When Jamion Christian accepted the head coaching position at Mount St. Mary’s last March, he saw that only one scholarship was available for his 2013-14 roster. With this in mind, Christian scooped up Khalid Nwandu last November to occupy the scholarship vacated by a soon to be graduating Raven Barber. Still, Christian and his staff continued to scour the landscape for 2013 recruits, just in case.
Sure enough, four scholarships quickly became available at the conclusion of the season with the departures of Kelvin Parker, Josh Castellanos, Xavier Owens, and Christian Crockett. To the outsider, the glut of defections may have seemed surprising, but the Mount’s coaching staff had been preparing for this moment all along.
Christian explained, “The thing we’ve been able to do is create such a strong culture here that when you have a committment to doing things the right way, (players) really want to be here. And if you don’t (want to be here), this is a really tough place to be, because we value guys who want to graduate and want to work toward it everyday and also want to play great basketball. You anticipate some bumps in the road with your roster changing over, and sometimes quite honesty (the bumps) are what you need to try to change the culture.”
Christian used three of those four newfound scholarships on guards, as the Mount signed 6’0″ Chris Martin, 6’1″ Charles Glover, and 6’0″ Byron Ashe. While Martin must sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules after spending two uneventful years at Marshall, Glover, Ashe, and the aforementioned Nwandu should be available to contribute right away.
Of those three, Nwandu possesses the most short-term upside. As a senior at Northeastern High, Nwandu used his superior athleticism and defensive instincts to fill up the stat sheet, highlighted by scoring 20.2 points per game (much of that compiled on breakaway dunks, apparently). The backcourt is already crowded with three seniors (Julian Norfleet, Rashad Whack, and Sam Prescott) and reigning NEC rookie of the year Shivaughn Wiggins, but Christian believes Nwandu’s work ethic will earn him minutes as a rookie.
“The thing I love about (Khalid) is he’s such a worker,” said Christian. “He fits that mold to a “T”. We want long, athletic guards who can really guard you on the floor and take the ball away from you defensively. He does those things very well. Right now, he’s probably in the upper half defensively in terms of guarding the ball in our program. He’ll be able to do that from day one.”
Glover played his high school basketball at Gonzaga College High School in Washington D.C., which has served as a college basketball factory for many seasons. Glover may not have put up the gaudiest of numbers at Gonzaga, but Christian loves his intangibles, versatility (he can play the 1, 2, and 3) and basketball IQ. Perhaps someday soon, Mount fans will be calling him “Big Game Chuck.”
“I’ve always really liked his game,” said Christian. “A guy that can pass it, that can score it, that can really defend it, who understands the game. Overall point for point across the board, he’s probably our best overall basketball player in terms of not having any weaknesses.”
If there’s one red-shirt candidate of the group, it’s the diminutive Ashe. He profiles as a quick combo guard who can really score from the perimeter, yet his current weight at 147 pounds likely limits his potential out of the gate. It may take some time, and eating, for Ashe’s strength to catch up to his impressive skill set.
“He has a chance to be really special,” said Christian. “When I recruited him I thought he compared to a Coron Williams at Robert Morris. They are similar players.”
Finally, there’s 6’6″ forward Will Miller, who comes from Highland Park, Texas. Martin serves as a typical stretch 4, a long body whose perimeter skills could create matchup problems for opposing forwards. Like Ashe, Miller must beef up soon, but there’s no denying his ability to stroke it from downtown. He hit just over 40% of his three-point attempts as a senior.
Overall, Christian and his staff have prepared the Mount well for the upcoming graduations of Norfleet, Whack, and Prescott after next season. In the meantime, Mountaineer fans can look forward to a deep, athletic, and dynamic roster, especially in the backcourt. With so many options, Christian surely will have difficultly juggling minutes, but it will also make the Mount more troubling to defend.
“I would hope opposing coaches would talk about how hard we are to scout against, because we have a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things every night,” said Christian. “I like having a team where we can really talk about sharing the ball and attack the opponent’s defense with mismatches. When you have the kind of balance, it’s just hard to prepare for.”
With Christian’s top five scorers returning, Mount St. Mary’s could emerge as the NEC favorite if some underclassmen progress. If this occurs, it’ll make for a team nobody will want to play come 2014.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride.