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New James Madison coach Mark Byington and his staff continue to work through NCAA recruiting restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic to try to fill three spots in the class of 2021. 

With the NCAA extending the so-called “dead period” for in-person recruiting through Aug. 31, the new men’s basketball staff at James Madison continues to try different ways to restock the program that is looking for its first winning season since 2015-16.

In the time of COVID-19, the NCAA has defined the dead period as meaning no in-person recruiting on or off campus, but coaches can use electronic forms of communication. For the Dukes, that has meant a reliance on video conferencing and taking advantage of preexisting relationships.

“We had to learn quickly,” JMU head coach Mark Byington said. “We’ve had to become good at it, but we were able to bring in eight guys committed to our program without having set foot on campus or meeting face-to-face.”

Those eight players are five Division I transfers and three incoming freshmen who will all join the Dukes right away. As it stands right now, JMU has three scholarships available for the 2021 recruiting class and have been doling out offers to those rising high school seniors.

On Monday, the Dukes offered Jace Carter, a 6-5 guard from Titusville, Fla. Carter, who also has offers from Jacksonville, New Orleans and Florida Gulf Coast, was one of three players JMU offered in the past week with the Dukes also going after Washington DC swingman Devon Savage and Markus Ilver, a native of Estonia who plays at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock.

Carter told the Daily New-Record his recruitment had started to pick up in recent weeks with significant interest from programs including Temple, South Florida, Iowa State, College of Charleston, Tennessee, George Mason and East Carolina along with several other schools.

He said he had followed Byington’s teams at Georgia Southern before the coach left for JMU this spring and he and his father had researched each school that had been in contact.

“I really like the way JMU plays and how they like to get out and go,” Carter said. “And the facilities being brand new and having a new $140 million arena is really exciting,” Carter said. “With some of the other programs that have offered me, I really like how they see me as a strong combo guard who can play the one through three.”

Ilver is another player whose seeing more and more interest as of late. The 6-8, 200-pounder can play all over the floor and along with JMU he’s also recently picked up offers from Nebraska, Utah and Xavier. There’s also buzz ACC schools have begun to show interest.

Savage, a 6-5 small forward from Riverdale Baptist School added JMU to his list of offers that includes, Robert Morris, Towson, Bryant, George Washington and others. He said he felt like the coronavirus had put a small damper on the recruiting process, but with JMU he had a connection to assistant coach Xavier Joyner, who had previously worked with his AAU program, Team Takeover.

“It’s going good, I’m just disappointed about not being able to take official (visits),” Savage said of his recruitment. “I didn’t know much about schools (initially), but I knew what conference they play in where the universities are located. I’ve been able to learn a lot about JMU having virtual Zoom meetings with the coaching staff. I’ve talked to Coach Xavier the most because I know him from my AAU program. It’s still too early for it, but I think when it comes down to a decision, JMU will be one of the schools at the top of my list.”

Contact Shane Mettlen at 574-6244 or smettlen@dnronline.com. Follow Shane on Twitter: @Shane_DNRSports

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