junior colleges

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Hutchinson CC forward Pinder commits to Arizona

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After a relatively quiet fall recruiting period, Arizona’s managed to reel in a host of highly regarded recruits this spring. Sunday, Sean Miller and his staff landed another commitment, as Hutchinson CC forward Keanu Pinder committed to the Pac-12 program. Pinder, a native of Australia who previously made commitments to Nebraska and New Mexico, visited Arizona recently and also took a trip to NC State this spring.

The 6-foot-8 Pinder averaged 10.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game at Hutchinson this season, and he was one of four double-digit scorers on a team that won 32 games and reached the title game of the NJCAA Division I tournament.

Pinder is the seventh newcomer in Arizona’s 2016 class, with UNC Asheville transfer Dylan Smith being the lone addition who will not be available to play next season. On the perimeter the Wildcats reloaded with Kobi Simmons, Rawle Alkins, Terrance Ferguson and Talbott Denny, with Denny being immediately eligible after transferring in from Lipscomb.

And in the front court Pinder joins power forward Lauri Markkanen, with redshirt freshman Ray Smith ready to go after sitting out all of last season with a torn ACL. Pinder and Markannen are important in that they provide needed skill and depth to a front court that returns Smith, Dusan Ristic and Chance Commanche from last season’s team.

News of Pinder’s commitment was first reported by JucoRecruiting.com.

One-time Syracuse commit Diagne loses junior college eligibility

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With the NCAA making changes to its rules regarding athletes entering the NBA Draft, there’s now more time to gather the accurate information needed to make a decision. NCAA players have up until ten days after the conclusion of the NBA Draft Scouting Combine (May 25 this year) to withdraw and thus maintain their college eligibility. However there’s no such rule at the junior college level, and that distinction has cost a former Syracuse commit his eligibility at that level.

According to Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard, Northwest Florida State forward Moustapha Diagne can no longer compete at that level as a result of his decision to enter the NBA Draft earlier this spring.

There’s no such thing as “testing the waters” at the junior college level; once you’re in the Draft pool that’s it when it comes to playing at that level. As a result Diagne has three choices: pay his own way at a junior college next year, do so at a Division I institution or attend a Division II school. Of those three, the only way Diagne would be able to play college basketball next season would be if he were to go the Division II route.

Does Diagne look to remain at the college level, or does he keep his name in the Draft and instead look to catch on with an NBA D-League or overseas team? That remains to be seen, and the road to a pro career at this time will be tough for a player who wasn’t invited to this week’s Combine in Chicago.

For a player who at the time of his signing with Syracuse was expected to compete for minutes, Diagne’s road to college basketball hasn’t been particularly smooth since he graduated from Pope John XXIII High School in New Jersey.

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

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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.