GREENSBORO (July 7, 2016) – The look of the North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team will be drastically different than it was in 2015-16. Entering his first full season as the Aggies head coach, Jay Joyner announced the arrival of 10 new players on Thursday.
The Aggies have eight returning players in Sam Hunt (6-foot-2, 175-pound guard, Greensboro, N.C.), Nick Reese (6-7, 210, forward, Los Angeles), Jamin Lackey (6-8, 200, F, Los Angeles), James Whitaker (6-5, 180, G, Portsmouth, Va.), Austin Williams (6-1, 175, G, Queens, N.Y.), Amari Hamilton (6-1, 165, G, Durham, N.C.), Mike Owona (6-9, 250, center, Bel Air, Md.) and Martin Jones (6-1, 171, G, Cincinnati, Ohio).
Three of the Aggies signees will sit out next season, giving the Aggies a roster of 15 players.
The Aggies focused on getting immediate experience for the 2016-17 season. Aaron Scales (6-9, 233, C, American Basketball Institute, High Point, N.C.), a graduate transfer out of Cleveland State, will play one season for the Aggies.
Joyner pulled heavily from the junior college ranks as well with signing of Eliel Gonzalez (6-2, 170, guard, Florida Air HS, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Cayey, Puerto Rico), Donte Watson (6-6, 185, F/G, Riverdale HS, Copiah Lincoln CC, New Orleans) and Davaris McGowens (6-6, 230, F, Gary Military Academy, Gulf Coast State College, Taylors, S.C.). The three high school signees are Raymon Pratt (6-3, 197, G, Ben L. Smith HS, Greensboro, N.C.), Josh Mullins (6-2, 180, G, Nash Central HS, Nashville, N.C.) and Dalen Datson (5-11, 160, G, Moravian Prep, Matthews, N.C.).
Aaren Edmead (5-10, 165, G, Deer Park HS, Deer Park, N.Y.) and Japhet Kadji (6-7, 205, F, Gulliver Prep, Douala, Cameroon), both transfers from Wagner, and Olufemi Olujobi (6-8, 233, F, Brentwood HS, Long Island, N.Y.), a transfer from Oakland (Mich.), will all sit out next season. Each player has two years of eligibility remaining. Two players the Aggies signed in December, Antanee Pickard (6-4, 190, Lancaster, Pa.) and Markques Houston (6-5, 195, Houston, Texas), have de-committed.
“Our recruiting class gives a chance to compete and win. In this business that is all you can ask for,” said Joyner. “In the short period of time I had to recruit, I think we have players who fit into the way we want to play this year. We are a little more versatile offensively. We have some enforcers down low and we were able to bring in scoring and experience. But again, we have to stake our reputation on playing defense. If we do that, we have a chance.”
Scales is a local product out of High Point. Scales played 72 games at Cleveland State before graduating with a communications degree. Joyner called Scales a back-to-the basket player who will be difficult to handle in the post. “We expect him to play physical and tough,” said Joyner. “We’ve needed toughness in the paint around here, and I think he is going to bring it to us.”
Junior College Signees
Gonzalez will compete for the starting point guard position in 2016-17. He started his collegiate career at Division I Hofstra before transferring to Mississippi Gulf Coast CC. During the 2014-15 season at Hofstra, he played in 19 games and averaged 4.1 minutes. Last season for the Bulldogs, he posted 7.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He knocked down 27 of 64 3-pointers (.422). Joyner says he is a good passer who sees the floor well and makes good decision.
The Aggies are looking for Watson, a left-hander, to provide some scoring from the wing. Watson played two seasons at the junior college level where he averaged 15.3 points per game as a sophomore. He also averaged 4.6 rebounds and shot 41 percent from the field and 70 percent from the line. As a freshman he averaged 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds on 45 percent shooting. Joyner says Watson is good at getting to the basket, but he can also knock down perimeter shots with consistency.
McGowens will add some physicality to the Aggies lineup. He shot 53 percent from the floor as a freshman at Gulf Coast State College while averaging 9.6 points and 6.4 rebounds in 29 games played. As a sophomore, he was a 59 percent shooter from the floor and averaged 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds in 28 games played. Joyner says he is a player the Aggies can give the ball to in the post and feel confident in coming away with points. “I don’t think we have to live and die by jump shots every night with him on the floor,” Joyner added.
Pratt will join junior Sam Hunt as a Greensboro native on the Aggies roster. Pratt was a do-it all player at Smith where he averaged 21.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game as a senior. He was also a 1,000-point scorer for the Golden Eagles. He scored 18 points to lead the Golden Eagles to the Metro 4-A conference championship. Joyner says Pratt is a perfect defensive fit for the Aggies because he has a build that will allow him to guard point guards, power forwards and wings.
“He is going to bring a lot of intensity from day one,” said Joyner. “You need guys out there with high motors defensively, and he definitely has a high motor.”
Before his career is over Mullins could be considered a steal for the Aggies at the point guard position. Joyner said he was surprised someone with his upside was not signed. Mullins is another guard who could be good for the Aggies defensively with his long arms and athleticism. He averaged 24.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game as a senior at Nash Central. He also shot 44 percent from 3-point range.
Dotson gives the Aggies a speedy guard who loves to attack the basket. He is also a good passer. He attended Providence High School before the 2015-16 when he played for Moravian Prep in Lenoir, N.C. Dotson averaged 10.0 points and 6.0 assists at Moravian Prep but was hampered by a hand injury. As a senior at Providence, he averaged 15.4 points and 3.3 assists. Joyner called him an underrated player for his skill set. “I think he is going to come in motivated because he feels like he was overlooked,” said Joyner.
Division I transfers who will sit out the 2016-17 season
In two seasons at Wagner, Edmead scored 285 points and dished out 83 assists in 62 games played. Edmead started five times in over his first two seasons including both of the Seahawks’ NIT games last season as they advanced to the second round. He posted a career-high 16 points on 4-for-6 shooting from 3-point range against St. Brooklyn Francis on Jan. 28, 2016. He scored in double figures six times at Wagner.
Newsday and LongIslandBasketball.Com named him Long Island Player of the Year when he was a prep star at Deer Park. “He is not a flashy guy, but he gets the job done. He runs the show extremely well, and he has a knack for hitting big shots,” Joyner said.
Kadji will join Edmead at N.C. A&T as a transfer from Wagner. Kadji played 51 games in a Wagner uniform with 14 starts. He scored 196 points and grabbed 120 rebounds during his time as a Seahawk. Kadji also knocked down 29 3-pointers. As a freshman he posted 10 points and nine rebounds at Fairleigh Dickinson. He had a career-best 14 points at St. John’s during the 2015-16 season. Joyner described as pick-and-pop shooter who can also put the ball on the floor to score.
Olujobi played 56 games with nine starts during his time at Oakland. He posted 76 points and 85 rebounds. He had a career-high nine rebounds last season at Milwaukee. As a high school standout at Brentwood he helped his team win the Long Island championship. He was named All-Long Island and had a pair of triple doubles as a senior. Joyner says Olujobi will be a big active body in the post that will cause opponents problems offensively and defensively.