Mark Byington

James Madison has four scholarships to fill heading into coach Mark Byington’s second season. The Dukes are, like most programs, looking to the NCAA transfer portal, but also heavily recruiting JUCO and high school players.

The Final Four is over, but in the junior college ranks the basketball season is far from done. With regional tournaments just beginning and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) tournament scheduled for later this month in Hutchinson, Kan., James Madison coaches are keeping an eye on the JUCO action.

The Dukes are as active as ever recruiting out of the NCAA transfer portal. But while Division I transfers are getting the most attention this offseason, the JMU staff have also been looking elsewhere to fill four open scholarships.

“We’re looking at a bunch Division I transfers, but I feel like there are high school players and junior college guys who are overlooked, especially this year,” JMU coach Mark Byington said.

Despite the JUCO ending later than the NCAA this year, Byington and his assistants still must do all their recruiting remotely. The NCAA recruiting dead period instituted in response to COVID-19 lasts through May 31 and bans any in-person recruiting activity. That includes even attending a JUCO game.

Additionally, coaches can’t work with current players on campus until June 15, leaving Byington to joke he was going to get tired of looking at a computer screen. But there are plenty of JUCO players the Dukes are eyeing from a distance.

Denver Jones, a high-scoring 6-foot-4 combo guard from Garden City (Kan.) Community College, has an offer from the Dukes. A 40-percent 3-point shooter, earlier this week he led the Broncobusters with 24 points in a first-round victory in the NJCAA Region 6 tournament. Originally from Alabama, Jones has four years of eligibility remaining.

Among other JUCO players who may be on the Dukes radar are Salt Lake Community College’s James Lee and Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College duo Matt Mayers and Josh Baker.

Lee, a 6-4 sophomore from Frederick, Md., averages 13.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for SLCC. Mayers, a 6-8 forward from New York, is averaging 18.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Baker, a 6-2 guard from Arizona, is putting up 16.1 points and 3.8 rebounds a contest.

JMU also remains in the mix for high school seniors as many college teams look for instant impact players on the transfer market. JMU offered three-star Oak Hill Academy guard Camryn Carter and is heavily in the mix for 6-5 Sebring, Fla., swingman Alvin Tumblin.

Tumblin picked up an offer this week from Indiana State and said he’s receiving interest from several schools at this point. But JMU is among the programs recruiting him the hardest.

“There’s several schools still involved and I don’t really have a timeline,” Tumblin said. “But I have a really good relationship with both JMU and Stetson. Recruiting is going good and I’m enjoying it. JMU is recruiting me hard. With their style of play, it fits my game and I could make an impact there coming in as a freshman.”

Though JMU could bring in one or two high school and JUCO recruits, it’s also still a safe bet the Dukes land at least a couple DIvision I transfers.

Georgia Southern transfer Zack Bryant was recently contacted by JMU, according to Jake Lieberman of Bryant averaged 13.6 points per game this season and was recruited to Georgia Southern by Byington after transferring from UAB. But Byington left for JMU before Bryant ever suited up for the Eagles.

Winthrop’s Charles Falden is also among those considering JMU. Falden, a Richmond native who played a season of high school basketball at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, is a graduate transfer who averaged 10 points per game for the Big South champs this season.

“I’m getting calls about every day, but they are in the mix,” Falden said of JMU. “They told me I fit perfect for them with my ability to score the ball and also defend.”

JMU was the regular-season champion in the Colonial Athletic Association this past season after being picked to finish near the bottom by several outlets.

Contact Shane Mettlen at 574-6244 or Follow Shane on Twitter: @Shane_DNRSports

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