Courtship series: Memphis is fertile recruiting ground for Nutt

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Redhawks recently claimed two prep standouts from Tennessee

Southeast Missouri State men's basketball coach Dickey Nutt says a lot of factors were involved in the Redhawks landing two touted high school seniors from Memphis, Tenn.

Persistence and assistant coach Jamie Rosser's strong ties to Memphis top the list.

"Recruiting is a two- or three-year process, and we've been watching them in summer AAU ball," said Nutt, in his second season at Southeast. "They just kept getting better and better and more people [bigger programs] came in on them.

"But we're not going to back down from a high-major player. We feel like we've got a lot to offer at Southeast Missouri State."

Nino Johnson, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound power forward at White Station High School, and Telvin Wilkerson, a 6-3, 190-pound shooting guard at Melrose High School, both signed with Southeast during the NCAA's early signing period last month. Both play for a nationally renowned program. Wilkerson and Johnson are rated as three-star recruits on a five-star scale by Both had scholarship offers from quite a few major programs, according to various recruiting websites.

Johnson has been ranked the nation's No. 17 high school power forward by ESPN's college basketball recruiting website. ESPN rated Johnson as a four-star recruit on a five-star scale.

"They were highly recruited. We feel very good about getting two players like that from one of the top basketball cities," said Nutt, who also made recruiting basketball-rich Memphis a priority when he was Arkansas State's coach for 13 seasons.

Johnson said Auburn, Cincinnati, Charlotte, DePaul, Georgia Tech, Mississippi, Missouri State and Murray State also offered scholarships.

Wilkerson said he received scholarship offers from the likes of Missouri, Iowa State, Nebraska and Penn State.

"After they [verbally] committed to us, the more worried I got because a lot of other schools were still on them," Nutt said. "But they were strong in their commitments. They knew what they wanted to do."

Johnson and Wilkerson both said they were impressed with Southeast's coaching staff, the facilities and the campus. They also mentioned the presence of Rosser, a Memphis native who has been a high school coach in that city.

"Jamie did a fantastic job developing those strong relationships with the young men, their coaches, their families," Nutt said. "Being from Memphis, having played and coached there, he had strong connections with their coaches and families."

Nutt cited other factors in helping Southeast win the recruiting battle for Johnson and Wilkerson, who are good friends.

"Their [campus] visits went very well. Our campus, campus life, the Show Me Center, those things were really impressive to them," Nutt said. "Memphis being very close, about 2 1/2 hours, I think was important. I think having [Memphis native] Tyler Stone on our team was a factor.

"They wanted to come here together. They feel like they can come here and contribute as freshmen, which we're counting on."

Added Nutt: "Sometimes kids want to go someplace where they can be the big fish, not to a place where there are a lot of McDonald's All-Americans. There are a lot of different reasons kids pick schools. You never know."

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