Any coach that takes a new job knows the main task is to build a new team. But sometimes, on rare occasions, you can bring your own.

When Kyle Tolin took the head coaching job at UTPB in the summer of 2021 after a successful stint in the same position at Arkansas-Monticello, it came as a surprise to his players.

“It was just shocking because we were already at Monticello for the summer getting prepared for the next year,” graduate student guard Dujuan Jones said. “So it was just shocking.”

Tolin wanted to bring as many of “his guys” as he could to Odessa, thinking realistically he could bring his assistant coach Kris Johnson and a few of his players. To his own surprise, he was able to bring Johnson and a whopping seven players.

“We wanted guys who wanted to be here and we knew those guys wanted to be with Coach Johnson and I,” Tolin said. “They’ve seen that we’ve been loyal to him and helped them out and bent over backwards to try and make sure they have a good experience and we’re trying to do the same thing here, too.

So in came his players, one after another. Lemmie Howard, Max Warren, Keyon Craddock, Kendall Frey, Miles Daniels, Alvarez Powell and Jones.

Being recruited by Tolin for the second time, Jones found the decision to follow his coach easy. Now on his third college program, Jones credits Tolin for resurrecting his career and his passion.

“I had lost my love for the game,” Jones said, in reference to his time at his first college program, Sam Houston State. “But then Coach Tolin came and recruited me and I felt like he was willing to give me a fair chance and I think he gave me my love for the game back. I’d go to war with him any day.”

A former college basketball player himself, Tolin gives off a “player’s coach” kind of feel.

“He’s very invested in his players’ success both on the court and off the court,” senior guard Miles Daniels said. “I knew, following Coach Tolin, I’d be alright because he always had his players’ best interest.”

Not only did these former Boll Weevils follow Tolin, but they followed each other, because teammates had quickly become brothers.

“The seven of us are a pretty tight-knit group,” senior forward Lemmie Howard said. “I feel like we hang around each other a lot and we have each other’s back. It’s really like a brotherhood.”

“I really do think of these boys as brothers,” junior forward Max Warren said. “If it comes to a time when these guys ever need me, I’ll be there in a heartbeat. I love being around these guys.”

For Tolin, the loyalty of these seven young men is not lost on him.

“These guys are always going to have a special kind of bond forever, guys you talk to and things like that,” Tolin said. “I’m very appreciative of that fact because they could have stayed if they wanted to, or they could have done other things but they didn’t want to and they chose to come here.”

And he hasn’t just built a team. He’s built something bigger with this group.

“They have way more value to me as people, than as players,” Tolin said. These seven guys will always be special to me.”