The overall success of the offseason recruitment for Jay Spoonhour and the Eastern men’s basketball team cannot be completely graded until the team adds its final player(s), but so far, Eastern has won the offseason and can continue to do so.
Here are the three reasons why Spoonhour and his staff have won the offseason so far.
After the 2018-2019 season, two promising freshmen players transferred elsewhere (Ben Harvey and Cam Burrell), with Harvey being the third-leading scorer on the team while mainly coming off the bench.
With those two leaving, no new freshmen came in before this season, and following this next season, Eastern will (theoretically) lose everyone on the roster because they were all juniors this past season.
So, Spoonhour went out and got three freshmen who all had good high school careers and show promise.
Whether they will see much playing time or not is an entirely different question, but even if they do not, there is the sure-fire idea that they will gain a lot of knowledge and experience from playing with a team full of juniors and seniors.
Also, considering they are freshmen, if they wanted to redshirt this year to take it and gather as much knowledge and experience as possible and develop more physically, Eastern would have a guard trio of the future.
It was not enough to just get freshmen for the sake of making sure there were players for the future after this next season, the freshmen had to be good and have the potential for growth, and that is what Eastern will get from Henry Abraham, Isaac Miller and Jadon Wallace.
A lot of thinking is put into the fact that a good talk and connection between a coach and recruit is what makes the recruit commit to a certain school.
While that is true to an extent, and that is what Spoonhour was able to do this offseason with his talks with recruits, a lot of players want to go somewhere they can win.
Two of Eastern’s recruits specifically mentioned that when asked what made them commit to Eastern: Abraham said he wanted to join a good team (also mentioned the plethora of returners), and Junior Farquhar, an incoming junior transfer, said he wanted to join a winning team that had a chance to make the tournament, noting Eastern’s 17 wins this past season.
Considering there are so many returners for Eastern this upcoming year, another good season looks to be ahead of the Panthers.
Should they finish with another good record and make a good tournament appearance, that could help with recruiting next spring, since (theoretically) Eastern will only have five players on the roster.
Speaking of Eastern’s roster, it may not and likely is not done growing yet this offseason.
Some are going to like what I am about to say: Spoonhour said he is looking to add more size in the form of a couple forwards.
He said the returning forwards he has, George Dixon and Jordan Skipper-Brown are great, but he is looking for players who do other things than what Dixon and Skipper-Brown do.
Spoonhour added he is looking to get players who are a little bigger and who can shoot more.
Dixon is a terrific rebounder and scores well in the post, and Skipper-Brown is so explosive and makes the highlight dunks, but neither showed they could consistently shoot well outside of the lane.
And although both can rebound and use their bodies well against bigger competition, Eastern could benefit from someone taller than 6-feet-6-inches to take on the bigger forwards on some OVC competitors’ rosters.
Spoonhour mentioned that getting some other forwards may take into the summer, but he and his staff are still looking for some more size to beef up the interior play even more.
With the returning players Eastern has, as well as the newcomers and possible size coming, the Panthers look to have a good roster to make some noise in the OVC this upcoming season.
On top of that, Spoonhour said that with the five signings so far, he and his staff filled the needs they identified for the team.
One thing to not be understated is how great of a job Spoonhour and his staff did with the communication aspect of the recruitment. All of the incoming players said in one form or another that the things the Eastern staff told them or what the program had to offer were big parts of why they chose Eastern.
Spoonhour mentioned that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, communication had to be done through Zoom or other virtual call systems, so it says a lot for the incoming players to mention that they liked what Eastern had to offer and say, even though communication was not in-person for the most part.
All that is why, so far, Eastern has won the offseason and will likely continue to do so.
Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at [email protected]