Blair for several years and has developed quite a reputation as being an ace recruiter. Blair is certainly high on the work Bond has done, including this year’s recruiting class that ranks among one of the top in the nation.

“She has been very instrumental in everything we’ve been doing in recruiting for the last five years, and for three years before that at Arkansas,” Blair said. “She has a tremendous reputation all over the nation, not just with players but also with AAU coaches and high school coaches. She has to think like me; she has to know whether a player will fit the system that I can coach.”

As far as her connection with the soon-to-be First Lady, Bond said she has not yet crossed paths with Michelle.

“Michelle is class of ’84, but one of the things the school does is have a women’s synopsis every year and bring a couple (alumni) back as guest speakers,” Bond said. “Hopefully, she’ll have time to come back to her old stomping grounds, and we’ll get a chance to interact at some of those events.”

With all the media coverage of Senator Obama’s basketball prowess, one of Bond’s biggest recruiting jobs may come in the next 10-15 years.

“I’m not sure how much game (Michelle) has,” joked Bond. “But she has two younger daughters that I’m going to keep my eye on because we know (their father)’s got game.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

Weekend By The Numbers

9 – Sweet 16 appearances for the Aggie soccer team. A&M’s 3-1 win over Washington on Sunday set the stage for next weekends round of 16 tilt with the Florida Gators.

+23 – Shot differential, in favor of A&M, in the NCAA Tournament first-round game against Texas State. The Aggies claimed a 5-2 win and outshot the Bobcats 28-5.

12 – Field goals allowed by the women’s basketball team during their 56-50 win over No. 23 Pittsburgh on Sunday at the State Farm Tip-Off Classic in Baton Rouge, La. The Panthers made just 25.5 percent of their shots. The lock-down defensive performance matches last year’s Michigan game, when the Wolverines connected on only 12 field goals.

8 – Consecutive season-openers won by the men’s basketball team. The Aggies blistered Arkansas-Pine Bluff by 29 points to open the 2008-09 season, winning 76-47 on Sunday afternoon at Reed Arena.

3 – Consecutive South Central Regional individual titles for cross country runner Shadrack Songok. Songok, a senior, won his first two as a runner for A&M-Corpus Christi. His first-place finish this weekend helped the Aggie team earn the regional title and secured a slot in the NCAA Championships on Monday, Nov. 24.

1 – Player in A&M football history to surpass 1,000 kickoff return yards in a single season. Freshman Cyrus Gray ran his season total to 1,023 yards during the Baylor game.

49 – Career touchdowns for Jorvorskie Lane, a school record. After scoring twice against the Bears, 48 of his 49 touchdowns have come via the run.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Hey, Coach G, can I have your autograph?"

Women’s basketball coach Gary Blair is always working. Whether he’s dissecting film in his office, toting a whistle on the practice court or taking in other sporting events across campus, Blair’s brain is constantly going.

As the coach of a team that has traditionally struggled to pack the stands, Blair is particularly interested in watching what unfolds right across the street from Reed Arena. He’s attended several A&M soccer games this year—and he doesn’t do it just to get out in the sunshine and relax.

“A lot of people think I am just going to games to fill out my 12th Man Team Rewards card,” said Blair earlier this week. “I go to the games to study marketing and study coaching.”

There’s a lot he can learn from Guerrieri, who has built one of the most rabid soccer fan bases in the country. The Aggies averaged 3,538 fans in 11 home games this year and are routinely in the top two or three in national attendance. Blair has certainly done his part to help pad the team’s numbers. (Seriously. A quick search at confirms Blair is one of the top event-attenders in the athletic department.)

“When I first got here, the two people I really admired the most on promoting their sports were Tim Cass in men’s tennis and G Guerrieri,” Blair said. “I took a little bit from each of those because those are sports where it’s (traditionally) hard to draw people in. I tried to bring some of my marketing ideas and incorporate them with what (Cass and Guerrieri) were doing, as well. I learned from everybody.”

The similarities don’t stop there. The product Blair has put on the court is certainly worthy of drawing inordinately large crowds like soccer. The Aggies rolled to the Elite Eight last year and set a school record with 29 wins.

His success on the court has allowed A&M to open its recruiting beyond state borders. In fact, last week’s signing class included highly-ranked players from Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee and California—and none from Texas.

“Coach Guerrieri hit that road about his fourth or fifth year here, where he could go in and recruit just about anywhere in the country,” said Blair, now in his sixth season at A&M. “We’re almost at that point.”

That’s good news if you’re an Aggie fan. Blair’s squad may soon find itself in a situation similar to Guerrieri’s: an almost permanent fixture in the national top 10.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

First time here? Click me!

First off, let me take time to thank you for swinging by 12th Man Magazine On Campus’s new home on the web. Our magazine has been staple around the Texas A&M campus for the last five years, and it’s been our pleasure to bring Aggie students the most in-depth features and behind-the-scenes action of any student-geared publication in the College Station-Bryan area.

This blog, however, represents our first foray into the e-world. It’s all about instant communication these days, and we hope this venue becomes a way for Texas A&M’s students to keep up with all the Aggie sports action that takes place on this campus.

We’ll certainly hit the big sports like football, basketball and baseball, but this will also be the place to keep up with soccer, volleyball, swimming, track, tennis, golf, equestrian and anything else that comes up. In short: if it’s Aggie sports, it’ll be here.

It’s worth noting, however, that hard news won’t be our main focus—there are plenty of newspapers out there to take care of all that. Rather than regurgitate info that is already in several other publications, this site will be a place for short, easy-to-read features about student-athletes and coaches, commentary on A&M’s programs, and any off-the-wall or behind-the-scenes items that you want to see.

We’re going to load this page with updates over the coming days, weeks and months, so I hope you continue to return and stay up to speed. Please don’t hesitate to email me at with any content ideas or things you’d like to see here in the future.

Thanks again for swinging by!