Thoughts Following the Announcement of the 2019-20 CCSU Recruiting Class
On Wednesday, Central Connecticut St. head coach Donyell Marshall announced the signings of six players; Stephane Ayangma, Myles Baker, Zach Newkirk, Greg Outlaw, Javen Udofia, and Xavier Wilson. They join Trey Tennyson, who signed his LOI in the fall. You can find individual write-ups on all six players here, here, here, here, here, and here. But I have some additional thoughts.
Considering the number of players who left the program since the end of the season (2 graduations and 6 transfers), I think Donyell Marshall and his staff did a great job in putting together a strong recruiting class. Will all seven players work out? Of course not. But in his first three seasons the CCSU program lacked perimeter quickness, and it showed up in an inability to contain dribble penetration, as well as issues with getting out on jump shooters (in 2018-19, they allowed a league worst 37.1% 3P%). So in comes guys like Zach Newkirk, Trey Tennyson, Miles Baker and Javen Udofia, all of whom will immediately provide an injection of backcourt quickness to go along with sophomores Ian Krishnan and Thai Segwai. It's not going out on a limb to suggest that their perimeter defense will be better in 2019-20.
The key word in the signings announcement was “toughness”. Ayangma was described as a “tough, hard-nosed power forward”, Newkirk was praised for his “tenacity”, Outlaw is a “tough, hard-nosed wing”, and Xavier Wilson “brings toughness and plays with an edge”. It’s generally just coach speak, but I do wonder if Marshall did try to bring in guys who would show more toughness (physically and mentally) than the 2018-19 team.
I follow recruiting pretty closely (probably too closely, in retrospect), and I always find one or two guys I get irrationally excited about, despite never having seen them play. Last summer when Marshall offered Myles Baker, I couldn’t stop watching video of him; a smooth stroke, an ability to use the dribble to get into the lane, and some big-time credentials as a highly rated 2-guard at a perennial high school power in Whitney Young High School (Chicago). So when more prominent schools game calling (DePaul, Drexel, Kent St.), not to mention previous offers from Saint Louis , Tulsa and Colorado St., I assumed there was little chance he’d end up in a Blue Devil uniform. It would not be a surprise to see him immediately step into a starting role on the wing and become Central’s 2nd leading scorer this season (I’m expected Jamir Coleman to be Marshall’s high usage horse). Baker coming to CCSU is a major recruiting coup for Marshall.
I’m equally excited about Trey Tennyson, who had a great senior season at Mansfield Legacy (Fort Worth ,TX) after signing with the Blue Devils in the fall. Tennyson, like Baker, is a pure scorer, though he does it a bit more off the dribble.. How Marshall is going to fit Krishnan (12 ppg, 33% 3P%), Baker, and Tennyson all on the wing is a nice problem to have. At this point I’ll assume two of them will start, while the third will effectively be the “sixth man”. It would not shock me if one, or both, of Baker and Tennyson were on the NEC’s All-Rookie team at season’s end.
This has nothing to do with recruiting, but I’m looking forward to seeing what Krishnan can do now that he’s no longer in the shadow of Tyler Kohl. As a freshman he was much more “shooter” than “scorer”, and he seemed to hit a wall once NEC play began. Don’t be surprised to see him take a major step forward in year 2.
Another area that Marshall’s teams have really struggled has been in perimeter shooting; in conference play in 2018-19, they shot 30.3% (the worst in the NEC), a year after making just 29.9% of their attempts in 2017-18 (also 10th out of 10 teams in the league). Baker and Tennyson both have reputations as really good perimeter shooters, while big man Xavier Wilson also has a nice-looking stroke, as does combo-guard Javen Udofia. Add those players to Krishnan and Jamir Coleman, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t improve in this area in 2019-20.
Based on absolutely nothing but some amateur video scouting and reading between the lines, I can’t help but think it’s likely that Greg Outlaw and Javen Udofia are the long-term prospects in the bunch, while the other five incoming recruits will be rotation players in 2019-20. Outlaw hadn’t received a D1 offer in over a year, while Udofia was committed to an NAIA school as recently as three weeks ago. Does that mean they can’t be rotation players? Absolutely not! Outlaw profiles as a versatile wing who can help the team on the defensive end, but needs to continue to improve on his perimeter shot to have a major impact at the D1 level, while Udofia likely needs to hone his craft as a point guard rather than a scorer. No, that does not mean I’m somehow rooting against them. But not everyone can play 15 minutes a game.
Marshall still has one scholarship left to work with following the transfer of Chris Williams, and I wonder if he’s just looking to find the “best player available”, as opposed to a specific type of player. He recently offered Omari “Shark” Peek-Green, a 6’6” wing/shooter from Cincinnati who has taken off in the last few weeks, earning offers from FDU, Robert Morris, and Delaware St. I also wonder if they are still in on Kolton Mitchell, a 6’4” point guard from Florida. Could a transfer be in play as well? Will be interesting to watch where Marshall goes here.
I remain concerned about the point guard position. Newkirk, while he’s got a reputation as a good defender and an ability to run a team, made just 9 of his 49 three-point attempts last season at Brunswick CC, while Thai Segwai struggled from the field (38% overall) and with turnovers as a freshman, and Udofia is unproven. It’s hard to be efficient offensively in 2019 when the defense doesn’t have to keep your point guard honest. I can’t help but wonder if Marshall gives Myles Baker and/or Trey Tennyson some time at the PG spot. Time will tell.
I wonder if this is finally the year the Blue Devils become a good transition team under Marshall.. Last season they did push the tempo at times (their 70.6 possessions per 40 minutes was 3rd most in the NEC), however according to hoop-math, their 42.7% eFG% in transition was the worst in Division 1. This year's group has the quickness and athleticism to get out in transition, at least more than in year's past.
It’s silly to take a shot at a possible lineup on May 1st, but it’s also kind of fun. Here’s what I’ll go with as a rotation when CCSU opens up in November (I’m allowed to change my mind between now and then, especially considering there is still an open scholarship remaining).
PG- Zach Newkirk- Every JUCO player Marshall has brought in has immediately played starter-level minutes.
2G- Ian Krishnan- One of the best returning shooters in the NEC.
3G- Myles Baker- I’m leaning Baker, though it could just as easily be Tennyson here. Could be an immediate double-digit scorer.
4- Jamir Coleman- 12.1 ppg and 6.3 rpg last season. The offense will likely run through Coleman.
5- Stephane Ayangma- See Zach Newkirk. At 6’6”, he’s on the small side for an NEC 5-man but he’s tough and can rebound.
First guys off the bench
G- Trey Tennyson- Will play plenty, whether starting or coming off the bench. Should rebound well for a guard as well.
F- Xavier Wilson- A 3&D guy who can give the lineup a different look off the bench. I could also see him starting at the 5, as he might be the team’s best rebounder.
PG- Thai Segwai- A good perimeter defender who struggled offensively last season.
F- Karrington Wallace- Showed flashes as a freshman. Can move Coleman to the 3 when Marshall wants to go big.
G/F- Greg Outlaw- He could become a defensive specialist while his offensive game develops (a la Shak Laney in 2017-18).
G- Javen Udofia- I lean toward long-term prospect, but could surprise given his talent and ability to play either guard position.
C- Harrison Kay- Has yet to carve out a regular role for Marshall.
G- Tyler Rowe- A 5’9” walk-on who averaged over 20 ppg for Western Connecticut St (D3).
F- Donyell Marshall Jr.- I watched his dad play at UConn. The fact that Junior will be a senior reminds me that I am old.