Paul Suellentrop

WSU notes: Finding basketball talent grows more difficult in the spring

Chadrack Lufile was a junior-college transfer who didn’t play much his first season at Wichita State, but was a regular contributor during the unbeaten regular season in 2013-14.
Chadrack Lufile was a junior-college transfer who didn’t play much his first season at Wichita State, but was a regular contributor during the unbeaten regular season in 2013-14. The Wichita Eagle

A year ago, we fixated on recruiting updates for Willie Atwood and Jordan Goodman, junior-college players who appeared to fill Wichita State’s need for a big man to complete the 2014-15 roster.

Neither signed with WSU. WSU signed Tevin Glass in April 2014.

A year later, those three serve as examples of the dangers of the spring signing season. It began Wednesday and continues until May 20. It is college basketball’s version of panic shopping, when good players are scarce and needs seem great. Priorities change quickly as coaches are fired and hired and players transfer.

“The large majority of kids sign in the early (fall) signing period,” said Eric Bossi, Rivals.com national recruiting analyst. “So you’ve got all these schools going for a much smaller pool of players. It becomes tough to find a guy who is ideally really what you’re looking for.”

Atwood averaged 11.6 minutes, averaging 3 points and making 34.2 percent of his shots. Goodman averaged 13.4 minutes and 6.3 points in 19 games before an injury ended his season. While the Shockers hit big on forward Darius Carter in the spring of 2013, Glass played little and is transferring after one season at WSU.

The Shockers are in great shape for 2015-16 with an experienced backcourt and four returning big men who could step into larger roles. It appears they could make themselves even stronger with another big man to replace some of Carter’s production. Coaches will look at juco prospects and 6-foot-9 forward Cullen Russo, from New Mexico Junior College, was scheduled to visit this weekend. Graduate transfers — players who can transfer from another NCAA Division I school with immediate eligibility — are another possibility and their availability often seems to stretch into the summer.

Russo will also visit Minnesota and Fresno State, according to Brad Winton of jucorecruiting.com.

“He’s a big-time talent,” said Cameron Belden of Mullen Sports recruiting service. “He looks like a million dollars. He’s skilled enough he can play on the perimeter. Very athletic.”

Belden, who specializes in junior colleges, said there are maybe three or four big men remaining who could significantly help a high-level program and most of them are power forwards, not centers.

“It gets really thin at this point,” he said. “It used to be you could find some really good junior-college players late. That trend is changing.”

The scarcity of legit players often means athletes are over-valued.

Belden said he’s had several recent conversations with assistant coaches who identified and recruited an athlete who fits their team and conference, only to see a more prominent school steal him away. This is this time of year a school such as Southern Illinois or Missouri State can see months of work undone when a lower-level SEC or Big 12 school swoops in. It is especially prominent when a Power 5 school is desperate for bodies or undergoes a coaching change. The reaching for prospects trickles down to all levels.

“I wish kids would pay more attention to ‘This guy has wanted me all year,’” Belden said. “Kids get enamored with going to this high level or that high level.”

Bossi has the same conversations with frustrated coaches. He would advise athletes to carefully consider their skills and sign where they best fit for playing time. Signing with a school at the correct level may save an athlete the headache of transferring.

“They’ll need a warm body at a high major,” he said. “Some of these kids can’t resist the allure of a high-major program. Often, there’s a reason a player is primarily being recruited at one level.”

Whether or not Wichita State ends up with Russo or another big man, it’s worth remembering Chadrack Lufile, a transfer who signed in April 2012. He played little during the 2012-13 season before making significant strides and starting 11 games in 2013-14. While new recruits are exciting and full of promise, the development of WSU’s returning big men is just as important and may ultimately produce more for next season.

Custer goes Chicago — Former Iowa State guard Clay Custer committed to Loyola on his visit Saturday, he announced on Twitter.

Custer, according to Bossi, planned to visit Creighton, Missouri and Wichita State.

Custer, a 6-foot guard from Blue Valley Northwest, played in 12 games for Iowa State and averaged 1.1 points as a freshman. Rivals.com ranked him No. 92 nationally as a senior in high school and he earned Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year honors.

He will sit out next season and have three to play for the Ramblers, where he rejoins high school teammate Ben Richardson.

Shockers in second — WSU’s women’s golf team is picked second in the MVC Championhips that begins Sunday at Spirit Hollow Golf Course in Burlington, Iowa.

WSU, the defending champion, received one first-place vote and 89 points from coaches. Missouri State is the favorite after getting nine votes and 98 points. Ten of the past 12 favorites won the tournament, including WSU last season.

Worth noting — WSU men’s tennis player Jocelyn Devilliers was named to the MVC Scholar-Athlete team … Former WSU basketball assistant coach Steve Forbes hired Brooks Savage and Jason Shay as assistants at East Tennessee State. Forbes coached with both at Tennessee and Northwest Florida State College … Southern Illinois basketball coach Barry Hinson started rebuilding his roster by signing Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College guard Mike Rodriguez and forward Rudolfs Stradnieks of Lee Academy in Maine. Rodriguez averaged 22.5 points and 6.1 assists. SIU lost five players to transfer after the season, including forward Jordan Caroline. Missouri State signed guards Dequon Miller from Motlow (Tenn.) College and Kevin Baker from Pensacola (Fla.) State College. Miller averaged 19 points and 9 assists. Indiana State signed guard Everett Clemons from Vincennes (Ind.) University and forward Niels Bunschoten from Howard (Texas) College. Clemons earned third-team NJCAA All-American honors after averaging 9.4 points and 6.2 assists.

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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