GREENSBORO – The 2013 MEAC men’s basketball champions, the North Carolina A&T Aggies, announced the signing of four additional players to a recruiting class that started with the signing of three players in November.
Steven Burrough (6-9, 220, Charlotte, N.C., Harding), Nicholas Reese (6-7, 190, Los Angeles, Westchester), Jerome Simmons (6-8, 230, Jacksonville, N.C., Massanutten Military Academy) and James Whitaker (6-5, 180, Portsmouth, Va., Norcom) will wear blue and gold for the Aggies in 2013-14.
In November, the Aggies signed Maurice Taylor (6-7, 200, Chestnut, Mass., Beaver Country Day), Bryan Akinkugbe (6-9, 225, Bowie, Md., Columbia State College) and Khary Doby (6-7, 195, Upper Marlboro, Md., Riverside).
On football’s National Signing Day, the Aggies football staff announced Denzel Keyes (6-4, 210, Kinston, N.C., Kinston) will double as a football and a basketball player at A&T. Keyes led the Vikings to consecutive North Carolina Class 2A state titles in basketball. He was named game MVP in 2013 after posting 18 points and 10 rebounds in the 56-53 win over Waxhaw Cuthbertson at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
“The thing I like about all these guys is that they come from winning high school programs,” said A&T head men’s basketball coach Cy Alexander. “I think it is huge in the development of building a program, to get guys in your program, who understand what it takes to not only win, but win championships.”
Burrough led Harding to the N.C. 3A regional semifinals this past season after averaging 10.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.4 blocks per game. Burrough ended his career as the Rams’ all-time leading shot blocker. He earned All-MEGA 7 conference honors two straight seasons, and he earned a spot on the Charlotte Observer’s All-Area team. In December, Burrough posted a triple-double against West Mecklenburg with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 12 blocked shots.
“He is a really skilled young man who will need to learn how to compete at the collegiate level,” Alexander said about Burrough. “He needs to get stronger in his upper body, but he already has a college lower body. He has a nice jump hook, and had the ability in high school to block shots. Hopefully, he can bring that to the collegiate level.”
Reese’s Westchester team went 29-7 last season and finished 12-0 in the Western League. Reese led the Comets to the California Interscholastic Federation Los Angeles City Championship, and they earned a spot in the state championship game. He was ranked as one of the best players in the state of California, earning first-team All-City honors, after averaging 14.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game as a senior.
“He is a good all-around athlete who obviously played in a terrific league in Los Angeles and competed against high-quality athletes on a daily basis,” said Alexander. “Any time you can make first team in the city of Los Angeles, it probably means you’re a pretty good player.”
Alexander described Simmons as a “rebounding machine.” “He’s going to go get it. He has a nose for the ball,” Alexander added.
Simmons attended the same high school as Adrian Powell, a player who helped Alexander win the 2013 MEAC title by being named Most Outstanding Performer of the MEAC tournament. Simmons averaged 13.9 points and 8.9 rebounds at Oakwood High School before transferring to Massanutten Military Academy as a senior, where he averaged 7.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.
Whitaker comes from a solid basketball background. His father played at Virginia Tech and his uncle played at Seton Hall. His coach, Leon Goolsby, is an A&T graduate. Whitaker was second-team All-Tidewater after the Greyhounds claimed the Eastern District regular-season and tournament titles. He also earned all-district and All-Eastern Region honors. Whitaker’s senior season ended with him averaging 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
“He will compete for playing time at the big guard position,” said Alexander. “He probably needs to get stronger, but he knows how to score the basketball. He has a real good basketball IQ.”
Alexander said he is looking to sign one more player to this recruiting class. The Aggies said farewell to seven seniors after losing to eventual national champions Louisville in the second round of the NCAA tournament. They will return two starters, guard Lamont Middleton and center Bruce Beckford, and one key reserve, guard Jeremy Underwood, next season.