Jags seek recruiting balance

Metress expects to sign 7 players after six depart

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On the heels of three consecutive Division II Elite Eight appearances, Augusta State men's basketball team has transformed into a national power.

Jaguars' coach Dip Metress said he wants a mix of both high school and junior college players for this year's class.  Michael Holahan/File
Michael Holahan/File
Jaguars' coach Dip Metress said he wants a mix of both high school and junior college players for this year's class.

Chris Gay
Sports Writer
Twitter: @AUG_ChrisGay
E-mail | 706-823-3645

Despite the departure of all five senior starters off this past season's 29-4 squad, Augusta State coach Dip Metress said expectations are still high. And that presents a predicament.

"Good players," he said, "are hard to find."

Recruiting season continued in full force last Thursday, the day after Augusta State lost to Bentley in the Elite Eight. After returning from Springfield, Mass., to Augusta, Metress spent Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., and Sunday in Baltimore looking for the next great Jaguar.

With the departure of All-American guard Ben Madgen, all-region forward Fred Brathwaite, all-conference center Alex Smith, all-conference guard Daniel Dixon and forward Greg Hire, Augusta State loses 82 percent of its offensive production and 69 percent of its rebounding. Also, backup point guard Dominic Morra will not return next season.

"We need to hit some home runs with this class," said Metress, who plans to sign at least six players, maybe seven.

Metress said the five seniors were owners in regards to the program. Now, the five remaining players need to change their status.

"We've got five guys returning who need to be owners and not renters," he said. "The reason for our success is because we didn't have too many squatters."

In this year's recruiting class, which will begin to take shape within the next month and could run through August, Metress said he's looking for impact players without compromising the future. If he brings in seven players, he doesn't want all junior college players or all high school seniors. Instead, he's seeking a balance -- if he signs seven players, at least three (possibly four) will be high school seniors.

Augusta State has received a verbal commitment from point guard O'Neal Braden, a 5-foot-6 sophomore at Cleveland State (Tenn.) Community College. Braden, named his league's most valuable player and top defensive player, averaged 21.6 points a game on 50 percent shooting from the field, including 48 percent from the perimeter.

Braden is expected to ink his name April 14 on National Signing Day. Metress, who said he's in talks with two Australians, might have another signee that day as well.

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JM88
17
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JM88 03/31/10 - 01:21 pm
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Why won't Morra be back next

Why won't Morra be back next year? I'm guessing it has something to do with the off-court issue he had earlier this year. That's a tough loss, I really liked his potential.

Next year will be interesting. Caleb Brown will step into the starting lineup and should take over more of a scorer's role in his senior year. Franck Ndongo is a Division 1 calibur athlete who really seemed to get into the flow of the system at the end of the year. Travis Keels is going to be a big-time player in the Peach Belt, I think. Braden will take over the point and give us some real offensive explosiveness in the backcourt. The other starting spot and the first couple of spots off the bench are a mystery. They'll almost certainly come from this recruiting class. It sure would be nice if we could get a couple of guys who can come close to replicating the instant impact that a Fred Brathwaite or Alex Smith had.

There'll be some bumps in the road next season, but there's some intriguing pieces in place, and there won't be the enormous pressure that there was this year. If this brand new lineup can jell, I wouldn't at all be shocked to see ASU back in Springfield again next year.

mag5
21
Points
mag5 04/06/10 - 03:21 pm
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If Dip lands Tristen Steele

If Dip lands Tristen Steele he will have something. Tristens old AAU teammate is a former Jag and current ASU student. I am sure he will be hearing from him.

Riverman1
111462
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Riverman1 04/06/10 - 03:51 pm
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Since Oliver Purnell is

Since Oliver Purnell is leaving Clemson for big bucks at DePaul, let's talk about Clemson instead of Tiger. Could Dip end up at Clemson or will it be the young Butler coach?

mag5
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mag5 04/06/10 - 09:47 pm
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Reality check....Metress has

Reality check....Metress has done well here but he is still a D2 coach and no alumni group or AD at a D1 major in the ACC is going to come looking for a D2 coach who has had a couple of good recruiting classes. He will have to jump into a mid major in the SoCon or A Sun and prove himself there. Just my opinion.

Riverman1
111462
Points
Riverman1 04/06/10 - 09:57 pm
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Mag5, of course you are

Mag5, of course you are right, but if I were the AD, I'd take a hard look at him. I totally realize it would be a tremendous jump, but I bet Dip would be a winner wherever he went.

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