Catching up with the early signings for the University at Buffalo and St. Bonaventure basketball programs.
UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO
UB moved to replace do-it-all wing Blake Hamilton and perimeter scorer Willie Conner.
Said UB coach Nate Oats: “We have four seniors this year and we are a little thin in the guard spot, so our biggest thoughts were that we really needed to replace some of those guys like Blake and Willie at the wings. In this class we got a guard that can do just about everything, we got an elite shooter who is also an elite athlete, and then we got a guy who can play multiple positons whether it be at the wing or in the front court. Overall, I am ecstatic about this class and I think Coach (Bryan) Hodgson has done an unbelieve job with the recruiting. And we have set ourselves up for this program to continue to be very successful in the future."
A capsule look at its signings:
Jeremy Harris, 6-7 forward, Greensboro, N.C.: Coming out of high school, Harris was rated the No. 8 player out of North Carolina and at one time committed to Coastal Carolina. He spent a year at Fishburne Military prep school and now is in his second year at Gulf Coast (Fla.) State College. He will have two years of eligibility remaining. He’s a long, versatile wing who can fill the key role Hamilton plays. He averaged 13.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season. “He was one of the best available wings in JUCO,” said Brad Winton of JUCORecruiting.com. Texas Tech also was pursuing him, according to several recruiting websites.
“We knew one of our big needs for next year was to replace Blake and we saw Jeremy as that guy,” said Oats. “He is a long, athletic, skilled player that can play multiple positions and I think he can play the two, three, or four in this league. He shoots it well and he really understands how to play the game. When I saw him over the summer, I really loved the way he passed it for such a big-time scorer, and most importantly, I think he fits our style of play really well because he likes to get up and down the floor.”
Jayvon Graves, 6-3 point guard, Akron, Ohio: Graves attends LeBron James’ alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary. He picked UB over Toledo and Fordham. He also held offers from Ohio, Kent State, Tennessee-Martin and Northern Kentucky. Graves helped STVM to a 26-4 record last season, which ended with a loss to New Concord John Glenn in the Division II state championship. Graves was named second-team All-Ohio by the Associated Press. OHHoops.org lists Graves as the best point guard in Ohio and the seventh best player overall in the state. UB assistant Lindsey Hunter, the long-time NBA veteran, visited Graves just before he made his decision.
“Jayvon fits our style of play perfectly,” said Oats. “He is a versatile guard that can play multiple positions. He is athletic, he can score it really well, but also handles it and passes really well too so I see him playing some point guard and some two guard and I think he can be a contributor right out of the gate when he gets here.”
James Reese, 6-4 guard, Columbia, S.C.: Reese led his team, A.C. Flora, to the 3A state championship last season. Among other offers he held over the summer were: Winthrop, James Madison, South Carolina State and North Carolina A&T. Big Shots South Carolina has Reese listed as the eighth best player in the state.
“James is an elite shooter and a great athlete and we needed to get some shooting in this class,” said Oats. “I love the way he works and he is a gym rat. I think he is going to add value to this team right away as a shooter and his athleticism is off the charts so I think he can also be an elite-level defender.”
Bona’s big loss after this year will be senior wing Denzel Gregg. Bona coach Mark Schmidt found his prospective replacement, plus another big man, always critical in the rugged Atlantic 10 Conference. The roundup:
Tshiefu Ngalakulondi, 6-6 forward, Manchester, N.H.: He’s a native of the Congo who was raised in New Hampshire. He’s rated the 21st player in New England by New England Recruiting Report. Last season he averaged 17 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists for a 17-3 Proctor Academy team. He was Class AA all-New England. He picked Bona over Duquesne. He also held offers from George Mason, Iona, Hofstra, Drexel and LaSalle, according to 24/7 Sports.
Said Schmidt: “Tshiefu is an explosive athlete, one of the better athletes in the New England prep schools, which is a really good league. He's an attacker. Denzel Gregg is a good player to compare him to. As his skill level and his jump shot get better, he'll flourish. He comes from a great family and has had very good coaches . . . just a high character kid. We're really, really happy he's decided to join our program.”
Ndene Gueye, 6-10 center, Kilgore Junior College: Gueye is a native of Senegal who came to the United States through that country’s Sports for Education and Economic Development Academy, the same program that produced former Bona players Youssou Ndoye. He averaged 7.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in 23 minutes last season for Kilgore, located two hours east of Dallas. Prior to attending Kilgore, he graduated from Redemption Christian Academy in Troy. Washington State was another school that had interest.
Said Schmidt: “Ndene is explosive … a shot-blocker and a good rebounder who uses his length and his hands to his advantage. Offensively, he can shoot it to 15, 16 feet. He is a serious, ultra-competitive kid who also has an engaging personality. He reminds me of Youssou in that way - how serious he is about basketball and his studies. We had the connection with Ndene through the SEED program and Kilgore, and Ndene knows how we've developed big men here like Youssou. So those were big factors in his choosing to come here. He has a really high ceiling, and we're thrilled he's chosen to come to St. Bonaventure.”