Every year, IUP has lost key basketball players, and every year, coach Joe Lombardi and his staff have found players to fill the voids.
Never, though, were there so many holes to fill as there were this offseason.
IUP has recruited six players for the 2013-14 season, the eighth under Lombardi.
The class consists of three transfers — one from Division I and two from Division II — one junior college transfer and two freshmen from Australia.
“This is probably the biggest class we’ve ever brought in, and it’s a really diversified class, too,” Lombardi said. “We’re really pleased with it, and all the young men that will be joining the program next fall will be able to help us at some point in the season, and some are probably farther along in their development than others, but we feel they’ll all be important contributors as we try to continue the success of the program.”
IUP has won three of the last four Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championships, has made five straight NCAA tournament appearances and has won more than 20 games in each of the last five seasons during the most successful run in school history.
The Crimson Hawks were 26-6 last season but lost five seniors in starting guards Scooter Renkin and Anthony Wells and center Josh Wiegand as well as reserves Danny Ayebo and Chris Edwards.
The six recruits join returning starters and senior forwards Mathis Keita and Marcel Souberbielle and three key reserves in junior point guard Devante Chance, redshirt sophomore center Devon Cottrell and redshirt freshman guard Manny Yarde.
Two of the recruits are expected to make an immediate impact. Jeremy Jeffers, a 6-foot-6 forward, is a transfer from Division I Drake, and Brandon Norfleet, a 6-4 sophomore combo guard, is a transfer from Cheyney of the PSAC East.
The third transfer, 6-8 sophomore center Kalusha Ndoumbe Ngollo, came from Division II Franklin Pierce (N.H.), and Thomas Moore is a junior college transfer from Globe (N.Y.) Community College who is originally from Philadelphia. The Aussies are Nathan Lemke, a 6-9 center, and Stefan Osborne, a 6-1 guard.
Following is a look at each recruit.
JEREMY JEFFERS: Jeffers, from Wilson, N.C., brings the versatility to play either of the forward positions and can even move down to center against a smaller lineup.
He started 25 of 34 games as a redshirt freshman at Drake and averaged 7.1 points and 2.6 rebounds while playing 25.9 minutes per game on an 18-16 team. His playing time dropped last season to 11.6 minutes, and he averaged 3.3 points and 1.3 rebounds. He shot 43 percent from the floor, including 41 percent (48-for-118) from 3-point range, in two seasons. He has two years of eligibility.
“He brings a lot of versatility,” Lombardi said. “At Drake, night in and night out, even though he was 6-6 and 215, he guarded guys 20 or more pounds heavier and was competitive at that level. He’s a left-hander and has the versatility to step away from the bucket and shoot 3s. We plan on playing him at a lot of different positions and stretching the floor and maybe getting some versatility we haven’t had in the past. With the college experience he’s had and the success he’s had, he’ll make an immediate impact.”
BRANDON NORFLEET: Norfleet, from Virginia Beach, Va., was named the PSAC East Freshman of the Year after averaging 13.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists for a 14-12 Cheyney team. He started 23 of 26 games and shot 46 percent overall and 42 percent from 3-point range. He has three years of eligibility.
“Brandon has a ton of potential,” Lombardi said. “He’s a 6-4 combo guard, and he can play on the ball or off the ball, and a lot of times last year he played point guard at that size. He had nine assists in two different games last year, which speaks to his ability to pass and find the open guy and his unselfishness. He’s a good shooter and can get to the bucket, and he’s a really good passer, too. He has a really good package, and we’re excited about the contributions he can make.”
KALUSHA NDOUMBE NGOLLO: Ngollo, from Paris, France, played in 24 games, including six starts, at Franklin Pierce, which won the NCAA Division II East Region championship and advanced to the Elite Eight. He averaged 1.0 points and 1.9 rebounds in 6.0 minutes of playing time. He has three years of eligibility.
“Kalusha started a few games for them and was a solid contributor,” Lombardi said. “He gives us the diversity of being a big body that can bang and bring us some physicality. He’s about 6-8, 240, but he’s very light on his feet and can guard people laterally for his size very well. He’ll be an aggressive defender and rebounder.”
THOMAS MOORE: Moore went to high school at Math, Civics & Sciences in Philadelphia and played the past two years at Globe, where he averaged 13.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists last season. He has two years of eligibility.
“He gives us another guard to throw into the mix and compete for minutes at the off guard position or point guard position,” Lombardi said. “He’s an excellent shooter and brings tremendous energy to the floor and has real high intangibles along with good basketball skills, and he’ll fit in very well with how we try to build a team.”
NATHAN LEMKE: Lemke was selected for Australian Basketball Digest’s USA Tour team after averaging about seven points and eight rebounds in the Big V Youth League, where he faced opponents as much as five years older. He also was recruited by Division I mid-majors Tennessee-Martin and Monmouth.
He has four years of eligibility.
“He needs to put some weight on — he’s about 215 — but we really like his upside and potential,” Lombardi said. “He runs well for an 18-year-old kid that has that size, and he has good hands and a competitive edge and a little bit of toughness, and he understands the game. We’ve only seen him on film, but we’re very impressed with him and his references. He’ll compete for playing time at the center position, and he’ll be a young man that sees a steady incline in his development as time goes on and he gets stronger and adjusts to the game.”
STEFAN OSBORNE: Osborne, who is 21, played professionally in Australia and, according to NCAA rules, must sit out one season and lose one year of eligibility.
He averaged 17.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists for Corio Bay in the Australia-State League.
He has three years of eligibility left.
“He was a proven scorer at a high level in Australia,” Lombardi said. “He’s one of the best 3-point shooters, if not the best, that we’ve ever recruited here. He played against high-level competition over there and shot almost 50 percent on 3s. He has good range, and he can also play point guard.”
NOTES: Blake Vedder, a 7-3 center who transferred to IUP from Rhode Island before last season and averaged 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds in 22 games, has transferred to Kent State. He must sit out a year.
“Blake made the decision that his future needs and wants would be better served if he was able to be at another institution, so he transferred, and we wish him the very best,” Lombardi said. …
Assistant coach Chris Fite, who has been on Lombardi’s staff for all seven seasons, has a second interview today for the head coach position at Shippensburg. …
IUP’s roster has an international flavor, with the two Australians joining Keita and Ngollo, who are from France, and Souberbielle, who is from Uruguay. Seven of the nine other players are from Pennsylvania. …
Norfleet’s father, Darryl, was an all-PSAC West first team selection at California in 1986-87 and 1987-88.