Portal taketh, portal giveth, 7-footer among McNeese signees
Jim Gazzolo, Special to the American Press
John Aiken went big in his first recruiting class as Cowboys head coach, landing a true center piece for his roster.
For the second time in program history McNeese State inked a 7-footer, announcing the signing of Brendan Medley-Bacon, who was in the NCAA transfer portal.
Medley-Bacon is a 7-1, 245-pounder from Virginia Commonwealth and the largest part the new McNeese basketball class. Five others, including three freshmen, were also signed Wednesday.
They help replace seven players, including three starters who accounted for 44 percent of the Cowboys’ scoring from last year’s 16-man roster, who entered the transfer portal.
The Cowboys, who were 10-14 and 4-10 in the Southland Conference last season, have one scholarship open after six players stayed in the program.
“I’m very thankful to the kids who decided to stay,” said Aiken, who will try to coach McNeese to its first winning record since the 2011 season. “I had to re-recruit them. They signed up to play for Heath (Schroyer, former head coach now athletic director). Now I’m their head coach so you have to sell them on your program.”
Still, the real coup was Medley-Bacon, who has two years of eligibility left despite having played two years at Coppin State and last season at VCU. At first he was expected to sit out last year but played when the NCAA granted all an extra year due to COVID-19.
That left him caught in a numbers game that saw Medley-Bacon play in 13 games for the Rams after appearing in all 61 games at Coppin the previous two years. Several schools were after the Baltimore native.
“I didn’t know if we could get him,” Aiken said of his new center. “He is a program changer. We beat some really good schools on Medley-Bacon.
“He changes the dynamic of the class.”
He also gives the program much-needed national attention when it comes to getting others from the transfer portal.
“He raises our profile for sure,” Aiken said.
Medley-Bacon’s best season was his sophomore year at Coppin when he averaged 7.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots a game. He was also second on the team in assists.
Aiken also inked Myles Lewis out of the now-famous transfer portal. Lewis is a 6-5 graduate swingman from Virginia Military Institute, where appeared in 112 of 115 games over his four years. He started 81 of 89 the last three.
The athletic Lewis gives experience to the signing class. In his last game at VMI Lewis scored 24 points in a loss to Mercer.
A third signing from the college ranks is DeAngelo Ware, a 6-foot guard who comes by way of Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College, where he averaged 9.3 points and 3.3 assists a game last season. He also shot 30 of 86 from behind the 3-point arc.
“He is a rough and rugged combo guard who really fits the Southland,” Aiken said. “A really good defender.”
The other three new Cowboys are all high schoolers.
Jonathan Lucas from Hartfield Academy in Madison Mississippi, and Shaun Walker from Manvel, Texas, are a pair of 6-7 players with different styles. At 230 pounds Walker, who was named one of the top 10 players in the greater Houston area by the website OnTheRadarHoops, is more of a banger around the rim.
At 180 pounds, Aiken described Lucas as more of a slasher who was the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools Class 4A Player of the Year, averaging 14 points, nine rebounds and three assists a game.
Johnathan Massie rounds out the group as a 6-5, 230-pound guard from Legacy Charter in Houston. He was also rated as a top-10 player in the greater Houston area.
“This is the best high school class we have signed in the four years I have been here,” Aiken said. “Very excited about who we added. We signed a couple of Division I transfers, a JUCO transfer and three high school kids that I’m really excited about.”
They will join a squad led by senior KeyShawn Feazell, who will move to forward with the addition of Medley-Bacon. Feazell, a transfer from Mississippi State, led McNeese in scoring and rebounding last year despite often being double teamed. The 6-9, 230-pounder averaged 13.1 points and 9.9 rebounds in his first year as a Cowboy.
Feazell was the first player Aiken re-recruited, as he could have entered the portal.
“He was a vey important guy for us,” Aiken said of keeping Feazell.
Harwin Francois, Zach Scott, Collin Warren, Braelon Bush and Evan Palmquist are also set to return.
Aiken said he is looking for a pure shooter to fill his final roster spot.
“We really want another guy who can fill it up from 3,” Aiken said. “I want a guy who is going to make some shots.”