Billy Kennedy

By Adam Quisenberry

A conversation with the head coach of the Texas A&M men’s basketball program

How unique is the relationship between the 12th Man Foundation and Texas A&M Athletics, specifically the men’s basketball program?

The cool thing is the donors get to know you and your team on a personal level. We’ve been fortunate that some of our donors have had the opportunity to travel with us. Some of them even on our European trips, so you really get to know them, not just as supporters, but as friends. We’ve built strong relationships with people who know we’re trying to do things the right way by investing in our players and the future of our program.

Prior to returning as head coach, you spent a year as an assistant coach at A&M in the early 90s. How different is the support around the program in terms of facilities and resources now compared to that time?

The involvement of the 12th Man Foundation is one of the biggest differences. They truly care about basketball and want us to be successful. Not only basketball, they care about excellence in everything. That’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed from when I was here in the past. The traditions were here, but the active support we’re getting now we didn’t always have. A&M has the attitude that we want to be the best in everything we do.

Last September, Texas A&M unveiled the Shannon ’86 & Wayne ’85 Roberts Basketball Student-Athlete Center. How has that project benefited the current student-athletes?

One of the biggest impacts is we’ve been able to show recruits that impressive facility. Recruiting is going really well. People saw that we won a championship a couple years ago and asked what we can do to improve our program. The thing we asked for was to update our locker room with a modern nutrition center, a state-of-the-art video room, great team spaces and new branding of our program. We were fortunate to make it happen with Wayne and Shannon really stepping up for us. What they invested and the impact they’ve made in our program will last a long time. It makes a huge difference, not only in recruiting, but in getting our players to want to be at the facility because it has personality, food and comfort, so they feel at home.

Is there a wow factor when you show recruits the facility?

Yeah, there’s no question. When you see it from the outside and you walk in, you can see that everything is done first-class down to the details of the graphics on the walls and the seats in the video room. Kids can see that we have the best of the best and it’s really something special to be a part of this program.

Through this process have you gotten to know Shannon and Wayne Roberts? What is your relationship with them like?

We have a really good relationship. They’ve been able to come on some trips with us and I’m able to visit with them from time to time. It’s bigger than basketball. I have a fondness for them, who they are and what they’ve done for our program. More than anything, they’re just great people.

How does a scholarship to Texas A&M change a young person’s life?

Most of our guys have opportunities at many places, but the thing that makes this a special place is they come here and see that it’s a lifetime commitment when you become an Aggie. It’s something that is unlike anywhere else in the country with the relationships they’re able to make during their time here.

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