New recruits should bring excitement for fans

The time to get excited for a new basketball season has arrived with a new recruiting class for both men’s and women’s basketball teams.

It’s been a long time since anyone could say that about both teams but the new recruits will help turn the men’s program around and strengthen the women’s program.

In his first signing class, Men’s Head Basketball Coach Russ Pennell signed 10 players, two of which will be redshirted so they will not lose a year of eligibility because of transfer rules.

Forward Ethan Lee, who will be a sophomore next season, is the only player to return to the men’s team from this season, as the rest transferred or were cut. Because of the turnover and poor Academic Progress Rate, the Bears will be ineligible for post season play for the 2014-15 season, barring a waiver by the NCAA.

After announcing the signing class Pennell said he is excited for this team because it has a little bit of everything, including size, speed and shooters.

Pennell said he recruited this team with three criteria: talent, academics and character. He said these three things will bring a winning team to UCA.

Sometimes statistics can be skewed because of the level of talent athletes play against and the team around them, but it can also be helpful in determining what kind of player a team is getting.

Statistically, if these new recruits can build chemistry early and put together their basketball knowledge, we could see this team competing right away.

It is a young class though, so it may take a couple of years to start seeing the results, but I wouldn’t
be surprised to see UCA toward the middle to top of the Southland Conference this upcoming season.

Two players that stand out to me after watching some videos are high school senior recruits point guard Jordan Howard and forward Otas Iyekekpolor.

From the videos I have seen, Howard looks like he will be a great floor general at UCA.

Not only can he score, but he finished high school with a 4.3 GPA.

He seems like an all-around athlete with his primary game being driving and spot-up shooting.

In his senior season, he led the state of Arizona in scoring with 25.6 points per game.

Iyekekpolor comes to UCA fresh off a senior season in Canada, in which he averaged 28 points, 17 rebounds and three assists per game. Despite those crazy numbers, he was given a two-star rating.

Pennell says the rating doesn’t matter to him because of what they have in Iyekekpolor.

This was probably one of those times where numbers can be a little skewed, but one doesn’t put up those kinds of numbers without tremendous talent, nonetheless Pennell said Iyekekpolor could be one of the best players to come through UCA.

Because I have limited space, I can’t say everything I want about these recruits, but I do see big things for this team and it will be exciting to watch them grow and mesh as a unit for the next few years.

When I interviewed Pennell after his introductory press conference, he said he wants to get UCA to where Stephen F. Austin is now.

The way he has set up this team, I can see the Bears reach those heights.

This is the first time I have been able to say that, as I’m, ending my fourth year at UCA.

Sadly, I won’t be a student here much longer to see where this team will be in a couple of years.

However if I’m still in Conway, I will definitely check out some games from the Pennell led squads.

The full recruits list and Pennell’s opinions on each player can be found at

On the women’s side, head coach Sandra Rushing signed four players to a team that fell a couple of games short of winning the Southland Conference championship.

Guards incoming freshmen Angel Williams and junior Kendra Watts will add some much needed scoring to the Sugar Bears this upcoming season.

Williams averaged 18 points per game in her senior year at Bellaire High School in Bellaire, Texas and Watts averaged 16 points per game at Shelton State Community College.

Rushing also added the 6-foot junior forward Shanta Echols from Pearl River Community College, who averaged a double- double this season.

These players will look to replace seniors center Courtney Duever and guard Micah Rice. UCA basketball’s future looks promising, but we’ll have to wait a year for men’s basketball to fully see the results.

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