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The Penguins men’s basketball team kept the transaction wire active Thursday with three players asking for their release and having that request granted, which was confirmed by YSU men’s basketball media contact Jamie Hall.
Sophomores Braun Hartfield and Jeremiah Ferguson, along with freshman Jacob Brown, are leaving the team.
The 6-foot-6 Hartfield was the team’s second-leading scorer (13.7 points), but only scored in single figures four of his last six games.
Ferguson (6-2) averaged 3.7 points per game and came off the bench, but had his nose broken in the season opener and seemingly never recovered from the injury. Another factor was a lack of playing time his freshman season for a player who was touted as the most athletic on the team, according to former coach Jerry Slocum.
Brown (6-9) only played in 10 games and saw limited time and 1.4 points per game for a team which was 8-23 under first-year coach Jerrod Calhoun.
As to why the three transferred out of YSU, that remains an unknown since the school’s Director of Athletics Ron Strollo has instructed his coaches and players not to say anything when a student-athlete transfers to another school. All the school can do is confirm the transfer.
Don’t agree with that policy. A simple blanket statement of thanking them for their contribution to the program and wishing them well in their future endeavors is a better policy. That’s simple business etiquette, and running an athletic department is essentially a business.
The business at hand for the men’s basketball program is to fill those three spots for the 2018-19 season.
The Penguins signed three in the early period in mid-November with two first-team, All-Ohio players in Huber Heights Wayne’s Darius Quisenberry and Columbus Beechcroft’s Jelani Simmons.
Quisenberry, a 6-0 guard, averaged 18.5 points for a Warriors team that lost in a Division I regional final to Cincinnati Moeller.
Simmons, a 6-5 guard, averaged 20 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.7 assists, in Beechcroft’s historic season — 26-2 and a loss in a Division II regional semifinal to Bay Village.
The third is Atiba Taylor, a 6-4 guard, from Hackensack (N.J.) High School. Taylor averaged 17.3 points, 7.3 assists and 5.5 rebounds. Taylor had offers from places such as Kansas State, but that was contingent on him spending a year at a prep school.
Those three take up three of the five scholarships now available. The other two are for verbal commitments, including Olamide Pedersen, a 6-8 forward from Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas, which was announced by verbalcommits.com. Pedersen usually has double figures in rebounds for this prep school.
The other verbal is Donel Cathcart (6-5), a graduate of Cardinal O’Hara High School in Buffalo, N.Y., according to his Twitter account. He averaged 20.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists for Niagara County Community College.
Pedersen, who hails from Denmark, and Cathcart, can officially sign on April 17, the start of the late signing period.
Quisenberry, Simmons, Taylor, Cathcart and Pedersen replace the scholarships left open by departing senior Cameron Morse, Hartfield, Ferguson and Brown, along with Alex Wilbourn, a 6-11 forward who left in early December.
The Penguins are one of five teams in the running for 6-11, 230-pound Jeff Otchere (Bronx, N.Y.) of Garden City Community College. Fordham, Stony Brook, Utah State and Washington State are other possible landing spots, according to jucorecruiting.com.
He only averaged five points and five rebounds, but he leads the JUCO level in blocks per game. The defensive specialist is said to have a standing reach of more than 9 feet and a vertical of more than 30 inches.
Currently, there are two players left from the Jerry Slocum era, junior Devin Haygood and senior guard Francisco Santiago, who is waiting to see if the NCAA grants him a sixth year of eligibility due to a season-ending ACL injury.
If Santiago does not come back, or someone else transfers out of the program, YSU can sign Otchere to a scholarship.
Freshmen Naz Bohannon, Garrett Covington and Michael Akuchie, along with juniors Tyree Robinson, Noe Anabir and Devin Morgan all return.
That gives the Penguins the maximum of 13 scholarship players.
Morgan, Quisenberry and Taylor would give the Penguins some much-needed depth in the backcourt for a team that had to add by subtraction.
Sad to see Hartfield and Ferguson go, two players who were classy individuals off the court. Some other programs are going to benefit by having one of them on their team.
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