This is a busy time of the year for the Army basketball coaching staff, as they are in between two of the staff's three recruiting periods, where they are presently in the midst of periods 2 & 3.
Needless to say, when you look at the current group of freshmen that arrived a few weeks ago unto the West Point campus for the R-Day and right into Beast Barracks, it is a transition into the college lifestyle that can not be compared to anything any other group of freshmen basketball players will experience within any program in that nation.
This is a group of plebes (frosh @ West Point) that the staff is very exited about, as they will be joining a squad that Head Coach Zach Spiker is very optimistic about as well.
"I think we are excited to have an All-League (Patriot) player in Ella Ellis returning," says Spiker, when discussing a major piece of this year's squads puzzle. "I think he's had a good summer and continued to get stronger, as well as improve in the areas that he needs to improve on. We want to keep moving things forward in the direction that we have been going I think for the last couple of years now."
Although the coaching staff is anxiously awaiting the day that they will officially start basketball practice, they have been able to watch their newcomers via a process within the walls of West Point called Mass Athletics. It's not a great sampling per say, but the staff has been very please with how the players are adjusting, especially what they are seeing in both Kyle Weldon and Tanner Plomb.
"Well specifically, our two direct ins, who were in high school a year ago and are coming here and going through the paces of joining the Long Gray Line as everyone does through basic training," says Spiker. "I think they've done a very good job managing their emotions and moving forward at a good rate so far."
For two of the incoming direct freshman, Spiker had this to offer on both
Kyle Weldon, 6'9; Center - We recruiting Kyle last year and we came across him as a good basketball player, someone we liked, he was a good student ... as the process began as it does with all recruit, we conducted an interview. We found out that he was as interested in West Point as we were in him as a basketball player. That moved the process along quicker and allowed us to beat out some schools, not to mention that Kyle's father Bill is a graduate of West Point. We see him at center for us.
Tanner Plomb, 6'8; Forward - Well specifically, our direct ins, who were in high school a year ago and are coming here and going through the paces of joining the Long Gray Line as everyone does through basic training. I think they've done a very good job managing their emotions and moving forward at a good rate so far. Tanner is going to be a good player for us.
Matt Gramling, TX 6'3; Guard - Matt is the younger brother of Chris Gramling who is already in our program. What has stuck out with us with him is his overall feel for the game. He's physically a little bit stronger than a typical high school graduate. Again, he has a very good field for the game and nose for the ball.
Beyond the direct reports, it was difficult for Spiker to hold back his enthusiasm and optimism when the conversation moved to the players migrated into the program from the USMAPS.
"We have a number of guys coming up from the prep school and essentially that was a team that came from prep, where they had some very nice victories there," shares the Head Coach. "They went 23-8 with big wins over schools like Blair Academy. That was a successful group and we are happy to have them matriculate to West Point."
"A couple of guys stand out first and foremost because of their size. Kevin Ferguson is 6'10" and maybe a little bit more than that. He has continued to improve and move his game forward since he left the prep school. Now that he's back and as kind of get to spend time with him ... he's a very confident young man and knows what he can do well.
Another player to keep an eye on according to Spiker is Kyle Wilson. "His another young man who's a dynamic scorer and he'll be on the wing," says Spiker, who further added to his assessment of the prepsters.
"I think with all our guys, we're very very excited about this group. This is a group when we replaced the assistant coaching staff, this is the group that we sent to the prep school. These are the players we had identified. It's taken some time for them to graduate high school, go to the prep school and get here. As with any process it's taken time, but we are very excited about them."
Although optimistic, Spiker is also cautious not to have himself, his staff or fans expect too much, too soon from his overall freshmen class.
"Unfortunately, they are still going to be freshmen and their transition isn't over," he adds. "And we've got to certainly keep our excitement measured as they go through this first season. We're excited about the level of talent, but that doesn't make the transition smoother at times. Everyone's going to transition at their own rate and adjust. We are going to do whatever we can to make it as smooth as possible and make them be a part of the corp. First and foremost, be involved in their company and have a close relationship with their classmates."
It is clear that as things move on for this class, the basketball opportunities will present themselves. Beyond strength & condition, as well as the basketball practices, it will incumbent of Spiker and his staff to get this talented group of frosh acclimated to rhythm of this semester.
"Again, they will adjust at different rates, but the guys that adjust sooner will certainly put themselves in a position to help us," says Spiker.
Dylan Cox, 6'3 PG
Kyle Wilson, 6'5 SF
Kevin Ferguson, 6'10 C
Kyle Toth, 6'2 SG
Larry Toomey, 6'7 F
Travis Rollo, 6'8 F
Zach Schmidt, 6'4 SG
Billy Morrison, 6'4 F
Not only is it an exciting time for the 2012 class, but the staff has already received commitments for the 2013 recruiting class from David Hellstrom 6'4", Guard from Fork Union Military Academy, but originally from Homeschool Rockford (IL.); Austin Williamson 6'9", Center from First Baptist Naples (FL); Luke Morrison 6'8", Forward out of Northside Christian Charlotte (NC) and Taylor Neal 6'4" Small Forward from Marvin Ridge Charlotte (NC).
The uniqueness of this incoming crop of players, as well as the 2013 commits is that many were pursued by other colleges and universities. But when the dust settled, they choose West Point as their destination for what all the academy stands for and truly, that is worth noting.
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