The Recruiting Pipeline

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When Zach Spiker took the helm of the Drexel Dragons’ Men’s Basketball program on March 25, 2016, there was both excitement and apprehension about the hiring.  He did not make this site’s article that included 21 potential head coaching targets for the program.  He was not from Philadelphia, and did not seem to have Philadelphia connections.  And then there was recruiting.

Recruiting is different at the military academies.  Guys have to be of a special breed to take on the challenges that come along with that scholarship.  Selling points for a program like Army are different than the selling points of virtually every other program in college basketball.  Add to that Spiker’s hire date: March 25th.  The program had just two graduating scholarshipped seniors: Tavon Allen and Kazembe Abif.  Departing coach Bruiser Flint had already filled those positions with Sam Green and Jeremy Peck.

It appeared that Spiker had his team for the season, but then things started to open up.  Sammy Mojica was the first to announce his intent to transfer on April 6th, which he later rescinded.  Terrell Allen left the program on May 8th bound for UCF in a move that was not unexpected.  Ahmad Fields would make the disappointing announcement that his college basketball career had ended.  And thus, the door was opened for Spiker and his crew to start recruiting.  Today we will take a look at his four recruiting classes and the impact that they have had so far.

 

2016
Kurk Lee PG
Kari Jonsson SG
Troy Harper SG (Transfer, redshirt)
Tramaine Isabell SG (Transfer, redshirt)
John Moran (grad transfer, non-scholarship)

 

Spiker’s 2016 class consisted of an undersized, unrecruited point guard, a talented international player who was overlooked by everybody, a transfer presumably handed to him by a short lived assistant coach, and a talented shooting guard who appeared to have his fair share of troubles in his career before Drexel.

Of the four who were recruited in Spiker’s first dive into the fray, only two remain.  Kurk Lee’s freshman and sophomore campaigns were excellent.  What Lee lacked in size, he made up in ability and heart.  He started nearly every game in his first two years with the Dragons.  Although he has spent most of this season injured, Lee still has time to pen his Drexel story.

NCAA rules required Harper to sit out the 2016-17 campaign.  In his two years playing at Drexel, fans have gotten to see many sides of Harper.  He’s been a leader and he’s been a follower.  He has changed games on both ends of the court, his most memorable image coming with a snarled lip on a defensive stand during the team’s legendary comeback against Delaware.  Like Lee, Harper has been a fantastic pickup for Drexel.

John Moran was eligible to play immediately.  He found that out shortly before the team’s opening game against the Monmouth Hawks.  Coming in as a grad transfer from Richmond, and essentially being a walk-on, there was not much expected from Moran.  He outplayed his price, averaging 13 minutes per game in 31 contests and scoring nearly 3 points per game, despite not making a 2-point field over the court of the season.

Kari Jonsson’s departure shortly before the start of the 2017-18 season was a huge blow for the Dragons.  Jonsson had promise and showed fantastic perimeter play, despite his defensive shortcomings and diminutive size.

Tramaine Isabell’s story has been told time and time again on the pages of this website.  He put up a spectacular campaign in 2017-18, but he had bigger personal aspirations than what he could do for Drexel’s program.  He departed at the conclusion of the season, bound for Saint Louis and his fourth college basketball program in six years.

 

GRADE: B – Although Lee and Harper have been largely successful, Isabell showed a significant amount of ability on the court, however he was not without his fair share of issues.  The departures of Jonsson and Isabell keep this class from being a solid A.

 

2017
James Butler C (Transfer, redshirt)
Tim Perry, Jr C
Alihan Demir PF (JUCO Transfer)
Jarvis Doles SF
Tadas Kararinas C

 

The class of 2017 brought some size to Zach Spiker’s Drexel Dragons.  James Butler came to Drexel by way of Navy.  Like Harper and Isabell, he was required to sit out a season following his transfer.  This year’s 2018-19 campaign is his first full season playing college basketball and he’s made the most of it.  Butler is currently averaging 10.1 points and a team high 7.9 rebounds per game with nearly three of those boards coming on the offensive glass.

Tim Perry, Jr. spent the 2017-18 season on the bench as the team elected to redshirt him for the season and preserve a year of eligibility.  Like Butler, 2018-19 is his first season playing college basketball.  Spiker has regarded Perry and Butler as a two headed monster at center, and the pair has done an excellent job.    Perry is being brought along slowly, and he is showing excellent promise.

Alihan Demir came to Drexel as a transfer from Central Wyoming College and was eligible to play immediately.  His style is an interesting one.  He’s not noticeably fast but he does things that opponents seem to struggle to figure out.  His presence at Drexel has been an overwhelmingly positive one despite some occasional struggles.

When Demir needs a break, Jarvis Doles is the guy Zach Spiker turns to.  Now a sophomore, Doles has been brought into his role gradually and has shown flashes of brilliance particularly against Towson and William & Mary, despite the loss to the Tribe.  He adds length to the court and a sweet three point touch.

Tadas Kararinas has struggled to find his spot in Drexel’s lineup.  He lacks the bulk to bang around with Drexel’s elite big men, and he lacks the ability to clear space for himself to open up good shooting looks.  He continues to work on his game.

GRADE: B+ – This is a class that will have to be revisited.  The developments of Perry and Doles are going to be keys going forward for Drexel.  If they continue to move in the direction they have started off in, this class could have a significant impact to the next two years of Spiker’s presence at Drexel.

 

2018
Cam Wynter PG
Zach Walton SF (JUCO Transfer)
Trevor John (Grad Transfer)
Matey Juric PG
Coletrane Washington SF

 

The 2018 class is one that should give Drexel fans a lot to be excited about.  Kurk Lee’s apparent shoulder injury opened the door for Cam Wynter from the drop.  The pass-first point guard has put a strangle hold on his starting position, and at this point, he’s not going anywhere.

Zach Walton came in as a guy who showed a lot of promise.  He brought bulk and fight that the team desperately needed on the inside and a perimeter touch as well.  A wrist injury, however, ended his season pretty much before it started.  Drexel fans will have to wait until next year to see what he brings to the table.

Trevor John did not do much before he came to Drexel but he’s making the most of his starting role with the Dragons.  He is already eclipsing many former Drexel perimeter shooters in three point totals with plenty of basketball ahead of him.

Like Wynter, Matey Juric has seen his playing time increase because of Lee’s injury.  He has not adapted as quickly as his freshman teammate but he continues to give 100% every time he hits the floor.  Spiker has commonly used him as a defensive substitution or to give Wynter a much deserved break

From all indications it was Spiker’s intention to redshirt Coletrane Washington this year.  The injuries to Lee and Walton changed those plans though.  Despite limited minutes, Washington has shown growth and promise.  While his three point shot might not be falling as often as everyone hoped, he is a freshman who is still figuring out his game at a higher level.

 

Grade: B+ – Cam Wynter has been the crown jewel of Spiker’s 2018 recruiting class.  He’s among the front runners for CAA Rookie of the Year.  If Washington can continue to progress, and Walton rebounds from his injury, these guys could be keys to Drexel’s 2019-20 season.

 

2019
Mate Okros SG
T.J. Bickerstaff SF

There is a lot of excitement surrounding the 2019 recruiting class.  Mate Okros looks like a solid perimeter shooter from the United Kingdom.  He continues to dominate at virtually every level he’s played at.

T.J. Bickerstaff was on the radar of programs like Georgetown and UCONN.  Listed at 6’8, the shooting forward hailing from Tyrone, Georgia looks like he could be the real deal.  With the commitment of Bickerstaff and Okros, Spiker could have the best pair of freshman players that Drexel has seen in quite some time.

Grade: Incomplete – The class of 2019 is going to be a “wait and see” investment.  Both players come with considerable promise, and now it is up to them to deliver.

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