Riley’s recruiting bolsters Braves

Published 11:25 am Thursday, June 28, 2012

Following his first season as Alcorn State’s men’s basketball coach, Luther Riley made a quick assessment of where he has to improve his program.

The Braves needed bigger and more bodies. With a recruitment of three post players and two guards, Riley said some vital needs were addressed.

“From what I saw from last year, we needed more size and more depth at guard,” Riley said Tuesday during his second annual basketball camp. “This is a solid class. We were able to fill some spots with three big guys and we added some really good shooting guards.”

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Injuries played a big part as the Braves limped to a 10-22 finish overall and a 6-12 record in Southwestern Athletic Conference play. They lost their expected leader, senior guard Marquis Baker, after just four games with a broken foot. Anthony Nieves, a junior guard, stepped up but was lost for the season after the 14th game. Both players averaged 11 points per game.

Alcorn State managed to win five of its last 10 games, including a win over Prairie View in the SWAC Tournament. Still, Riley said it was evident that his team had to devote more time in the weight room.

“The biggest thing I learned is that in the college game, the players are faster and so much stronger than in high school,” said Riley, who won four state championships at Provine High School in Jackson.

Baker, who redshirted, and Nieves are now healthy and stronger as mandated time in the weight room has paid off.

The new recruits will help immediately, especially in the paint, where Riley added two players 6-foot-10 or taller.

Joshkema Nicholas is a Russian exchange student who spent his senior year in Florida before signing with Wallace State College in Hanceville, Ala. The 7-foot center helped the Lions reach the NJCAA Tournament after averaging 10 points and 12 rebounds a game.

“He’s athletic for a big man and finishes well at the basket,” Riley said of Nicholas.

Riley added Stephane Raquil, a 6-foot-10 forward, who was on a select team from France, and played last year at Southern Shreveport.

Both of the guards signed by the Braves are high-scoring shooters from big metro areas. Devonte Hampton of Memphis led Melrose High back to the state tournament.

“He’s a very solid guard from one of the best programs in Memphis,” Riley said.

The other guard is Clinton Nwosah from Houston. He averaged 28 points per game.

“He’s a Top 50 player and he’s an even better kid,” Riley said of Nwosah.

Two players from Ridgeland will round out the newcomers. Shantardrick Hester, a 6-foot-8 forward, was the third freshman and fifth signee in the incoming class. He’ll be joined by former Titan teammate Leantwan Luckett, a 6-foot-4 guard, who was redshirted in 2012.