In slightly more than 80 days on the job, new Texas A&M men’s basketball coach Buzz Williams is starting to feel some momentum gathering while laying his foundation for the program.
However, dots remain to be connected in filling out a coaching staff and a roster.
“We’ve got to keep moving,” Williams said Thursday on the Southeastern Conference summer teleconference. “We need to keep moving in recruiting. We need to keep moving in who we are hiring. All of that, when you’re dealing with careers, when you’re dealing with players, as far as the decisions that they are going to make, it’s an on-going deal.”
Williams’ mug shot still stands alone in the coaching section on the Aggies’ official web page. Former Virginia Tech assistant coach Jamie McNeilly has changed his Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to reflect a move to the same position at A&M, but Williams declined to name any coaching hires by name Thursday.
McNeilly played for Williams at New Orleans and has worked under him since 2008 at Marquette.
“I like what we’ve done thus far,” Williams said. “I think the decisions we’ve made thus far relative to our staff and relative to our team, I hope that long-term they were the right decisions. We still have more work to do. It’s obviously very, very late in the year, so it’s just making sure that the decisions that we make make sense from a sustainability standpoint.”
Williams wasted no time on the recruiting trail.
Within weeks of his hiring, he added four verbal commitments to the recruiting class of 2019, including guards Andre Gordon, Quenton Jackson and Cashius McNeilly and forward Yavuz Gultekin. Both Gordon and Gultekin were once committed to the Hokies before switching to A&M.
As of Thursday, an A&M athletics department spokesperson said the Aggies could not confirm if any of the four had signed their national letter of intent, but all four players are enrolled in summer classes, according to the university’s student directory.
A&M also regained veteran leadership in the form of junior guard Savion Flagg, who removed his name from the 2019 NBA draft prior to the June 10 deadline to withdraw and announced he would return to Aggieland.
Williams said even while Flagg explored his options in the draft, he participated in team activities at A&M. Williams said he provided the Flagg family with some answers to questions and advice during the process.
“I think those families have to make decisions based on what they believe is best long term as it relates to anything, whether it’s the NBA or any other decision that they make,” Williams said. “All I try to do is support the kid and try to help him in whatever means it is that I can help him the most.”
Flagg led A&M in scoring and rebounding, averaging 13.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game last season. He started every game for the 14-18 Aggies, who went 6-12 in SEC play. He averaged a team-high 34.8 minutes per game, while making 171 of 366 field goals (46.7 percent) and 45 of 133 3-pointers (33.8 percent).
Williams’ internal focus has left little time to look ahead to the challenges the SEC will bring next season, though he said the SEC as a whole has appeared to improve significantly in men’s basketball over the last few years.
“I would say, just categorically speaking, it seems as though there has been a significant upgrade almost in every facet of each program in the league over the last three-to-five years,” he said. “Obviously, [South Carolina] going to the Final Four, [Auburn] going to the Final Four — I think you see it, not only in the results but also just kind of in the crescendo of how rosters have improved.”