Point guard, 7-footer highlight Nutt's recruiting class

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Southeast Missouri State men's basketball coach Dickey Nutt knows his rebuilding program still has a long way to go.

But Nutt believes the Redhawks took a major step in the right direction Wednesday as the NCAA's spring signing period got under way.

Southeast signed four players to national letters of intent, in addition to a player the Redhawks landed during the early signing period in November. All currently attend junior college.

"We're excited. It's a good day. I feel like we addressed some needs that needed to be addressed in the worst way," said Nutt, whose first Southeast squad went 7-23. "Hopefully we're going to look more like a Division I team. Hopefully we're inching closer.

"After evaluating our season, we needed some experience, some toughness. I feel like we've gotten a lot better in those areas."

Nutt felt two of Southeast's biggest needs were finding a point guard and an inside presence. He believes the Redhawks succeeded on both fronts.

The point guard is 6-foot-4, 215-pound Marcus Brister, a sophomore at Eastfield (Texas) College in suburban Dallas.

Brister, who began his college career at Iowa State of the Big 12 Conference, earned first-team junior college Division III All-American honors as he averaged 17.5 points, 7.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game.

Brister, ranked among the top 60 players in Texas as a high school senior in suburban Dallas, was recruited by several major Division I programs before signing with Iowa State. He averaged 2.3 points over the Cyclones' first three games in 2007-08 before leaving due to personal reasons.

"Point guard is one of the needs we needed in the worst way," Nutt said. "Marcus is a guy who's a true point guard, who has played the position at the highest level. He was born to be a point guard.

"He's big and strong. He looks like an NFL linebacker. He's an unselfish player, he's a great penetrator and passer. I think he'll make us tougher."

As far as an inside presence, Southeast landed 7-0, 255-pound center Zach House from Sauk Valley (Ill.) Community College, located approximately 100 miles west of Chicago.

House averaged 15.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks as a sophomore to earn all-region honors. He also has Division I experience, beginning his college career at Evansville, where he first redshirted and then saw limited action in 2008-09.

"I'm very excited about Zach. I think he'll be the surprise of all," Nutt said. "He is a legitimate 7-footer who can score, shoots free throws extremely well, works hard. He has soft hands and a good motor. He's a shot blocker. He'll make us a better defensive team.

"We really feel like his future is all ahead of him. It's nice to have a 7-footer, but a 7-footer who can play. If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times, when are you going to sign a 7-footer? They're not just walking around all over the place."

Also signing Wednesday were former Bell City standout Nick Niemczyk and Nate Schulte.

Niemczyk, a 6-1, 185-pound guard, earned all-Region 16 honors as a sophomore at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo., under legendary coach Gene Bess.

Niemczyk averaged 12.3 points while shooting nearly 43 percent from 3-point range and better than 78 percent from the free-throw line. He ranked among the region leaders in scoring, 3-point shooting, free-throw shooting, assists (2.2) and steals (1.7).

"No. 1, Nick shoots the ball outstanding. His toughness, his worth ethic, his unselfishness are second to none," Nutt said. "Any time you get a guy from Gene Bess' program, you have a very good player."

Niemczyk, whose father Pat Niemczyk played basketball at Southeast in 1979-80 after also competing for TRCC, tore his ACL in the semifinals of the national junior college tournament and was scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday.

There is some question whether Niemczyk will be healthy enough to play next season. He has the possibility of redshirting, but Nutt said it's too early to speculate.

"We'll cross that bridge when it comes," Nutt said. "His injury was unfortunate, but we wanted him. We didn't waver."

Schulte, a 6-5, 215-pound guard/forward, averaged 8.3 points and 4.6 rebounds as a sophomore at Kaskaskia College in Centralia, Ill. He shot 81.8 percent from the free-throw line.

Originally from Las Vegas, Schulte is a former Nevada player of the year who led his high school team to a state title.

"He's just a bull. He's big and strong, he can get to the basket and defend," Nutt said. "He can play every position. He just knows how to play. He'll add to our toughness."

Southeast signed 6-9, 195-pound forward Waylon Jones from Albany Tech (Ga.) Community College during the early period in November.

Jones averaged eight points, 6.5 rebounds and two blocks as a freshman before missing his sophomore season with a stress fracture. He will have three years of eligibility with the Redhawks.

"He's got a chance to be good. He's long, with a big wingspan, about 7-1," Nutt said. "He's got three years left, which is good."

Nutt also reminded Southeast fans not to forget about 6-7, 210-pound forward Leon Powell, the jewel of Nutt's first recruiting class who missed the 2009-10 season with a torn ACL. He has two years of eligibility left.

"Leon is just like a new recruit for us," Nutt said.

Nutt said he did not intentionally set his sights on only signing junior college players to this point.

"We were just going to get the best available players," Nutt said.

Nutt said Southeast still might sign another player or two. A possibility is 6-8 high school forward Dominique Elliott from Savannah, Ga., who verbally committed to the Redhawks several weeks ago.

Elliott has not yet qualified academically for Division I eligibility and Southeast reportedly is waiting to see how that plays out.

While Nutt can't comment on specific recruits until they sign, he said: "Recruiting is never over. We're still actively involved with some players. We'll never turn down good players who we think can help us."

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