February 9, 2010

Aggies rising above adversity

Texas A&M has made an appearance in the NCAA tournament in each of the last four seasons, and in each of those seasons the Aggies had to deal with a great deal of adversity. But those seasons don't compare to the adversity A&M has had to go through this year.

Losing players, academic issues, a blowout loss and heartbreaking losses have plagued the Aggies this year, but A&M still sits at 6-3 and in second place in the Big 12 conference with one month left to go in the 2009-2010 regular season. It's a wonder how this Aggie team has stayed together let alone become one of the hottest teams in the nation at the right time.

"We've just kind of picked it up another notch. I think guys have really elevated their games," said A&M senior guard Donald Sloan who is fourth in the Big 12 in scoring with 18.5 points per game. "The young guys coming in have stepped up playing, and guys like Derrek Lewis who has been here for a little while has stepped up a little bit and he's really helped us out. I just think it's guys picking it up."

Adversity started for this team before the season even began when junior center Chinemelu Elonu decided to stay in the NBA Draft after earning his degree. Elonu redshirted his first season, so he had already been in school for four years and had graduated. Elonu was drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Lakers and now plays for Zaragoza in Spain.

Even without Elonu, however, the Aggies started the season strong with two wins over ranked opponents at the 76 Classic in Anaheim and a narrow loss to No. 4 West Virginia. The Aggies seemed to be chugging along great towards Big 12 conference play despite a heartbreaking loss to New Mexico in Houston, but then disaster struck.

A&M senior guard Derrick Roland, the team's top defender and second-leading scorer, broke his leg at Washington in a horrific scene that left his teammates in tears and allowed the Huskies to knock off an obviously agonized Aggie team.

Roland was lost for the season, but A&M head coach Mark Turgeon credits Roland's demeanor after the injury as the catalyst for the Aggies resurgence with him in the lineup.

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