After missing the cut for the American Southwest Conference basketball tournament last season, UT Tyler head coach Kenny Bizot felt he needed to change their recruiting mentality.
Instead of focusing on bringing in freshmen, the Patriots targeted experienced college players to compliment the team’s returning athletes.
“I am a believer that if you work hard in recruiting, do the prep work, stay at the gym, get there early and leave late, good things will eventually happen,” Bizot said.
The Patriots brought in seven transfers from other universities and junior college teams to go with three returning seniors — Darren Houliston, Dallas Bean and Stephan Tarpley.
Houliston, the only returning starter, was a transfer from Texas Wesleyan University. He missed his first season with the Patriots due to a broken foot.
Last season, he averaged a double-double and led the team in steals and blocks.
To start the 2012-13 season, UT Tyler exploded to an 11-1 start, their only loss coming to Division I McNeese State.
“We all share the common theme of wanting to win,” said junior guard Jordan Cannon, a transfer from Feather River College in Quincy, Calif. “We are all willing to sacrifice a little bit.”
Bizot said the experienced players have been able to execute the offensive system better than teams in the past. He said their basketball intelligence, willingness to share the ball and quickness to get up and down the floor have been big parts of the Patriots success.
The ability to hit from behind the arc has also forced opposing teams to spread the floor defensively.
Joe Stephens, a transfer from the University of Dallas, has been able to settle into a shooting guard role for the Patriots.
“Last year, I ran a lot of the post and had to take a lot more shots inside,” Stephens said.
Stephens drained five 3’s against Northwood and East Texas Baptist University this season.
Travis Dykman, a transfer from Emporia State in Emporia, Kan., and Cannon have also used the long ball to aid the Patriots. Dykman hit a buzzer-beater to defeat Hardin-Simmons University 73-72 earlier this season.
Cannon hit a 3-pointer with only seconds remaining to force Louisiana College into overtime. The Patriots went on to win and take the lead in the ASC East Division.
In the post, the Patriots can target Houliston or Tyler Hysell, a 6- 7 transfer from Collin County College.
“We have always had one or two guys that could get it done, but now we have a whole unit on the floor,” Bizot said. “They each bring something different to the team.”
Bizot also credited the team’s depth of talent to their success this season. Tre Potter (Kilgore College transfer), Nathan Harbour (Wayland Baptist transfer) and Billy Hopson have all come off the bench to support the Patriots on both sides of the ball.
The Patriots ended the regular season with a record of 18-7 overall, the most wins in school history.
They enter the conference tournament as the No. 2 seed and will face the No. 3 seed from the ASC West Division, Hardin-Simmons.
“This is the most competitive group of guys I have been around,” Houliston said. “At the end of the day, we are out there as a team trying to get the best out of each of our players.”
The quarterfinal matchup is set for 2:30 p.m. today at The University of Texas at Dallas Activity Center in Richardson.