With three recruits having already made their verbal pledges, Tulsa head coach Frank Haith and his staff are off to a solid start when it comes to accounting for some key departures in 2016. Wednesday the Golden Hurricane landed their fourth commitment in the Class of 2016, as 6-foot-9 power forward Martins Igbanu announced that he’ll be joining the American Athletic Conference program.
Igbanu attends Covenant Christian Ministries Academy in Georgia, and he played his grassroots basketball for the Southern Stampede program. In Nike EYBL play this spring Igbanu averaged 10.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest, shooting nearly 59 percent from the field.
Igbanu joins guards Lawson Korita, Corey Henderson and Jabar Ray in Tulsa’s 2016 recruiting class to date, with Henderson and Ray being junior college products.
While Tulsa’s biggest losses after the 2015-16 season from a production standpoint will come on the perimeter (James Woodard, Shaquille Harrison and Rashad Ray), they also have some front court departures to account for. Rashad Smith, who was third on the team in scoring as a junior, will also be a senior this upcoming season and the same can be said for fellow front court contributors D’Andre Wright and Brandon Swannegan.
Adding Igbanu will help Tulsa as they look to account for those eventual losses. Of the front court players on the roster with eligibility remaining beyond 2015-16 current junior T.K. Edogi was the most productive last season (1.4 ppg), with Pat Birt joining the team this season and Rutgers transfer Junior Etou becoming eligible after he sits out the upcoming season.
Corey Henderson Jr. didn’t find the right fit the first time around in the recruiting process, as the sophomore opted to leave Wichita State this spring after spending his freshman season there. Now at Blinn College for a season, the 6-foot-2 native of Dallas opted to commit to Tulsa on Saturday, a source confirmed with NBCSports.com. He’ll join the program for the 2016-17 season and have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
During his freshman season with the Shockers, Henderson averaged 6.8 minutes per game and scored 1.9 points per contest. He fell out of the rotation late in the season and Henderson didn’t play in the final two regular season games for Wichita State.
A noted shooter out of high school, Henderson struggled to find his shot last season, hitting 29 percent of his shots from the field and 31 percent of his 3-point attempts.
With four of their front court players due to be seniors next season, Tulsa is in need of some additional depth in that area. Saturday afternoon head coach Frank Haith picked up a front court commitment in Junior Etou, who will transfer to the American Athletic Conference program after playing two years at Rutgers.
Etou will have to sit out next season per NCAA transfer rules, but given Tulsa’s options that isn’t an issue. Following that he’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining, and he’ll slide into a front court rotation that loses Rashad Smith, Marquel Curtis, Brandon Swannegan and D’Andre Wright at the end of the 2015-16 season.
The 6-foot-7 Etou started all 31 games in which he played last season, averaging 7.4 points and 6.6 rebounds in 29.6 minutes of action per game. In two seasons at Rutgers Etou, who finished up his prep career at Bishop O’Connell in Virginia, averaged 6.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
In addition to Etou the Golden Hurricane, who won 23 games a season ago, add junior college wing Pat Birt and freshman guard Sterling Taplin next season. Tulsa will have an experienced group that will be led by rising senior guards James Woodard and Shaquille Harrison, and that experience should help Etou during his year in residency as he prepares to be a factor in 2016-17.