After losing four players, Dior Lowhorn, Dontae Bryant and Blake Wallace all to graduation and Kwame Vaughn, who has transferred to another school, the men’s basketball team will have a much different look next season. The top two scorers from last year, Lowhorn (18.4 ppg) and Vaughn (12.6 ppg) won’t be wearing the green and gold next year, which means someone has to fill their roles, whether it’s a current player or a recruit. Coach Rex Walters said, “Losing two of your leading scorers is tough, but I was not surprised by Kwame’s decision. He is a good young man and we wish him the best.”
In order to replace that production, Walters and his coaching staff have been hard at work, recruiting talented players to help the USF program get back to its winning ways. Walters hopes that these recruits will be able to come in and compete for a spot in the rotation. “Pretty much all spots are open and must be earned, but we have some very competitive young men. I love the fact that so many of our guys have either come from State High School Champs or were right on the verge of winning at that level. It will be fun to watch our guys compete,” said Walters.
One way to get back to winning is to stick with a direction and recruit players that fit that goal. “Academics, player development and a winning culture [are] what we really stress with our team and program. Every single one of these young men fit what we [we’re] about. They have proven themselves in the Classroom. They have worked very hard to get to a high level and aspire to reach even higher goals on the court. They all come from winning Programs and bring that to [USF]. We have been fortunate to add all of them to the mix. We will be very young, but I feel very good about the direction we have for the Program” said Walters.
For the second consecutive year, the Dons were able to build a strong recruiting class that meets the team’s needs and is full of players that should be able to make immediate contributions. ‘We were fortunate to sign Dominique [O’Connor] and Mikey [Williams] as guards and Perris [Blackwell], Moustapha [Diarra] and Tomas [Bruha] for the Post Positions. The result were just okay in terms of W’s and L’s but we had a lot of first year players that were trying to find their way,” said Walters about last year’s recruiting class. This year the Dons once again attempted to fill team needs with talented players.
“This year we will be young again, but we needed to improve our guard play, forward play and add some more size to our posts. We accomplished all three,” said Walters. “The staff has worked hard each year in recruiting and I see us getting better. We will be young again, but I like the group that we have assembled…. now we need to come together as a team.”
With that in mind, here is a look at the players that the Don’s recruited and how each one will fit into the current team.
Avery Johnson- Shooting Guard
The 6’3” shooting guard from Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach, Calif. is the cream of the crop for this recruiting class. At Ocean View High School, Johnson enjoyed a solid career; he was named the CIF Division IV-AA Player of the Year and received First Team honors as a junior in 2009. As a senior, Johnson was selected to the First Team All-Orange County, averaging 17.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game as he led his team to the CIF Southern California Regional Division III semifinals. Johnson should be able to make an immediate contribution as a freshman with his playmaking and scoring abilities. He is a player that will be exciting to watch and should prove to be a difference maker for the team.
Cole Dickerson- Small Forward
The 6’6” small forward from Federal Way High School in Washington is a great scorer that comes from a strong program. Last season as a junior, Dickerson averaged 17.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive .660 from the field. Dickerson has all the tools to become a great scorer for the Dons as he has the ability to shoot, drive, post-up or take his man off the dribble. Dickerson is an exciting prospect that should help the Dons immediately with his scoring prowess and ability to stretch the floor. With the combo of Dickerson and Johnson, the Dons should have a solid one-two punch for the next few years.
Justin Raffington- Power Forward
Raffington, a 6’9” 225 pound power forward is an international player from Germany who has a lot of experience as he is on the U-18 German National Team. Raffington is a good rebounder and shot blocker, who should be able to make an immediate contribution on the defensive end of the floor. He has a solid offensive game, as he is able to stretch the floor and score around the basket. With the loss of Lowhorn, the Dons must fill a need on the post, and Raffington should be able to step in and help make contributions to make up for the Lowhorn’s departure.
Khalil Murphy- Power Forward
The 6’7”, 230 pound forward has great all around skills and possesses the ability to play multiple positions. Murphy is an athletic player with the skills of a guard; he can handle the ball, is a good passer with a high basketball I.Q. and he has good range on his jumpshot. His talents will present matchup problems for opponents because his combination of size and skill will be hard to guard against. It will be interesting to watch Murphy because of the talent he possesses, hopefully he will be able to come in and develop into a special player.
Cody Doolin- Point Guard
The 6’2” combo guard brings quickness, toughness and explosiveness to the Dons. As a junior at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, Doolin averaged 19.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. Doolin’s explosive play will be a welcomed addition to the Dons. He adds great depth to the guard position, which should be a strength for next year’s team.
With another strong recruiting class, expectations are high with this team because there is finally enough talent to compete for a WCC title. Walters and his coaching staff work hard to bring the Dons back to the top of WCC and they feel that it’s an obtainable goal. “I believe if we play hard, smart and together we will have a chance to compete and win in our league. However, we have to do these things and stay healthy. If we can do this, there isn’t anyone I fear in our league,” said Walters.