Georgia State signed four solid prospects in December in the early signing period and then added another four this spring giving them a total of eight signees for the 2012 recruiting cycle. Coach Ron Hunter lost six seniors from his 2011-2012 team including four starters. The departures of Eric Buckner, Jihad Ali, Josh Micheaux, and Jamar Taylor left GSU extremely thin in the front court in particular. Hunter responded by adding five forwards that will immediately compete for playing time. Here is a player-by- player breakdown and our overall analysis of Georgia State’s newest additions.
PG David Travers- This Carlsbad, California product led his team all the way to the state championship game where he scored 22 points in the loss. He is very quick and shows very good ball handling skills allowing him to create separation and get to the basket. He is an above average shooter with decent range, but creates most of his points off of penetration and is very unselfish with basketball.
SG/SF RJ Hunter- The son of head coach Ron Hunter was an All-State selection and also led his team to the state championship game in Indiana, where he had remained to finish his senior year. Now RJ will join his dad in Atlanta and will look to contribute right away. The Panthers only true jump shooter last season was sophomore Rashaad Richardson. Outside of him, the Panthers really had no reliable option on the wing. Hunter has very good range and his length is an asset. He should crack the rotation right away.
PF/C TJ Shipes- When Coach Hunter came to GSU he talked about how he built his IUPUI teams almost exclusively with players from the Indianapolis area and planned to implement the same strategy here in Atlanta. However Shipes, from Buford, Ga, was just one of two Atlanta area products signed in this class. The 6’9 Forward is very athletic for his size which is a requirement in Hunter’s fast paced attack. He is a ferocious rebounder and has good post moves in his offensive arsenal. He needs to improve defensively, but if he can do that he will have a chance to compete for playing time.
SG Cameron Solomon- The other local product to sign with GSU is returning after one year at High Point University. Solomon was a finalist for Class AAAA player of the year his senior year at Lovejoy High School and was the Clayton County Player of the Year when he averaged more than 24 points per game. Solomon had little success in limited playing time at High Point, but will immediately be one of the best scoring options on a team desperate for offensive production.
PF LaRon Smith- This 6’8 forward with a 7’3 wingspan might as well be nicknamed Eric Buckner Jr. The young big man averaged more than 4 blocks per game his senior year at Heritage High School in Palm Bay, Florida and will look to continue being a defensive at the college level. Smith is very built but could use to add some meat to his 210 pound frame to better withstand NCAA frontcourts, but his defensive prowess could get him in the rotation early. Smith is also very athletic and had some incredible highlight reel dunks over his high school career, but needs to improve his post game.
PF Denison Burguillos- Burguillos is the wild card of the class. The JUCO product originally from Venezuela is known as being an incredibly hard worker on and off the court and Coach Hunter raved about his signing with the Panthers. Burguillos has very good athleticism and shooting range despite his 6’9 size, but Hunter was most impressed with his ability to rebound and defend. He also reportedly added 40 pounds in muscle at junior college so perhaps he will be a contributor in a depleted front court. It’s hard to rely on his statistics where he averaged 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, but played on a team where 11 players played in every game and no one averaged more than 28 minutes.
C Curtis Washington- Another of the more intriguing prospects, Washington comes to Georgia State as a transfer from Southern Cal. He is originally from Kentucky but has battled injuries ever since his senior year in high school and has therefore played sparingly. If healthy, he could be one of the better players on the roster. Senior center James Vincent is good in the low post but his style doesn’t really fit Hunter’s system so a player of Washington’s size and athleticism will be given every opportunity to earn playing time. He is hoping to have last season, where he redshirted due to injury, count as his transfer season so that he will be eligible this season for Georgia State.
SF Markus Crider- The final player to sign with GSU in the 2012 class could potentially be one of the most talented players to ever sign with Georgia State. The Dayton, Ohio native was ranked as a three star recruit coming out of high school by ESPN and was rated as the sixth best player in the state. He was committed to play for Providence before signing with Bridgton Academy. Last season Crider averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds per game for Bridgton. He is tremendous on the offensive side of the ball with a balanced arsenal of post moves, penetration, and mid range jump shots. He also has decent range and his athleticism will be a tremendous asset to the Panthers.
Coach Ron Hunter really bonded with his first GSU team. He talked repeatedly about how that team will always be very special to him and will always be very proud of what they accomplished last season after years of mediocrity. However, that team was not suited to truly play Hunter ball. He often joked that last year’s team was the least athletic team he had ever coached and that there were more coaches that could dunk.
Therefore, although Hunter certainly will never forget his class of 2011, the advantage of Hunter having six seniors on the roster is that now he was able to go out and sign a very large class that is specifically engineered a certain way. He was able to sign five frontcourt players that are all very athletic and will be more suited to run his offense than fan favorite Eric Buckner was. He also improved his team’s shooting capabilities by adding three talented wing players that all have better range than any player on the roster last season with the exception of Richardson. And finally in David Travers Hunter has found a point guard with good shooting ability and quickness that will be able to spell Devonta White and play valuable minutes off the bench.
It is hard to truly grade objectively because of how big it is. There won’t be many teams in the country that are able to add up to five immediate contributors in one class. But the combination of signing an unprecedented level of talent while also filling areas of need means that Coach Hunter’s first full season of recruiting has absolutely been a slam dunk.