junior colleges

Chris Mullin
Associated Press

St. John’s lands highly regarded JUCO forward Ahmed

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On the day after Christmas the St. John’s basketball program received some very good news on the recruiting front, as one of the top junior college prospects in the nation made his pledge to Chris Mullin’s program.

6-foot-7 small forward Bashir Ahmed, a native of the Bronx who’s currently a sophomore at Hutchinson CC in Kansas, verbally committed to St. John’s Saturday morning. News of his commitment was first reported by the New York Post, and for quite some time the Red Storm were viewed as the favorites to land Ahmed. In addition to St. John’s, Ahmed also took official visits to Cincinnati and Texas.

One of the keys to his recruitment was the presence of assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih, who began recruiting Ahmed while on Fred Hoiberg’s staff at Iowa State. That relationship carried over after Abdelmassih made the move to Queens, and in the end the St. John’s program has a second highly regarded commitment with guard Shamorie Ponds being the first.

Ahmed’s currently averaging 19.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game at Hutchinson, and he fills a position of need for St. John’s. Both Durand Johnson and Ron Mvuoika are graduate students playing their final season of eligibility, opening the door for Ahmed to play a lot of minutes in 2016-17. The Red Storm are also still in the running for prospects such as five-star guard Rawle Alkins and 6-foot-8 small forward Richard Freudenberg.

Guard Cortez Mitchell holds firm with Charleston Southern commitment

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The recruitment process, while it can be fun for prospects, also requires that they do their due diligence before making a decision. Also key in the process is understanding one’s potential role at a new school, with some looking to make the player a focal point while others may simply be looking for a stopgap after falling short in their pursuit of other players.

For 6-foot-3 Pearl River CC guard Cortez Mitchell, the recruiting process meant weighing the school that had expressed major interest all along against some higher profile programs that made their pushes late. Ultimately Mitchell decided to stick with the program that was there from the start, as he signed with Charleston Southern Friday afternoon.

“When I went on my visit there it was like I was part of the family,” Mitchell told NBCSports.com.

Something else that stuck out to Mitchell was that he felt he was a priority for Charleston Southern from the start, and that had an impact on his decision to not only commit there but eschew any advances from high profile programs before making things official on Friday.

Among those who looked to work their way into the mix late were Missouri and Louisiana Tech.

As a freshman at Pearl River, Mitchell averaged 14.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Mitchell, who attended Callaway HS in Jackson, Mississippi, can fill multiple roles on the perimeter due to his ability to both score and distribute the basketball. And given his production thus far, the expectation is that Mitchell will arrive on campus ready to help head coach Barclay Radebaugh keep the Buccaneers in the discussion amongst the top teams in the Big South.

Wichita State lands highly regarded JUCO forward Darrlyn Willis

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Wichita State landed an important commitment Friday afternoon, as one of the top junior college forwards in the country announced that he’ll play his college basketball for Gregg Marshall.

6-foot-9 power forward Darryln Willis, who attends Pearl River CC in Mississippi, has signed with Wichita State. Willis, who’s from Madison, Wisconsin, picked the Shockers over Arizona State with Marquette and Mississippi State also hosting him on official visits. Oklahoma State, Alabama and LSU were also involved in Willis’ recruitment.

Willis, who’s averaging 16.0 points and 9.7 rebounds at this early point in the season, accounted for 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game as a freshman. Willis shot nearly 63 percent from the field as a freshman at Pearl River, and his ability to score in the post area is an asset that will help Wichita State upon his arrival on campus.

With the Shockers losing two front court players at the end of this season in Anton Grady and Bush Wakumota, the addition of Willis is an important one for the program. Willis has the skill needed to have an immediate impact, and in his conversations with the Wichita State coaching staff that’s the expectation for him upon his arrival.

“They pretty much told me that I was a missing piece to the puzzle, and they think that I can be an instant impact player,” Willis, who took in a couple practices while on his visit, told NBCSports.com.

While Willis won’t have the opportunity to play with Wichita State’s current senior class, one that has been incredibly successful, he will get to play with some young talented players who do have eligibility remaining beyond the 2015-16 campaign.

Among those who will be asked to pick up where that successful senior class leaves off are transfers Conner Frankamp (eligible in December) and Peyton Allen, and Wichita State also has a talented freshman class that includes Landry Shamet and Markis McDuffie.

In the front court, Willis will join sophomores Shaq Morris, Rashard Kelly and Rauno Nurger next season.

Arkansas lands four-star junior college forward Arlando Cook

Mike Anderson
Associated Press
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One week after announcing that he’d de-committed from Nevada, one of the top junior college prospects in the Class of 2016 has decided to play his college basketball in the SEC.

6-foot-9 power forward Arlando Cook, currently a sophomore at Connors State College in Oklahoma, announced via Twitter Thursday afternoon that he will sign with Arkansas when the early signing period begins later this month. Cook averaged 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game as a freshman, and his commitment is an important one for a program that currently lack front court depth.

Cook joins fellow forward Adrio Bailey in Arkansas’ 2016 recruiting class to date. The Razorbacks took a hit to their front court options during the summer as it was announced that Ted Kapita was not cleared to join the program. Originally expected to attend prep school and join Arkansas in 2016, Kapita wound up signing on with the ill-fated AmeriLeague whose CEO was none other than convicted con man Glendon Alexander (he went by the name of Cerruti Brown in this endeavor).

That took Kapita out of the equation, and with Kennesaw State transfer Willy Kouassi being in his final season of eligibility Mike Anderson and his staff had some significant holes to address in their front court rotation. Current juniors Moses Kingsley and Dustin Thomas (Colorado transfer; sitting out this season) will be available in 2016-17 as will redshirt freshman Trey Thompson.

But Arkansas needed another option, especially one who can hit the ground running and be a key contributor immediately. Cook’s verbal pledge takes care of this issue.

Lee College tandem verbally commits to LSU

Johnny Jones
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With two seniors in their perimeter rotation and a freshman forward in Ben Simmons who’s projected to be a high draft pick next June, LSU has some departures to account for on the recruiting trail. Wednesday afternoon head coach Johnny Jones received verbal commitments from two junior college players who are currently teammates.

The Lee College (Texas) tandem of 6-foot-4 Branden Jenkins and 6-foot-10 power forward Duop Reath made their pledges to attend LSU, as first reported by Brad Winton of JucoRecruiting.com.

Both will be signing during the early signing period, which begins November 16. LSU is now up to four verbal commitments in the 2016 class, with point guard Skylar Mays and wing Wayde Sims being the others.

Both Jenkins and Reath were on the receiving end of recruiting interest from multiple high-major programs. In regards to Reath, the Tigers have a player who’s regarded as one of the top players at the junior college level according to Winton.

Reath is arguably the top forward in the 2016 JC class and is extremely skilled for his size. He has the ability to score with his back to the basket in the low post and can also score from the perimeter. He has a smooth stroke with range that extends beyond the three-point line. He can also attack the basket off the dribble against bigger/slower forwards. The 6’10 forward has improved quickly since last season and has a very high ceiling.

LSU is certain to lose guards Josh Gray and Keith Hornsby at the end of the upcoming season, and it’s expected that Simmons won’t be in Baton Rouge all that long himself. These additions should help the Tigers account for those anticipated losses, as they have two players with the skill needed to have an immediate impact at the Division I level.

Former Westchester CC coach charged for role in transcript scandal

Westchester Community College
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Last fall the Westchester (New York) Community College athletic department was rocked by a transcript scandal, as it was discovered that the transcripts of multiple former men’s basketball players had been altered to ensure that they would be eligible at a four-year institution. Seven schools, including Quinnipiac and St. John’s, received transcripts from the school, and the scandal resulted in multiple players being declared ineligible for competition.

Thursday morning the next step in the investigation took place, with former Westchester CC head coach Ty Mushatt being arrested and charged with nine counts of of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument according to The Journal News. Those are felony charges, and Mushatt faces up to seven years on each count if he’s convicted.

The arrest comes one year after the transcript fraud scandal was uncovered by The Journal News and prompted WCC to cancel its men’s basketball season. The newspaper’s reports sparked an investigation by the National Junior College Athletic Association into eligibility violations at the Valhalla school.

Among those impacted by the transcript scandal was forward Keith Thomas, who was expected to join the St. John’s program last season. As a result of the forged transcripts Thomas wasn’t allowed to join the program or enroll at St. John’s, leaving the Red Storm a man short in its front court rotation. Earlier this month Thomas sued Westchester CC over the scandal and its impact on his career.

Quinnipiac (Gio McLean) lost one player as a result of the scandal, with Florida A&M losing two (Damien Davis and Jamell Walker).