GREENSBORO - There are three pressing needs North Carolina A&T men's basketball coach Cy Alexander pinpoints when discussing the 2012-13 season. The five-player 2012 A&T recruiting class will serve as the first few steps in helping Alexander address those needs.
Forwards Corvon Butler (6-6, 225, Champaign, Ill., Champaign Central HS) and Bruce Beckford (6-6, 215, Silver Spring, Md., Montrose Christian Academy) and guards Shaun Stewart (6-0, 180, Monroe, N.C., Sun Valley HS), Lamont Middleton (6-3, 210, Bronx, N.Y., Wake Tech CC) and Khalid King (6-2, 170, Columbus, Ohio, Brookhaven HS) will suit up for the Aggies this season.
Butler and Beckford will look to provide the physical toughness and size Alexander seeks. Stewart, Middleton and King must provide solid guard play by filling the void left by the graduation of guards Marc Hill and Nic Simpson, who ranked among the Aggies top scorers for the past two seasons.
Alexander gave credit to former Aggies head coach Jerry Eaves and his coaching staff for signing a trio of solid guards. With the addition of Alexander's two recent signees, the Aggies bolstered their roster despite the coaching transition.
"Overall, for as late as we got started, I felt we got two players with outstanding college bodies in Butler and Beckford," said Alexander. "They will look like Division I basketball players when they walk in the door."
Butler made the 2012 News Gazette All-Area Boys team. As the leading scorer for Champaign Central, he led the Maroons to their first Class 3A Rantoul Regional title in four years by averaging 14.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. In the process, he also recorded seven double-doubles. One of those double-double performances was a 14-point, 15-rebound outing against eventual Missouri Class 5A champion McCluer North. Butler finished 30 points in the News Gazette All-Star Game. Other schools showing interest included Oklahoma State, Butler and St. Louis.
"He is a very powerful player who really attacks the rim," said Alexander. "He is someone who is starting to develop his perimeter skills, so he can attack from the wing. We're looking to use him in mismatch situations. He is quicker than most power forwards and a little stronger than most small forwards."
Beckford can also play both forward positions. Alexander calls him a late bloomer who played for a legendary coach at one of the most prestigious high schools in America. Beckford, a product of Stu Vetter's Montrose Christian Academy nationally-ranked program, had a strong finish to his senior season. Beckford's signing was considered vital by Alexander because he and his staff have established a relationship with a high school program that produces topnotch talent each season.
"He didn't play a lot early in the season. But from what I understand, over the last 10 games of the season, a light came on. I like the fact that he is a highly intelligent young man. He comes to us with a college body, so he gives us another physical presence down low. He can also step out and hit the perimeter shot."
Stewart can hit a variety of shots. He comes to A&T with the reputation of being a scorer. He is Sun Valley High School's all-time leading scorer with more than 1,700 career points. As a senior, he averaged 26.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game for a Spartans team that won the Southern Carolina 3A/4A regular-season and tournament championships. Stewart also earned District 9 first-team recognition from the North Carolina Coaches Association.
"On film, it looks like he can come in a play for us as a freshman," said Alexander, who added that he will mostly play Stewart at the point guard position. "He has unbelievable stats for a kid six-foot, 180 pounds. Yes, he did against high school competition, but obviously this young man knows how to score the basketball."
Middleton is from The Bronx, but he graduated from Enloe High School in Raleigh (he did not play basketball there). He will enter A&T as a junior after spending two seasons at Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh. Last season, Middleton averaged 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He also shot 45 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range. He posted 44 points against Catawba Valley Community College and finished with 36 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Patrick Henry Community College. During his Wake Tech career, he scored 30 or more points three times, 20 or more points 10 times and he grabbed 10 or more boards five times. For his efforts, he earned first-team National Junior College Athletic Association honors.
"He will compete for a starting job, but I'm not quite sure yet at what guard position," said Alexander. "What I like about him is that he will rebound as a guard. He will get in there and mix it up. He is a tough-minded player who can get his shot off the dribble."
Khalid King was an early signing for A&T. He played varsity all four years at Brookhaven High School under head coach an Aggie alumnus Drew Williams. He was the leading scorer on his Club Ohio AAU team and made the Top-20 All-Star Game at the Buckeye Prep Shootout. MVP honors came his way at the 10th annual Capital Transportation All-Star Game. Prep Spotlight Magazine ranked him among the top 100 players in the state of Ohio.
"From what I am told, he is very athletic and has a good attitude. He is very coachable," said Alexander. "He is an off-guard who could play (point guard) if we needed him there, but we're going to give him a chance to play the big guard position."
The Aggies five signees will be complemented by seven returning seniors on the 2012-13 squad.