The losses of guards D’Von Campbell and Michael Perez leaves UTEP with 12 players on scholarship for the 2012-13 season, one under the NCAA maximum with the spring signing period in full swing.
College teams can sign players through May 16.
“We have a scholarship, and we will only utilize that scholarship on a guy that we feel has a chance to be a first team all-league type player,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said on Friday. “If not, we will go with the roster that we have. We have identified a young man who we feel can be a first team all-league guy, and if we can bring him in, absolutely we’ll sign him.”
UTEP’s 2012-13 scholarship situation looks like this: seniors Malcolm Moore and Jacques Streeter; junior John Bohannon; sophomores C.J. Cooper, Cedrick Lang, McKenzie Moore, Jalen Ragland and Julian Washburn; redshirt freshman Hooper Vint; and incoming freshmen Twymond Howard, Chris Washburn Jr. and Dustin Watts.
The 6-6 Howard led Pearl (Miss.) High School to a 27-4 record this past season, averaging 25.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks.
“He is probably more of a two or three [shooting guard/small forward] than a one [point guard],” Floyd said. “He is versatile enough to play as a two. He can put it on the floor. He has Julian Washburn-type athleticism and length. At this point he is maybe a better driver than a three-point shooter, although he can shoot the three. Of the group, he is probably the best rebounder that we brought in. There’s no reason why he can’t become a great defender. He is an incredible kid, just like the other three guys we’ve recruited.”
Moore, a 6-6 combo guard, enrolled at UTEP for the spring semester. He initially verbally committed to Saint Mary’s before re-opening his recruiting following a standout prep campaign at College Park High School in Pleasant Hill, Calif. Because he joined the team at mid-year, Moore wouldn’t be eligible to play for the Miners until the second semester this coming season.
“He reminds me a lot of Daniel Hackett, who we had at USC,” Floyd said. “He can play the point, and in saying that, we still love Jacques Streeter. But what we have done is added several ball-handling bigger guards who all have the ability to make plays in the open floor. We can outlet to several guys and not just one. We think that makes it very difficult on teams in transition. We want to be a better offensive transition team next year.
“McKenzie has the ability to shoot it, and he has the ability to get the ball in the lane. He is a pass-first guard who has great length and should be a great defender in addition to being a guy who is going to make other players better. We would love for him to continue to develop a post game so we can take advantage of him against smaller guards in matchup situations. That’s something he’ll work on in the offseason.”
Miner fans are eagerly anticipating the reunion of the Washburn brothers – Julian, who made the Conference USA All-Freshman Team this season, and Chris, who helped South Grand Prairie [Texas] High School to a 35-3 record his final year as a prep.
“In Chris, we feel like we’ve gotten a young guy with great instincts who can pass it, get it off the board and play in the open floor,” Floyd said. “He can face and shoot, but more importantly he can catch it on the block and score with somebody on his back, which was always a challenge for our team this year. His body is still young. At 6-8, 245 pounds, he is going to have a great offseason in terms of toning his body and getting it right for the college game. We think he’s got an incredible future. He’s left-handed, and he’s got an array of moves underneath the basket that indicate he has spent a great deal of time down on the block learning how to play. We hope for him to have a real impact on our team next year.”
Watts is an explosive guard out of Stoneridge Prep in Simi Valley, Calif.
“He’s a versatile 6-4 ball-handling guard who can play the point,” Floyd said. “He can play in a lot of spots because he can shoot and score, as he did in a 35-point game against Findlay Prep, the number one team in high school basketball this year. We think he’s got great feet and a great understanding of how to play. As a result, he’s going to have a great opportunity to play as a freshman.”
A little over a month after a season-ending loss to Memphis in the Conference USA Tournament, Floyd is able to put the 2011-12 campaign in perspective.
“Our hope was to develop a couple of stars, develop some heart and some will and some understanding of how we want to try to play in the years to come. And at the very least, develop some maturity that might carry over into improvement with this year’s club,” he said.
“Would we have taken 15 wins going into the year? Probably so. Would we have taken wins over Memphis, Clemson, New Mexico State and Auburn going into the year? Absolutely. We got greedy after a three-game win streak at midseason. It was probably unrealistic, because it seemed like every conference game that we were in was a one-point game.
“We garnered great experience, and hopefully with what we’ve added we will get back to the point where we’re starting to be more representative in our conference. That’s the first place you start. Then you want to get to a point where you contend. We are trying to do this with a very systematic approach, by building it the right way -- building it with freshmen, letting them mature and grow. We’ll have a new batch of fresh faces in here next year that I think our fans are going to love. We expect improvement next year as a result of what we’ve added, and as a result of the improvement that we expect our current players to make over the course of the offseason.”