This is the time of year, between the live evaluation periods of April and the AAU madness of July, that Lou Wilson’s iPhone is brimming with inquiries and offers and questions from college coaches.
It is the same for any high school coach with two or more Division I prospects on their roster. The college coaches saw them at AAU events in April, whether they played in the Nike, Under Armour or Adidas circuit, or smaller events. Now the coaches can be in contact and host players on visits, but any further in-person evaluation is prohibited until the three evaluation periods in July. That makes May and June a transitional period of sorts, and rising seniors are currently gearing up for what could prove to be the most critical part of their recruiting processes.
Wilson, the head coach at Riverdale Baptist, has three players in that situation: 6-foot-8 forward Tyrese Samuel, 5-foot-9 point guard Donovann Toatley and 6-foot-6 wing David McCullough. Each of them represents a different phase of the recruiting process, Samuel as a likely high-major recruit, Toatley looking to turn wide-ranging interest into an expansive offers list, and McCullough out to prove he can play at the Division I level. Wilson organizes each player’s prospects in lists on his phone, and he sees great potential in each of their next steps.
“It all makes my head spin a bit sometimes,” Wilson said, laughing. “But it’s a great problem to have, right? The goal for a coach is to help these young men grow and become college players, get an education and then go from there. For these three guys, they are all in a great spot and just need to sure up that one thing that will push them to another level.”
For Samuel, that one thing is defensive intensity.
He grew up in Montreal and, as youth Canadian basketball sometimes goes, was always physically and athletically superior to his opponents. But then he got to the states and Riverdale Baptist before last season, and players went from playing around the rim to playing above it. Games felt like they were being fast forwarded. He quickly learned he’d have to adjust his approach.
“Sometimes in Canada I could just rely on my height or my skill and not even try that hard to be successful,” Samuel said. “If I went too hard the score may have been run up and I’d come out, and I never wanted to come out. But that was totally different once I got here. I mean, totally different.”
But Samuel’s offensive skill set still stood out right away. He has a reliable jump shot that stretches to the perimeter, knows how to navigate the low post and can put the ball on the floor if defenders close out too hard. That led to offers from Virginia Tech, Rhode Island and Old Dominion toward the end of the high school season, and then Kansas State, Wichita State, Southern Methodist, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Providence, East Carolina, Towson and East Carolina.
That latter group of schools all came after Samuel shined in April with UPlay Canada in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League on the AAU circuit. He also is receiving interest from Maryland, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Oregon and Michigan, according to Wilson. He wants to potentially visit Wake Forest, Providence and Virginia Tech this summer, as they are close enough to Montreal that his parents could join him. Then he hopes to cut his list down by the end of the summer, take official visits in the fall and start considering his decision.
And with a bit more defensive buy-in in the coming months, there could be more high-major programs for him to choose from.
“All the tools are there with Tyrese, every single one,” Wilson said. “Once he allows himself to hit that next gear he is going to be wanted by everyone, sky is the limit.”
For Toatley, that one thing is sharpening his point guard skills.
His quickness allows him to get to any spot on the floor and defend opposing players full-court. He plays for D.C. Premier’s 17U team on the AAU circuit, and last summer was on a squad with a lot of forwards. That forced him to work on his playmaking and court vision, and now Wilson and interested college coaches want to see him take the next step in that area. Wilson said Toatley averaged around four assists per game for Riverdale Baptist this past season, and that he’d like that number to be around nine or 10 in Toatley’s senior year.
Toatley has one offer, from Richmond, but has received interest from Missouri, James Madison, Rice, Towson, Massachusetts-Lowell, Mount Saint Mary’s, Radford, Maryland-Baltimore County and Lipscomb, according to Wilson. Toatley said that Towson, Radford, James Madison and Lipscomb have particularly given him a lot of attention, and that he was also contacted by Penn State and George Mason during the evaluation periods in April.
“Now it’s just trying to pick up more offers and build my options,” Toatley said. “I do think that being a more sound point guard, getting my teammates involved more and more, will go a long way in impressing coaches that have already noticed me.”
For McCullough, that one thing is a jump shot.
McCullough has always been able to get to the rim with ease, and his length and athleticism could make him a dangerous and desired shooting guard. But he needs to improve his jumper to tie it all together, and has a full summer to camp out in the gym and take shot after shot after shot.
McCullough, who is playing with New World on the AAU circuit, visited James Madison last Monday. He also has interest from Towson, Northern Iowa, Massachusetts-Lowell and Northern Illinois, according to Wilson.
“It would do a lot for my game, a lot,” McCullough said of improving his shooting. “It would make teams have to play me higher and I could drive, it would open up things for my teammates, and it would just help me be a complete scorer. I know I have to work on that to start getting offers and take the next step.”
» Chapelgate Christian center Jason Murphy took an unofficial visit to West Virginia this past Saturday, Chapelgate Coach Frick Fierson told The Post. The 6-foot-8 Murphy, who is in the Class of 2019, has an offer from Old Dominion and received interest from the Mountaineers, North Carolina, Maryland and Georgetown, according to Fierson. Murphy visited Georgetown before Patrick Ewing was named head coach, but the Hoyas have continued to be in close contact. Murphy also regularly receives mail from Central Florida and will attend camps at St. John’s and Princeton this summer.
» St. John’s center Richard Njoku took an unofficial visit to Bucknell last Friday, St. John’s Coach Pat Behan told The Post. Njoku, a rising senior, is also highly considering Brown and Bucknell, according to Behan (who played at Bucknell). The high-energy, 6-foot-6 big man also has offers from Binghamton, New Hampshire, Canisius, Coppin State, Howard, Navy and American. Those last four offers were reported by Adam Ayalew of Prep Hoops.
» Bladensburg’s Daniel Oladapo took an unofficial visit to James Madison last Thursday, Bladensburg Coach Antonio Williams told The Post. Oladapo, a 2018 prospect, plans to visit Fairleigh Dickinson some time in the coming week. The 6-foot-6 forward holds offers from Howard, High Point, Bowie State and Virginia Union.
» Wilson forward Marquis Copeland has accepted a scholarship offer from Harcum College, Wilson announced in a tweet Monday. Copeland, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 4.2 points per game as a senior for the Tigers this past season. He will start at Harcum, a junior college outside of Philadelphia, in the fall.
Catch up on basketball recruiting in the area …