The first chance for high school seniors across the country to put pen to paper and sign their national letter of intent starts on Wednesday and will last one week.
It’s a time when college basketball programs hope to solidify the foundation of their incoming recruiting class, since recruits cannot sign again until Apr. 11, 2018.
Wichita State players Conner Frankamp, Samajae Haynes-Jones and Shaq Morris talk about their 90-53 exhibition win over Henderson State on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle)
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The next week could prove to be crucial to Wichita State’s future success, as the program braces to replace at least six vacancies on next year’s roster. Here’s a primer on what Shocker fans need to be looking for over the next seven days.
Wichita State’s current oral committments
Erik Stevenson (6-foot-4, 180 pounds) is a shooting guard at Timberline High in Lacey, Wa. He is rated a three-star prospect by 247 Sports and Rivals and considers himself a knock-down shooter from the outside. Stevenson picked the Shockers over offers from Washington, Washington State, LSU, and Utah. He averaged close to 19 points as a junior, including a 45-point game that broke the school record, on his way to honorable mention All-Class 3A honors. According to Stevenson, Gregg Marshall told him he envisioned him as the program’s next Ron Baker.
Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler (6-9, 260) is a post who originally signed with New Mexico as a senior at Omaha Central (Neb.) High last year, but was granted a release after New Mexico fired its coach. Soon after, Chandler orally committed to Wichita State and then enrolled at Sunrise Christian and will play on the school’s prep team. He was rated as a four-star prospect by ESPN and was intrigued by Wichita State’s ability to develop big men. He averaged 14.2 points and 9.4 rebounds as a senior at Omaha Central. According to Chandler, WSU coaches think he can follow in the path of senior Shaquille Morris.
Morris Udeze (6-8, 240) is a post who graduated high school in Texas, then enrolled at Montverde Academy, a post-prep academy in Florida, to remain in the Class of 2018. Udeze is rated a three-star prospect by 247 Sports and Rivals and has a high motor in the post. He averaged 12.6 points and 7.7 rebounds as a senior at Fort Bend Travis (Tex.) last season. He picked the Shockers over Ohio State, Butler, LSU, and TCU. Udeze also has a 7-foot wingspan, according to his profile on the UA circuit.
Jaime Echenique (6-11, 220) is a center originally from Colombia who is currently a sophomore at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas. He was not evaluated by any recruiting services before arriving to junior college. He averaged 9.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 26 starts last season for Trinity Valley.
Will they sign on Wednesday?
Stevenson confirmed to The Eagle that he will sign his letter of intent with the Shockers on Wednesday. It remained unclear as of Tuesday night if Chandler, Udeze, or Echenique planned on signing in the early period.
Assuming all four ink their names eventually, how does the recruiting class — as it stands — stack up to the competition? Corey Evans, a national recruiting analyst with Rivals, gave his thoughts the night before signing day.
“It’s probably the second or third-best class in the AAC right now,” Evans said. “UConn probably has the best class right now, but I think Wichita State and South Florida are right there behind them. I think this class upholds the culture of what Gregg Marshall has implemented there with hard-playing and physical bigs. I think Gregg also likes to have a tough, physical wing or a shot-making wing and he definitely landed a shot-making wing in Erik Stevenson. I think all-around this answers a lot of questions that Wichita State had going in.”
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall talks about playing Newman, raising money for hurricane relief, the return of Landry Shamet, and the depth of his squad. (Video by Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)
What to do with the final two
Evans thinks Wichita State’s top priority to round out its class is to land a point guard and the Shockers are in the running for one of the nation’s top point guards in Alex Lomax, a four-star prospect who is a senior at Memphis East High.
Lomax trimmed his final list to six schools — Wichita State, Memphis, Florida, Mississippi, Vanderbilt, and Missouri — in August, but few details have emerged since concerning his recruitment. His father, Alex Lomax Sr., shed some light on Oct. 6 when he told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that his son’s recruitment was “pretty much a battle between Wichita State and Ole Miss.” He added that Wichita State was the favorite, but “(Alex Lomax) kind of wants to be in the SEC.”
Lomax has yet to indicate if he plans on signing a letter of intent in the November signing period or if he will wait until after his senior high school season. His Twitter account will be one to monitor this week.
“A guy like Lomax would be the gem of the class,” Evans said. “He’s a guy that could jumpstart things. He’s a tough, nasty defender that buys into the ‘Play Angry’ mantra that Gregg is all about.”
Another wing that has Wichita State near the top of his list is Chance Moore, a 6-9 wing from Louisville. He graduated high school, then enrolled in Beckley Prep, a post-prep academy in West Virginia, for this season. He took his official visit in October and attended Shocker Madness. Moore has the Shockers in his final four, which also includes Butler, Dayton, and Virginia Tech.
Most recruiting services didn’t evaluate Moore as a high school senior, which is why he took the prep school route to try to garner more attention. Evans considers him a late bloomer in the Class of 2018. According to his Twitter account, Moore will announce his decision and sign his letter of intent at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
“Chance is kind of a question mark of how good this kid really is, but I think his upside is tremendous,” Evans said.
Wichita State could potentially sign more than six players, which would mitigate the fallout if underclassmen like Landry Shamet or Markis McDuffie declare for the NBA draft after this season.
Other potential targets
▪ Bryan Penn-Johnson (6-10, 200) is a four-star center prospect from Las Vegas that is one of the highest-rated recruits Wichita State remains in play for. Although many consider Washington to be the favorite to land Penn-Johnson, Wichita State is among the likes of Kansas, UCLA, Arizona, Florida State, Oregon, West Virginia, USC, and California to offer the big man.
▪ Tyler Harris (5-10, 155) is a four-star point guard from Memphis. He was a high school teammate at Cordova High with current Shocker freshman Rod Brown. Harris holds offers from prominent programs such as Memphis, Iowa State, Cincinnati, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The consensus among recruiting experts is that Harris will stay home and sign with Memphis.
▪ Florent Thamba (6-10, 230) is another four-star center prospect the Shockers remain involved with. Thamba, a senior at Mount Mission in Virginia, is expected to remain close to home, making Virginia Tech the favorite in many eyes, to land the big man. He holds offers from Nebraska, Penn State, Memphis, Pittsburgh, TCU, Tulsa, and South Florida.
▪ Dimon Carrigan (6-9, 210) is a highly-coveted post player currently in junior college at Cambridge Rindge in Massachusetts. He exploded on the recruiting scene this summer and holds offers from Connecticut, Texas, Syracuse, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Miami. Many recruiting services seem to think he’s headed to AAC foe UConn.
▪ Keyshawn Bryant (6-6, 180) is a three-star wing who is enrolled at Huntington Prep in West Virginia. He is a fast-rising recruit who has offers from Kansas State, South Florida, Central Florida, Georgia, and Memphis.
▪ Neftali Alvarez (6-1, 175) is a three-star point guard originally from Puerto Rico who is a high school seniro at Miami Christian. He has a long list of offers, including Virginia, VCU, Georgia Tech, and Purdue.
▪ Joel Ntambwe (6-8, 210) has yet to be evaluated by a recruiting service, as Wichita State appeared to be one of the first colleges to offer the Forest Trails (NC) High senior. He now has an offer list of Tennessee, Providence, Duquesne, and Denver.