Under The Radar?
Brady Pumps Up His New Recruits
Posted: February 27, 2013
HARRISONBURG — It’s no secret that college basketball coaches will use any edge they can find in recruiting — and when recruiting against James Madison, there’s an obvious one.
Matt Brady’s five-year contract expires after this season. To prospective players, that can represent uncertainty.
Opposing coaches undoubtedly use that nugget when trying to steer kids to their school and away from JMU. As one source at Madison admitted recently, “I’d probably use it, too.”
The Dukes have signed three players for what could be up to six open spots on next season’s roster. How good are they? That depends on whom you ask. Brady and the signees’ current coaches, predictably, say the players can make an impact quickly at JMU. Recruiting websites are less generous.
While none of the players are highly rated, Brady says he and his staff have found quality talent, despite the circumstances.
“It’s not ideal, and it’s made it more challenging, but I give my staff all the credit in the world,” said Brady, whose future at JMU could hinge on the Dukes’ success during the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. “We’ve continued to identify guys that I think add character and intangibles and I think skills that we want to find, while also trying to continue to improve the academic résumé of guys on the court. I think we’ve hit a home run with all three of those guys.”
In November, the Dukes signed Jackson Kent, a 6-foot-7 guard from High Point, N.C., Paulius Satkus, a 6-8 forward from Lithuania, and Tom Rivard, a 6-6 forward from Worcester, Mass. All three are standout students. Whether or not they contribute quickly could determine if Madison is competitive next year.
Although Andrey Semenov, who appeared in just seven games this season, hopes to receive a medical redshirt from the NCAA to play a sixth year, JMU still will lose its top three scorers: power forward Rayshawn Goins, point guard Devon Moore and swingman A.J. Davis. They also will lose forward Alioune Diouf, who started 24 games this season, and center Gene Swindle, an extra body off the bench.
That means the newcomers will need to be ready from the get-go. Brady said this week that two of them could be in position to start right away. Pressed about which two, Brady confirmed he meant Kent and Satkus.
“I would handicap it that way,” Brady said. “Those two guys are talented enough to start.”
Kent just ended his season in the semifinals of his state’s private school playoffs. High Point Christian Academy, which boasted four Division I signees, finished 26-7, and Kent averaged roughly 11 points, six rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as part of a balanced attack. He made 55 3-pointers at a 43 percent rate, and shot over 50 percent from the field.
The rail-thin Kent added 8 pounds after the start of the season, and now weighs 185. He hopes to be 195 by the time he dons a JMU jersey, but his coach said he isn’t flimsy, despite his size.
“He handles the ball well with contact,” High Point’s Brandon Clifford said. “He’s had to play with every defense centered around stopping him. He’s kind of been our main offensive guy for the last two years. … He could have played at a lot of places and scored over 30 points per game. … We don’t run a lot of stuff for Jackson.”
ESPN.com’s scouting report on Kent — provided in December — praises his “basketball I.Q.” and “agility,” but says he is “a few years away from being physically able to impact a [D]ivision I game.”
“His two most notable weaknesses right now are defense and physical strength,” ESPN says. “He lacks a position on the defensive end of the floor, and would be ideally suited to play on a zone team where his length could compensate for other physical deficiencies. Between a high center of gravity and frail build he’s often muscled out of position and really struggles to finish plays inside.”
Brady said Kent would likely play point guard or small forward, and admitted he’d have trouble defending many shooting guards.
Satkus, who was a starter on the Lithuanian under-18 national team, currently plays for an English basketball academy called Barking Abbey. The 215-pounder, who averaged roughly 14 points and 12 rebounds per game this year, was on campus the last two days for his official visit.
Frank Holloway, Satkus’ coach at Barking and a former assistant under Isiah Thomas at Florida International, said the player still needs to work on his ball-handling and finishing around the rim but has an unrelenting motor.
“He’s a workhorse,” said Holloway, who plays the left-handed Satkus as a power forward but is also trying to develop him as a small forward. “That’s one of his biggest attributes. He just works harder than everybody else.”
Rivard, the co-captain of a team with seven D-I players, averaged about 10-12 points, 5-6 rebounds and 4-5 assists per game playing small forward, Worcester Academy coach Jamie Sullivan said. His team’s first playoff game is today.
ESPN’s scouting report on Rivard, also submitted in December, says the player has “long-term potential,” but “is not ready to contribute in the CAA just yet.”
“James Madison will need to be patient and look to develop Rivard’s body first and foremost,” ESPN said about the 185-pounder. “Even with more muscle, he lacks both ideal size to play on the interior at the mid-major level as well as any dynamic offensive tools.”
Except for possibly Semenov, JMU will have no scholarship seniors on its roster next year. The team’s only two juniors will be forward Enoch Hood and guard Arman Marks — neither of whom project to be high-impact players.
The current freshmen, who have performed exceptionally well as rookies, are the program’s lifeblood moving forward. Guards Andre Nation, Charles Cooke and Ron Curry all have shown impressive flashes, with Nation a shoo-in to make the CAA’s all-rookie team. Forward Taylor Bessick, a relative newcomer to basketball, improved as much as any of them throughout the season.
JMU also has 6-10 Serbian Dimitrije Cabarkapa, a big man who is redshirting this season.
Brady has long said that he believes players make their biggest leaps in development between their freshman and sophomore seasons. He said the Dukes can remain contenders next season because of the talent and competitiveness of those sophomores-to-be.
He also said the Dukes are in a position to possibly sign other players, and hinted those players might be waiting for clarity on his future before committing to JMU.