By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (December 7, 2016) — In a post game press conference after winning the South Central Region championship for the second straight season and the fourth time in his illustrious 29 years as head coach at Tarleton State, Lonn Reisman said it himself.
“I’m not an easy guy to play for,” he said, drawing laughter from his players and media in the press conference, and again from members of the Texan Club, Tarleton’s athletic booster club, when the quote was re-played as part of a promotional preseason video shown during a luncheon.
But Ridell Camidge begs to differ.
“No, he’s not hard to play for, I don’t think so. Anyone who has a hard time playing for Coach Reisman, it’s because they don’t want to do the little things,” says Camidge a junior guard and the leading scorer for the No. 15 Texans. “I think if you look at the history and see what he’s done here, I don’t know how you can look at that and not respect him and learn from him. He’s a great coach.”
It’s the successful history – especially recently – of Tarleton basketball that brought Camidge to Tarleton, and now that the season has begun, he says he’s reminded all over campus why it was the right choice.
“It’s everywhere I go, everyone on campus knows the basketball team and the players, and they always want to talk basketball,” said Camidge. “It’s a great basketball school, and that’s what I wanted. I like it.”
Camidge and the Texans will represent Tarleton on the road this week. Their first trip away from Stephenville this season takes them to Silver City for a game with Lone Star Conference Western New Mexico at 8:30 p.m. (CST) Thursday, then on to Portales for a visit to Eastern New Mexico at 8 p.m. (CST) Saturday.
A Division I transfer who played 28 games last season at UNC-Charlotte, Camidge is a big reason the Texans won their opening two games of conference play last week, and on Monday, he was justly recognized as LSC Offensive Player of the Week.
Camidge averaged 17 points in wins over Midwestern State and Cameron, but it wasn’t his total points that earned him the distinction, so much as when he scored them.
Camidge hit three second-half 3-pointers against Midwestern, including a left-wing bomb while being fouled before adding the free throw for a four-point play that gave Tarleton the lead for good. He had just hit a 3 moments earlier, and drained another to put away the Mustangs in the final minute of the 64-56 Texan victory.
“We were a little shaky, then in the second half of the (MSU) game it started coming together I thought,” Camidge said. “We just have to keep it coming together more and more. We’re starting to execute our offenses better and the more we play together we start to realize where each other wants the ball and where our strong shooting spots are. When we get all that figured out I think we will be tough to stop.”
Camidge got going early against Cameron, carrying the Texans offensively in a first half that was otherwise full of struggles. The Aggies led 14-3 after just four minutes, with Tarleton’s only points coming on a Camidge 3. He hit four more deep balls before halftime, when he already had 15 points and the Texans had grabbed a 29-25 lead. They kept the momentum in the second half, leading by as much as 20 en rout to a 73-60 win.
“I don’t know if it was microwave-mode, or not. Maybe it was microwave mode, I just don’t like losing at all, not in a game, a half, even when we play five minutes I don’t want to lose at all,” said Camidge. “I just knew it was time to get going if we were going to win, and the shots started falling for me.
“In the first half of that Cameron game, I think we saw what Coach a Reisman had been trying to tell us all along, that you have to come ready to play every game because everyone in our conference is good and they all want to come here and beat Tarleton.”
The Texans won those games without redshirt freshman power forward Anthony Davis, and Josh Hawley, another talented redshirt freshman, started in his stead. Hawley was big in the second half of the Cameron game, scoring 10 points and blocking two shots in the first six minutes out of the intermission. He scored all of his 16 in the second half and finished a rebound shy of a double-double.
“We had to go without AD, but Josh is a good player, too,” said Camidge. “They’re both so young, but they are figuring it out.”
That’s good, because as Camidge and other newcomers to the conference are quickly realizing, the LSC is no walk in the park.
“We can see in the first week that this conference is going to be tough,” said Camidge. “There are a lot of good teams in our conference, so there will be a lot of toug games.”
Now, the Texans look to win on the road in their first games away from Wisdom Gym. The men’s team took a bus to Dallas, a plane to El Paso and are spending the rest of the weekend traveling by bus. After playing junior college ball as a freshman and Division I as a sophomore, Camidge is used to such arrangements and having to be flexible on the road.
“Going on the road it can be tough, but only if you make it tough on yourself. I think it’s mostly mental thing,” Camidge said. “You just have to be extra sure to play hard and play your game, don’t get forced into playing somebody else’s game.”
Camidge say his only real goal at Tarleton is to win a championship, as in the only championship the Texans haven’t earned in their 29 years at Tarleton.
“Looking at the history here, you see Tarleton has won lots of championships in the conference and regional championships, but I want national championships,” he said. “We have the talent to do that, so why not?”