Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

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Western Kentucky gets five-star commitment

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Rick Stansbury’s long been known for his ability to recruit talent of the highest level. On Wednesday, he showed he doesn’t need to be at the sport’s highest level to do it.

Mitchell Robinson, a consensus top-20 recruit in the 2017 class, committed to Stansbury and Western Kentucky, giving the Hilltoppers a monster recruit for Conference USA, according to multiple reports.

The 7-footer from Louisiana was previously committed to Texas A&M, where Stansbury worked as an assistant under Billy Kennedy, but de-committed a month after Stansbury left for Bowling Green, Ky.

It’s hard to overstate the immensity of this recruiting coup for Stansbury as he begins his second stint as a head coach after spending 14 years at the helm of Mississippi State. A prospect of Robinson’s caliber attending a non-traditional power or a program outside the Power 5 just almost never happens. Emmanuel Mudiay signed with SMU in 2014, but eventually wound up overseas after eligibility issues. The Mustangs also got Keith Frazier, but he played only a semester for them and was at the center of an NCAA investigation that ultimately ended with significant sanctions. Danuel House (Houston), Winston Shephard (San Diego State) and Adjehi Baru (Charleston) are the only other top-30 recruits in the past five years to sign and play for a school of that ilk. It’s quite the accomplishment for Stansbury and Co.

The key, of course, will be for Stansbury will be to keep Robinson in the fold and then surround him with solid – if not necessarily blue chip – players. And the knock against Stansbury in Starkville was his lack of big-time success with big-time talent. With Robinson, he’ll have the opportunity to change that perception.

Jacksonville State hires Harper

Ray Harper
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Ray Harper has been hired as the newest coach of Jacksonville State, the school announced Wednesday evening.

After a four-and-half-year stint at Western Kentucky, Harper resigned last month with two NCAA tournaments and a record of 89-64 on his resume. The Hilltoppers went 18-16 overall and 8-10 in Conference USA last season.

“We are thrilled to have Ray Harper take over our men’s basketball program,” Gamecocks athletic director Greg Seitz said in a statement released by the school.
“He is a winner and has proven that at every stop he has made in his coaching career. We feel fortunate to be able to land a coach with his credentials at Jacksonville State.”

Jacksonville State is betting on Harper’s long list of achievements, which includes two NAIA national championships as a head coach, after the school and former coach James Green “mutually agreed to part ways” last month.

Harper has shown the ability to bend his style to the team he has, but traditionally has sported teams that are strong on both ends of the floor.
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Harper said in a statement. “We are going to work extremely hard and we are going to be about winning championships. We know it’s going to be a lot of work, but we are ready to get started.”

The Gamecocks, who finished the year with eight-straight losses, return leading scorer Malcom Drumwright, who missed the last part of the season with a shoulder injury, as well as most of the rest of last year’s core contributors.

European shooting guard not joining Western Kentucky program

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With four of their top five scorers from last season’s 20-win team having moved on, Western Kentucky enters in the 2015-16 season in need of options to step up alongside junior guard Chris Harrison-Docks. One possibility on the perimeter was guard Kristaps Gluditis, a native of the Czech Republic whose perimeter shooting ability was praised by head coach Ray Harper earlier this summer.

Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, Gluditis will not be with the team this season according to the Bowling Green Daily News. The reason is that Gluditis, who is eligible to compete by NCAA standards, did not meet the school’s academic standards for international students. In regards to college basketball Gluditis has three options at this point according to the report: retake the exam in hopes of joining the team midyear, enroll at a junior college or enroll at another four-year school since he’s cleared by the NCAA.

Without Gluditis additions such as grad student Aaron Cosby, junior college transfer Fredrick Edmond and freshmen Chris McNeal and Marlon Hunter Jr. have an even greater opportunity to earn minutes than they did when it was assumed that Giuditis would be joining the WKU program. Each of those players will need to step forward to relieve some of the pressure due to be heaped upon Harrison-Docks.

Harrison-Docks, who led the Hilltoppers in minutes per game (33.6 mpg) and started 30 of the team’s 32 games, averaged 11.1 points per contest in 2014-15. After Harrison-Docks WKU’s most productive returnee is junior forward Ben Lawson, who averaged 3.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.

Former Tennessee forward transferring to Western Kentucky

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Another of the players who transferred from Tennessee in the aftermath of a coaching change from Donnie Tyndall to Rick Barnes has found a new school to call home.

Willie Carmichael III, who started 19 games as a freshman, announced on social media that he’s decided to transfer to Western Kentucky. Carmichael averaged 3.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman, and his best game of the 2014-15 season came in a late November win over Texas Southern.

Carmichael accounted for ten points and seven rebounds in that game, the lone contest in which he managed to score in double figures. Both numbers represented season highs for Carmichael, who also blocked two shots in the victory. After sitting out the 2015-16 season Carmichael will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Carmichael joins a front court that will lose just one player at the end of the 2015-16 season in rising senior Aleksejs Rostov. Among the front court players who will have eligibility remaining when Carmichael’s able to suit up are rising junior Ben Lawson, junior college transfers Anton Waters and Phabian Glasco, sophomore Justin Johnson and freshman Nathan Smith.

Carmichael’s the second Division I transfer to join Ray Harper’s program this spring, with Aaron Cosby making the move from Illinois. As a graduate student Cosby, who began his career at Seton Hall, will be eligible to play immediately.

h/t Bowling Green Daily News

Former Western Kentucky forward will play college football next season

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: George Fant #44 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers celebrates after a basket over Javon Baumann #34 of the Saint Joseph's Hawks in the second half at Madison Square Garden on November 27, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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George Fant exhausted his college basketball eligibility at Western Kentucky after a very productive four-year career that included all-conference honors in his final three seasons. Now the 6-foot-6, 250-pound forward will attempt to transition to football, as basketball coach Ray Harper told the Bowling Green Daily News that Fant will try his hand on the gridiron for the Hilltoppers.

“You will still have the opportunity to see him on the Hill as he’s going to play football next year,” Harper said in the report. “We are desperately going to miss big George.”

Fant averaged 13.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game during his senior season at Western Kentucky and he was a second-team All-Conference USA selection. He hasn’t played organized football since the eighth grade but he’ll get one season of college football eligibility after exhausting four in another sport.

Tight end will be the likely position for Fant on the gridiron and that’s often the position that basketball players transition to if they try their hand at football.

 

Former Seton Hall, Illinois guard to finish career at Western Kentucky

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Having lost two productive perimeter players at the end of the season in T.J. Price and Trency Jackson, Western Kentucky head coach Ray Harper added some depth to his backcourt Thursday afternoon. Aaron Cosby, who’s had stops at Seton Hall and Illinois, will join the program for his final season of eligibility according to Zach Greenwell of the Bowling Green Daily News.

Provided he go through with plans to complete his studies at Illinois Cosby will be eligible immediately for the Hilltoppers, who finished the 2014-15 season with a 20-12 record. In a conversation with Greenwell, Cosby cited his familiarity with Harper and the WKU program as reasons for his decision.

“Ultimately, the opportunity to go back home and play for guys that have known me since my freshman year of high school was big,” Cosby said. “They know my game. They saw me play AAU, prep school, high school. That was important.”

Expected to be part of the Illinois backcourt rotation after playing two seasons at Seton Hall, Cosby played in 19 games (starting 13) before being suspended indefinitely in late January for a violation of team rules. In February, head coach John Groce announced that Cosby would be leaving the program at the end of the season.

Cosby averaged 7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game for the Fighting Illini but he didn’t shoot particularly well in doing so, making 29.3 percent of his shots from the field and 31.1 percent from beyond the arc. Cosby shot much better during his time at Seton Hall, shooting 37.7 percent from three as a freshman and 40 percent as a sophomore before deciding to transfer.

Provided he get back to the numbers he posted in his first college stop, Cosby can be a solid addition for the Hilltoppers alongside Chris Harrison-Docks, who averaged 11.1 points per game in 2014-15. Harrison-Docks, who began his career at Butler, is WKU’s leading returning scorer with forward George Fant joining Price and Jackson as players who have run out of eligibility.

In addition to Cosby, WKU will add junior college transfer Fredrick Edmond and freshmen Chris McNeal and Marlon Hunter Jr. to the perimeter this summer.