Bringing in the Bulls: Recruiting options for men’s basketball
Bulls need to fill two roster spots ahead of 2020-21 season, late-signing period opens Wednesday
On March 16, UB granted three-star men’s basketball recruit Josiah Freeman a release from his commitment.
Freeman’s departure means that the Bulls have filled just 11 of their 13 scholarships prior to the late signing period, which opens Wednesday. UB has added just one recruit to its 2020 class so far: three-star Louisiana point guard Chanse Robinson.
In March, the NCAA instituted a “dead period” — no face-to-face contact, but written or visual correspondence is permitted — through April 15, because of COVID-19. But the remaining recruits are still expected to go through with their choices despite the circumstances.
Here is where things stand for the Bulls ahead of Wednesday:
Malik Zachery, PG (Offered on March 19)
Offers: Buffalo, UCF, California, Ole Miss, Southern Illinois, Fresno State, Sam Houston State, Eastern Michigan, Nebraska, McNeese State, Southeastern Louisiana, Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss, Coastal Carolina, Stony Brook, Massachusetts, Canisius, Siena
Zachery is a 6’2”, 180 lb. point guard from nearby Syracuse. He’s the 50th-ranked player in the 2020 JucoRecruiting.com Top 100 Player Rankings.
Zachery is considered a true point guard and has been praised for his mid-range jumper and high basketball IQ. On top of being a capable shooter, he’s a pass-first guard who earned his keep as a playmaker for one of the top-ranked junior college teams in the country, Chipola College.
UB has three point guards on its roster, including junior Jayvon Graves, sophomore Ronaldo Segu and incoming freshman Chanse Robinson.
Goodnews Kpegeol, SG (Offered on March 19)
Offers: Buffalo, Hofstra, Coastal Carolina, South Dakota, Grand Canyon, Towson
Kpegeol is a 6’6”, 190 lb. shooting guard from St. Paul, MN. He signed as a high school senior with Kansas State in late 2018. After redshirting as a freshman, he entered his name in the transfer portal, citing a lack of minutes.
Now at Southwest Mississippi Community College, Kpegeol has three years of eligibility remaining. He is a prototypical wing, with a good touch from the three-point range and the long mid range. He has good athleticism and should be able to fit in at multiple positions.
UB may be a mid-major, but it has a better basketball reputation than Kpegeol’s other suitors. The Bulls will only have two sophomores under contract next season — Savion Gallion and LaQuill Hardnett — so Kpegeol would be a big get for head coach Jim Whitesell.
A.J. Staton-McCray, SG (Offered on Feb. 7)
Offers: Buffalo, Southern Illinois, North Florida, Louisiana Tech, Appalachian State, DePaul, Illinois State, Kansas City, Northeastern
Staton-McCray is a 6’5”, 180 lb. shooting guard from Charlotte, NC. The Bulls struggled with outside shooting last season, so landing a player like Staton-McCray could help them in that regard.
Staton-McCray is a three-star prospect and the 24th-ranked recruit in Florida, according to 247Sports. Playing at West Oaks Academy in Orlando, he averaged 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per-game in 2019-20.
Most importantly for the Bulls, Staton-McCray attempted roughly the same number of two-point field goals as he did three-point field goals.
Keano Calderón, SG (Offered on Sept. 21, 2019)
Offers: Buffalo, Washington, UAB, UNC Asheville, Florida Atlantic, North Florida, Canisius, Stetson
Calderón is a 6’6”, 194 lb. shooting guard from Orlando. While he doesn’t have an obvious connection to UB, he has repeatedly interacted with sophomore guard and fellow O-Town native Ronaldo Segu on Twitter.
In a 2018 article for Prep Hoops, Zach Smart wrote that Calderón is a “relentless finisher who is constantly in attack mode.” Calderón “can dunk through traffic and turn in athletic plays,” thanks to his strong motor and vertical explosiveness. And at 6’6”, he can play multiple positions.
Calderón is fielding eight Division-I offers, including from high-major Washington. But if the Bulls can get to him, he could be a valuable addition to their backcourt.
Adong Makuoi, PF (Offered on July 26, 2019)
Offers: Buffalo, Southern Illinois, Portland State, Northern Illinois, Murray State, Kent State
Makuoi is a 6’9”, 220 lb. power forward from Edmonton, Alberta. He fits the mold of what Whitesell and his staff have been targeting: rim protecting big men. Last season, the Bulls led the nation in rebounding, so Makuoi could compliment sophomore forward Josh Mballa and junior center Brock Bertram.
Playing for Daytona State College in Florida, Makuoi tallied 6.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per-game on 69.8% shooting in 2019. He played power forward for a program that also featured a seven-footer in Marcus Hopkins and 6’10” forward Alex Kotov.
Jacob Tracey, SG (Offered on July 16, 2019)
Offers: Buffalo, Akron, Illinois State, Fresno State, East Carolina, San Jose State, Bryant, Nevada, Coppin State, Canisius
Tracey is a 6’4”, 200 lb. shooting guard from Fort Myers, FL. He is in a unique situation: he is teammates with Makouri at Daytona State College and has a younger brother who recently committed to St. Joseph’s.
Tracey had a tough showing at Daytona, tallying 5.6 points per-game on 39.1% shooting from the field, 31.4% from three-point range and 59.4% from the free-throw line. Tracey is a combo guard who has improved on his mid-range jumper and has worked to be more consistent.
Curtis Harrison IV, PF (Offered on July 1, 2019)
Offers: Buffalo, St. Francis (PA)
Harrison is a 6’7”, 215 lb. power forward from Cincinnati. With two Division-I offers, it is plausible he could come to the Queen City, even though he has been flying largely underneath the recruiting radar.
In a 2018 article for Prep Hoops, Anthony Garcia described Harrison as being “rather unguardable around the basket.” Harrison has “showed a nice shooting touch in traffic” and flashed glimpses as an “excellent rebounder” and an “ambidextrous finisher.”
The Bulls were the first team to offer Harrison, in June 2019.
John Ese Orogun, C (Offered on June 17, 2018)
Offers: Buffalo, Manhattan, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Robert Morris, Bryant, Stony Brook
Orogun is a 6’10”, 250 lb. center from Lagos, Nigeria. He played high school basketball at The Park School of Buffalo, where he was a key contributor to the 2018 New York State Class A Federation Tournament winning team.
Orogun has offers from mid- and high-major programs, but his recruiting activity trailed off after 2018. The New England Basketball Services describes Orogun as a “well built and athletic big with [a] great frame, good shoulders and huge hands.” He is “pretty much totally raw at this point” on offense, but with his size and fluidity, he figures to be a factor at the next level.
He could potentially compliment fellow international big man Mballa at UB.
Justin Weiss is the senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com