The Ohio Bobcats' took advantage of the NCAA early signing period for basketball, inking four players to Letter's of Intent for the 2014 class. Jim Christian hauled in a talented big class for 2013 and appears to have kept up the pace with this year's class, including grabbing one of the nation's top power forwards.
“Our two high school recruits, Tariq Owens and Kendall Crute, bring skill sets that will be able to help us right away but also have a potential for growth that is truly exciting," Christian said via a press release. "The two junior college recruits, Rodell Wigginton and Nehemias Morillo, both play for nationally-ranked junior college programs and will provide a great combination of length, athletic ability and skills that will be needed to replace four departing senior perimeter players."
The star of the class is Owens, a 6-foot 8-inch power forward out of Laurel, Md.. He's a 4-star recruit and rated as the No. 21 power forward in the nation for the class of 2014 according to Scout.com. Owens is currently playing a post-graduate season at TAAG Academy in Florida, but will be classed as a freshman when he arrives in Athens. He chose Ohio over offers from Miami, Fl., South Florida and Florida Gulf Coast, among others.
The class also includes Crute, a 6-foot 3-inch guard and the 17th best prospect out of the state of Georgia; Morillo, a 3-star, 6-foot 6-inch combo guard from Monroe College by way of the dominican Republic; and Wigginton, a 6-foot 6-inch Canadian guard/forward hybrid by way of the No. 1 ranked team in the NJCAA polls, College of Central Florida.
Morillo played with current Ohio-newcomer Maurice Ndour last season at Monroe, and illustrates Christian's willingness to go after players who can come in and contribute right away. The pair bring the total number of JUCO players brought in by Christian during his short tenure in Athens to four.
The 'Cats are in their second season under Christian and are in the middle of a transformation period. The signing of these four players illustrates the style of play that Christian is going after by focusing on length and versatility. The average height of the four players, two from junior colleges, and two from high school, is 6'5''.
With forward Jon Smith, wing players Ricardo Johnson and T.J. Hall and guard's Nick Kellogg and Travis Wilkins all set to graduate, these four provide Christian with a set of players that should compliment the skills of the returning pieces. A season ago Christian went hard after forwards, signing four players above 6-foot-8, and a guard in D.J. Wingfield that stands at 6-foot-5.
It's a drastic change in style from his predecessor John Groce, who focused on guard play and an up-tempo style of offense that featured heavy focus on the three-point shot over size.
Owens and Crute both have four-years of eligibility left, while Morillo have only two years left, but are eligible to play immediately in 2014-2015.