Ricky Torres, a 6-foot-3 point guard who was a junior-college All-American, will play at Wichita State next season.
It's another major recruiting victory for coach Gregg Marshall and his staff as they beat out in-conference rivals SMU and South Florida to land a point guard who can contribute immediately. Torres, the No. 32-rated junior-college player, is the eighth player in WSU's 2018 recruiting class and the third to sign in the spring period.
Torres, from Pinellas Park, Fla., was second in the country in assists per game, at 8.1, while also holding averages of 17.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals for Missouri State-West Plains this season.
"I know I can go there and be a leader right away," Torres told Ozark Radio. "They have some real good pieces coming back, and I've seen some of the film on guys they have signed. I think we're going to be a lot better than people are expecting Wichita State to be."
Torres will likely compete for the starting point guard job with returning senior Samajae Haynes-Jones, while incoming freshman Jamarius Burton has the ability to play minutes at point guard or on the wing.
"We feel Ricky has the poise, leadership ability and talent to step in from day one as a lead guard," Marshall said in a statement. "He scores at all three levels and has a tremendous feel for the game."
Torres did not play high school basketball, returning to the court two years ago and becoming one of the best junior-college players in the nation by his sophomore season.
It's that type of potential that makes MS-West Plains coach Chris Popp excited about Torres' future.
"He's come a long ways in two short years, and I really feel, as good as he is and all that he's accomplished, he's only going to get better at the next place he goes," Popp told the Eagle.
"He has so much potential. He already is a great player, but he's got a chance to be a special, special player by the time he's done."
The opportunity to play right away paired with Marshall's success was cited by Torres as his reason for choosing the Shockers. Another benefit for WSU was assistant coach Kyle Lindsted's relationship with Popp, who is a Wichita Northwest graduate and started his coaching career as an assistant under Lonnie Lollar at Derby from 2001-04.
Producing NBA guards in Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Landry Shamet also helped WSU's cause.
"My ultimate goal is to be a pro," Torres told Ozark Radio. "I wanted a chance to get on the court right away. Coaching staff was another one. If I didn't have a good vibe with the coaching staff, then I couldn't miss with those schools. And then finally I looked at their resume, how they send people to the professionals. I would look at previous people they've had there and how many end up where I want to go."
Popp describes Torres as a true point guard who can create for others on the court, as he uses his height, vision and playmaking ability to lead a team. Torres set every Missouri State-West Plains single-season and career record for assists in his two years.
"I would never do this, but if I had to sit down and not coach, Ricky could run the game for me and we would still win and be fine," Popp said. "He really is another coach out there on the floor. He wants to get into coaching one day, and I know he's going to be successful. He's just one of those guys that understands the game on another level."
Torres' length also adds to his game at the point guard position.
"We're able to switch with him on ball screens, and it doesn't matter if he ends up on a big," Popp said. "Most of those blocked shots are on the ball, too. He has a great defensive feel. He'll keep that cushion, then go up and challenge the shot.
"Probably the best part about his offensive game is his midrange pull-up. He elevates on it really well and leaves it high, and I think that's going to be a major weapon for him at the next level."
NBA veteran Marreese Speights, whose AAU team Torres played for, tweeted out his congratulations after the signing.
After signing Morris Udeze, Erik Stevenson, Chance Moore, Isaiah Chandler and Jaime Echenique in the fall, WSU has signed Dexter Dennis, Burton and Torres in the spring. WSU still has one scholarship left to offer for next season.
It's been a busy offseason for WSU, which already had plenty of work to do with six graduating seniors. Then top recruit Alex Lomax asked out of his letter of intent, Shamet left for the NBA Draft and signed with an agent, and guards Austin Reaves and C.J. Keyser decided to transfer. Markis McDuffie also entered into the NBA Draft process but did not sign with an agent.
WSU returns just 11 percent of its minutes from the 2017-18 season and will be one of the most inexperienced teams in college basketball next season.