Western Carolina’s greatest basketball recruiting class ever?

This winter the Western Carolina Men’s Basketball team will look a little bit different. After taking over last season as Head Coach and having a fairly successful season, Coach Larry Hunter has really changed the look of the men’s team. Gone are seniors Jared Outing, David Berghoefer, and Corey Muirhead. Gone are sophomores Trey Hopkins, Jamar Jenkins, and Charles Bouie, and entering are transfer Josh Dees and a slew of new freshmen. Hopkins, Jenkins, and Bouie were all released from their scholarships last semester, thus lowering the roster total to five players. Josh Dees, a transfer from Wyoming, sat out last year because of NCAA transfer rules and will make for a sixth player. The rest of the roster will be brand new players, and those brand new players have brought about quite a buzz in the SoCon recruiting world. Coach Hunter’s success over the years at the University of Ohio has contained quite a few talented players. Brandon Hunter and Gary Trent both played for Hunter at Ohio and went on to NBA careers, so it’s obvious that Hunter knows talent. That nose for talent has led Hunter to what some people are saying might be the best basketball recruiting class that Western has ever had. This year Coach Hunter’s first full season of recruiting at Western has yielded seven recruits. The biggest catch of the bunch just might be Nick Aldridge. Aldridge is a 6’7″ power forward from South Webster High School in Ohio. Aldridge, weighing 245 lbs, averaged 27 points per game in high school and supposedly had an offer on the table from the University of Cincinnati. Aldridge led his school to a state championship and is expected to step in immediately and supply low post scoring. The other two big catches of the class are Omar Thomas and Brandon Giles. Thomas is a 6’5″ forward who started all four years at Detroit Country Day School. Only two other players have ever started all four years at Detroit Country Day School; those players were college All-Americans Shane Battier (Duke) and Chris Webber (Michigan). According to www.scout.com, Thomas is a three-star recruit that excels at rebounding. Thomas has a great intensity and passion to his game and an excellent face to the basket game. Scout.com describes Thomas as a junk-yard dog and says players must match his intensity to play with him. This is just the type of player Hunter likes to build his programs on and the kind of player that has lately been lacking at Western. Brandon Giles is another three-star recruit, and according to scout.com, he was even offered a scholarship to West Virginia University. Giles is a 6’5″ shooting guard from Auburndale High School in Florida, the same high school NBA superstar Tracy McGrady attended. Giles is described as a tough, tough kid who has many talents. Giles is said to be adept at finishing around the basket, shooting the mid-range jumper, and hitting the perimeter shot. The offensive game of Giles is perfect for Hunter’s offense because he can not only shoot but also drive to the basket. Giles will eventually be looked at to provide the slashing and scoring ability that Corey Muirhead provided the Cats last season. Another exciting prospect for the Cats is local player Jake Robinson. Robinson attended Pisgah High School and supposedly was offered a scholarship by WCU shortly after his sophomore year of high school. The 6’6″ Robinson plays forward and is an all-state performer. Known for his perimeter skills, Robinson supposedly received interest from Purdue University in the Big Ten before choosing to stay locally at Western Carolina. Robinson is a huge recruit for Western because he stayed in the area. While not known for basketball, western North Carolina does occasionally produce a good prospect, and it is important for WCU to grab those prospects like Robinson. The final three recruits of the class were later added. Those recruits include Arnold Gore, Rickey Jackson, and Aldridge’s high school teammate Brigham Waginger. Waginger is a 6’2″ guard who averaged about 18 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals per game as a senior, while Jackson is a 6’8″ forward from Canton, Ohio, who was named all-Ohio all four years of high school. He excels at defense. Gore is the final recruit and a junior college transfer. The 6’5″ Gore comes from St. Catharine College and will be a junior at Western. He averaged almost 19 points a game and should add maturity and experience to a team that will lack those qualities next year. In the end, a recruiting class cannot be analyzed entering college, but when they leave college. One will not know the impact of the class until four or five years after they enter college. With that said, this class has all the talent to lead Western to SoCon Championships and the NCAA tournament. Time will tell if there is a Kevin Martin, Anquell McCollum, Frankie King, or Henry Logan in the class, but at the moment, Coach Hunter summed it up best when he said, “They will continue to add to the athleticism, skill and versatility pool in our program. Each of these players has been a part of outstanding basketball programs and has experienced success and winning at a very significant level.”