The State Fair men’s basketball roster for the 2013-14 season is starting to come together. Coach Kevin Thomas will have five players returning from last year’s squad and already has four newcomers signed and ready to come in.
“We lost quite a bit as far as guys that were sophomores and guys moving on, so it was a lot to replace,” Thomas said.
Gone is a talented sophomore class that included Baylor-bound guard Kenny Chery who led the Roadrunners with 16.4 points per game and forward Ayo Ojo, heading to Idaho, who averaged 8.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
Returning from last year’s squad will be guards Joe Thomasson, Kevin Punter Jr., Ben Denbow and Bubba Hill as well as forward Marcus Mondaine.
Thomasson returns after a freshman year that saw him start all but one game and average 14.2 points and a team-high five assists per game, and Division I teams are taking notice. Thomas said he has already drawn interest from Mizzou, as well as several other teams from the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12.
Another sophomore drawing interest is Punter. Thomas said Punter has heard from Iona and Missouri State after a freshman year where he started all 29 games and averaged 12.9 points per game.
Thomas adds to that group a squad of freshmen that includes what he thinks is the first 7-foot player in State Fair history, Isaac Freeman. The Manassas, Va. native was used sparingly in his one collegiate season at UMass.
“He’s long and can block shots and can give us something we haven’t had,” Thomas said.
During his one season of prep school at South Kent, Conn., he averaged 14.9 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks per game. Thomas said with his size and ability on the low post, Freeman will control the paint defensively, which will allow the perimeter players to take more gambles.
On offense Thomas expects Freeman to be a major rebounding presence and get a lot of his points off tip-ins.
“He’ll be inside,” Thomas said. “He’ll have his back to the basket. He’s not overly offensively skilled but can really block shots and defend.”
Thomas said Freeman can also run the floor, which should help the Roadrunners’ transition game.
Helping Freeman with rebounding with be another newcomer, 6-5 forward Jerrard Davis from Chicago.
“He’ll give us some toughness and rebounding,” Thomas said. “He can slash to the rim and can guard some guys inside with his defense.”
Davis averaged 18 points, nine rebounds and three assists last season at Uplift Community High School and was selected for the Luther Bedford All-Star game.
Thomas has brought in two guards who he thinks will be a tough pair to defend: Iowa City, Iowa native Dondre Alexander and Jacksonville, Fla. native Deangelo Stephens-Bell.
Alexander is a 6-4 guard, who averaged 6.7 points per game for a West High School team that hasn’t lost a game since March 12, 2011.
“He’s a Southern Miss commit,” Thomas said. “He didn’t qualify and is going to spend two years with us.”
Thomas said Alexander will be in the mix for playing time right away.
“He’s got a chance to be a special player,” Thomas said.
Joining Alexander in the backcourt is Stephens-Bell, who averaged 11.8 points per game at North Florida Educational Institute last season. Thomas expects Stephens-Bell to play mostly point guard with some time at shooting guard and has all of the tools and intangibles to remind Roadrunner fans of a guard from last year’s team.
“Deangelo is very athletic,” Thomas said. “Can he get to be as good as Kenny in two years? Possibly. It depends on how hard he works when he gets here.”