Redhawks land big fish in Powell

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dickey Nutt announced the signing of four players to letters of intent Wednesday.

Southeast Missouri State men's basketball coach Dickey Nutt didn't wait long to start replenishing his roster.

Nutt announced the signing of four players to national letters of intent during Wednesday's opening of the spring signing period.

And Nutt isn't done.

"We will sign some more guys, but it's a good start for us," said Nutt, hired at Southeast on March 12. "These four are all very, very good people, all good students, and they're good basketball players.

"I'm very excited. I think our fans are going to enjoy watching all of them play."

Three of the four signees are from Arkansas, which isn't surprising since Nutt previously spent 13 seasons as Arkansas State's coach.

"Those are the guys I've kept my eyes on the last couple of years," said Nutt, who was out of coaching during the 2008-09 season and lived in Jonesboro, Ark. "Last year I was able to watch a lot of games."

The only non-Arkansas native in the bunch -- Leon Powell of St. Louis -- ranks as the Redhawks' top signee so far.

Powell, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward, earned all-region second team honors the past two seasons at perennial national junior college power Indian Hills in Iowa.

Powell averaged 11.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore for a 30-3 team that was ranked second nationally. He shot 61.8 percent from the field.

"I am extremely excited about announcing Leon Powell. He was one of those key guys I identified and went after just moments after I was hired," Nutt said. "He was a focal point, to land a player of his stature.

"He's very athletic. He can face bigger guys up and get around them and score. He goes after rebounds. He can play inside or outside. He can run all day. He wants to be an impact player. With hard work I think he can be that."

Indian Hills coach Jeff Kidder said: "Leon is an explosive athlete that can make plays on both ends of the floor. The fans will love watching and cheering for this kid."

Powell played at Vashon High School, which ranked among the nation's top programs during his time there. He was a prep teammate of current Southeast player Johnny Hill.

"He played for one of the top high school programs in the country and one of the top junior college programs in the country," Nutt said. "He's had great success everywhere he's played."

Powell reportedly turned down scholarship offers from Houston, Ohio and Murray State to sign with Southeast. Southern Illinois-Carbondale was said to have made a late push for Powell.

"No question there were sharks all around him, so to speak," Nutt said. "I was so excited to get the news last night [that Powell planned to sign with Southeast]."

Nutt hopes landing a St. Louis product will open recruiting doors in that area.

"It's very important that we have presence in St. Louis," Nutt said.

The other junior college player to sign is 5-11 point guard Anthony Allison from Missouri State University-West Plains. He is a native of Marianna, Ark.

High school signees are 6-5 wing LaQuentin Miles from Jacksonville, Ark., and 6-2 guard Marland Smith from Little Rock, Ark.

Allison averaged 12.8 points, 3.3 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore at MSU-West Plains. He shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.

"He can create and do some things on the floor. He brings us leadership and he can score in bunches," said Nutt, whose oldest son Logan played with Allison at MSU-West Plains. "I've watched his career since ninth grade. He just comes from an awesome background."

Miles averaged 18.5 points, 7 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 4.7 steals as a senior for a state championship team. He is a two-time all-state selection.

"He's extremely athletic. He played the point, the two guard and the small forward," Nutt said. "He needs to work on his shooting some, but he's so athletic. He can get to the basket when he wants to. I really feel like his upside is very, very good."

Smith averaged 13.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range for a Hall High School squad that lost to Miles and Jacksonville in the Class 6A state finals. He was the MVP of the state tournament as a junior in leading Hall to the title.

"He can really, really shoot the basketball and he's very quick," Nutt said. "He was forced to play the point some this year and did a good job. He can do a lot of things with the ball."

Roster shuffle possible

Junior point guard Bijon Jones posted on his Facebook page earlier this week that he is no longer a member of the team. Nutt confirmed that.

"There was an initial agreement that he wanted to go and find another place to play," Nutt said. "We certainly wish him well."

Several other of Southeast's seven players from this year's squad who have eligibility remaining also reportedly won't return. Nutt said that's a possibility, although nothing is official.

"Right now my main focus is recruiting," Nutt said. "All that stuff will sort itself out later."

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