To his right was De’Vion Harmon, the transfer guard from Oregon (by way of Oklahoma). To his left was Fardaws Aimaq, the transfer center from Utah Valley with the injured foot.
Both were getting more attention when I walked up to talk with Kevin Obanor at Big 12 Media Day in Kansas City last month.
Such is life in between shiny new things, which Harmon and Aimaq are when it comes to Texas Tech.
Obanor is one of the few returning Red Raiders with significant experience from last year’s Sweet 16 team. If this team matches last season’s run, it will be because Obanor serves as this team’s metronome and its consistent leader.
He was right there on display on Thursday against Texas Southern. He scored 13 points in less than 20 minutes. He also grabbed seven rebounds and two assists as the Red Raiders won, 78-54.
With a young team and talented transfers, Red Raiders coach Mark Adams has spent the first two games using everyone on his roster.
Obanor doesn’t need the wealth of playing time, not right now. Adams and his staff need to figure out the rotation first. From there, Obanor will fit wherever they need.
He knows it. The Red Raiders know it. The Big 12 knows it.
But, right now, he has things he needs to learn about a practically new roster.
“Just having to be a leader and going out and knowing the personnel, how to talk to somebody, that’s probably been one of the biggest things that needed to be worked on this offseason,” Obanor said last month. “I just need to be able to help my teammates.”
It almost seems implausible that Obanor was just an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention last season. That’s how deep the conference is, in terms of talent. He averaged 10 points and 5.5 rebounds for a team that was a group of interchangeable parts, something Adams nodded to when I described last year’s team. But Obanor saved his best for the NCAA Tournament.
He had three of his five double-doubles last season in March Madness. He went for 10 and 10 against Montana State, 15 and 15 against Notre Dame and 10 and 10 against Duke. Between his time at Tech and Oral Roberts — where he transferred from a year ago — he has six straight double-doubles.
That team had a holdover group of leaders at its core — Kevin McCullar, Terrence Shannon Jr. and Marcus Santos-Silva.
Santos-Silva is out of eligibility.
McCullar transferred to Kansas.
Shannon transferred to Illinois.
Obanor is now the leader. In fact, right now, he’s it.
Two games in, he looks the part, even if the Red Raiders don’t need him to be the main man just yet.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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