Taking a broader look at his program, Augustana men's basketball coach Grey Giovanine knew the 2019 incoming recruiting class was going to be important its continued success.
The Vikings are graduating All-American guards Nolan Ebel and Chrishawn Orange along with forward Brett Benning. The bulk of the front-court production for the 2019-20 season — Pierson Wofford, Micah Martin, Donovan Ferguson and Roman Youngblut — will be seniors.
As such, the program faces a transition period as extreme as it has had to endure in many years.
“It's the largest class we've ever had; we have 11 guys coming in,” said Giovanine, whose club is coming off a 26-4 season during which it won a fifth straight CCIW regular-season title. “This was a significant class (graduating), we have six seniors next year and we only had three freshmen this season. We really felt this was going to be a key group,”
That being said, Giovanine was pleased to report this week that he feels as if this recruiting class meets the many needs.
As large as this class is in numbers, it is just as diverse. From highly-decorated guards to skilled big men, Giovanine feels as if the coaching staff found a number of youngsters to plug what holes will need to be filled.
“We felt like we needed a well-rounded group,” Giovanine said. “Our big guys this year, three are seniors, so we wanted to put some guys in there that could learn for a year. Obviously we lost two great guards and we knew we needed help in the back court. … We felt like we needed a full complement.”
Two of the 11 are junior-college transfers – Geneseo's Jacob Pauley, who comes after a strong finish at Black Hawk, and Justin Bottorff (Quincy Notre Dame HS/John Wood CC). Pauley has two years of eligibility remaining and Bottorff three seasons.
“This is the first time ever that we have two guys coming out of junior college,” Giovanine said.
Bottorff, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward, averaged 6.6 points and 5.2 rebounds as John Wood went 21-15 and finished fifth at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament.
Other potential key big men could be Cameron Bartmann (6-10, 245-pound center, Chicago St. Rita HS) and Daniel Carr (6-9, 230-pound center, Aurora, Colo.). Carr went to high school at Regis Jesuit High School, the same school as Ebel.
Carr averaged 19.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game for a 15-9 Regis Jesuit team that won the Continental League championship with a 9-1 mark. He was an all-state selection and was one of just 10 players named to Basketball Colorado's All-5A team.
Among the incoming guards are Pleasant Valley's Carter Duwa and Jack McDonald.
The 5-11 McDonald prepped at Geneva HS and was a consensus all-state selection. He averaged 16.4 points and 5.7 assists per game that led to Area Player of the Year honors from the Daily Herald and Kane County Chronicle.
“It's a really deep and talented class,” said Giovanine. “... Locally, we got Carter and a Geneseo guy. We got everything we wanted – depth, regional guys, size and a couple of guys who have played college ball.”
The Vikings just wrapped up a week of spring drills and will get one more week before another international trip to Italy, Switzerland, Monte Carlo and Barcelona, that begins May 23.
Augie will be without senior-to-be Lucas Simon, who is still recovering from knee surgery, and freshman Josh Boulanger, who is injured. That leaves just 12 healthy players looking ahead to those four international games as none of the newcomers can participate.
“It's so good for those guys that we've got coming back,” said Giovanine of those 12 who are looking to all fill different roles on the court and in leadership duties. “Instead of having to wait until October 15th to start redefining roles, we get to do it in May.”