While COVID-19 has certainly altered recruiting across the country, it hasn’t stopped coaches from discovering elite talent.
In-person recruiting visits have been replaced by extensive Zoom video conferences and constant contact via email and social media.
Despite drastic changes to the ways recruiting is done, all 16 UB teams are working to fill their 2021 classes.
Here’s a look at the recruits you need to know and where things currently stand:
Football adds 16 players to 2021 signing class
Football announced the initial signees of its 2021 recruiting class on Dec. 16. The first signing class consists of nine offensive players and seven defensive players from nine different states.
After a historic 2020 season that garnered national attention, head coach Lance Leipold looked to capitalize on the program’s positive momentum with a strong recruiting class.
Twins Quillen and Jaillen Howze, the pair of three-star recruits from Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township, MI, were the first to commit to UB back in May 2020.
Quillen is a cornerback who played both offense and defense for Chippewa Valley. He received team MVP, Macomb Area Conference All-League, All-County Tier First Team and MHSFCA All-Region team honors. Quillen is listed by 247Sports as the 31st-best recruit in the state of Michigan.
Jaillen is a linebacker who also played on both sides of the ball for the Big Reds, but was limited to just five games in 2019 due to a dislocated shoulder. In the five games Jaillen played in, he posted 32 tackles, six for loss and two forced fumbles. Like Quillen, Jaillen was named Macomb Area Conference All-League, All-County Tier First Team and MHSFCA All-Region team. Jaillen was also named Chippewa Valley High School Defensive Player of the Year.
Defensive tackle Floyd Dozier had offers from Associated Press Top 25 schools Cincinnati, Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina but elected to play for Mid-American Conference Buffalo. The Tampa, FL native recorded 58 tackles, 17 for loss, four sacks and an interception en route to an All-District First Team selection during his junior season at Lakewood High. Dozier is ranked the 83rd-best defensive tackle in his class by 247Sports.
The Bulls also did their due diligence at the quarterback position, recruiting dual-threat quarterback Brian Plummer from Gaithersburg, MD. Plummer played at Quince Orchard High School where he led the Cougars to a state championship during his sophomore season. He also received offers from Maryland and Georgetown and is listed as the 58th-best dual-threat quarterback in his class and the 47th-best player out of Maryland.
Men’s basketball adds top-40 center and keeps it in the family
After a dysfunctional 2020 recruiting class that saw guard Josiah Freeman de-commit for in-conference foe Western Michigan, guard Malik Zachery get suspended indefinitely after being arrested on stabbing charges and guard Chanse Robinson leave the team after being arrested on assault and kidnapping charges, head coach Jim Whitesell hopes for a more fruitful recruiting period for the 2021 class.
Despite recent recruiting woes, UB was able to put pen to paper with center/power forward Zaakir Willamson, who will play his senior season at one of the best athletic high schools in the nation, Neumann Goretti High School in Philadelphia, PA.
Williamson averaged 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks per game during his junior season at Rock Creek Christian Academy in Upper Marlboro, MD. Rivals.com has Williamson ranked as the 40th-best center in his class, as the 6-foot-7 big man also received offers from MAC schools Bowling Green and Akron but elected to stay in the northeast and play for UB.
While not an official member of the 2021 recruiting class, Maceo Jack, son of women’s basketball head coach Felisha Leggete-Jack, transferred to UB in January after three full seasons and seven games as a senior at George Washington.
In seven games for GW, Jack averaged 6.9 points per game while shooting 56.7% from the field and 40% from three-point range.
He found his stride as a sharpshooter during his time with the Colonials, as he finished his junior season with 83 three-point field goals made, good for second in the Atlantic 10. Jack also averaged 11.7 points per game during his sophomore season at GW, highlighted by a career-high 35 point performance in which he made 7-of-13 three point attempts in a 4OT win against Davidson.
Jack has joined the 2020-21 roster but won’t be eligible for competition until the 2021-22 season.
While Whitesell still has more work to do in 2021, the additions of Willamson and Jack could be steps in the right direction after a frustrating 2020 class.
Women’s basketball once again looks overseas
In November, the women’s team announced that four players signed National Letters of Intent, including two from Australia.
Georgia Wolley, a Brisbane native, and Casey Valenti-Paea, a Melbourne native, are strong additions to a program that has not shied away from establishing an international presence. Wolley is a 6-foot guard ranked in the top-20 of her class. She showcased her immense talent during her senior season tournament, averaging 43.1 points, 19.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 3.3 steals and 3.3 blocks a game. Wolley was named 2019 Brisbane Basketball Graduate Player of the Year, 2019 Southern Basketball league MVP and was the recipient of the Amarlie Carol Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player of the Queensland School Sport Basketball Tournament.
Valenti-Paea looks to serve as a 5-foot-9 combo guard with a high basketball IQ and a confident shooting touch. She led Australia to a gold medal in the 3x3 Asia Cup and represented her home state of Victoria several times in the Australian Junior National championships. Despite signing in November, Valenti-Paea actually joined the team in December and is currently a member of the active roster.
Leggete-Jack also recruited Kaelonn Wilson from Piscataway, NJ and Laney Boone from Chattanooga, TN during the November signing period.
Wilson is a 5-foot-11 forward who uses her 6-foot-5 wingspan to make an impact on both ends of the floor. She averaged 9.9 points and 12.4 rebounds per game as a junior at Piscataway High School. Wilson recorded 57 blocks and 20 steals in 26 games while placing in the top-15 in New Jersey with 323 total rebounds. She earned All-GMC Red Division First Team honors and led Piscataway to the GMCT Championship quarterfinal game in 2019.
Bone, a 5-foot-11 forward from Chattanooga, rounds out the class. She dominated during her junior season, averaging 21.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game at Silverdale Baptist Academy. She was named District DII-A Player of the Year and was a DII-A Division Miss Basketball finalist. Bone also has a winning pedigree as she led Silverdale Baptist to the district championship title for the second straight season in 2019.
Track and Field secures in-state stars
The UB cross country and distance program has added eight athletes — two male and six female — to its fall 2021 recruiting class. Head coach Vicki Mitchell and associate head coach Todd Witzleben secured commitments almost entirely within New York State.
New York natives Nick Scheiner and Matt Persampieri look to become key contributors for the men’s teams. Persampieri had a strong senior season at Skaneateles Senior High where he placed third at the East Coast Cross Country Championships and 49th at the Northeast Club Championships. Scheiner qualified for the indoor New York State Championships before his season was ended by the COVID-19 outbreak. The Longwood High School runner has recorded a 1:55.76 800-meter and a 2:36.24 1000-meter run.
The women’s cross country and distance program has six freshmen set to arrive at UB this fall, five being in-state products.
Alex Cowley of Notre Dame Academy (Elmira), Isla Kloiber from Victor Central High School (Victor), Kelly O’Conner of Valley Central High School (Walden), Allison Wilson from Cicero-North Syracuse High (Cicero) and Anna Recktenwalt of Arlington High School (Lagrangeville) will all provide depth to the women’s cross country and distance program. With a mix of sectional qualifiers, state championship qualifiers and first place performers, New York has treated the UB track and field recruiting department well.
Heidi Eberhardt, the only out-of-state recruit, set personal bests at Beverly High School (Beverly, MA) with a 3:00.86 100 meter and a 5:24.53 mile run while qualifying for the Massachusetts Indoor State Track and Field Championships during her junior season.
Softball looks to rebuild with in-state products
Softball head coach Mike Ruechel filled his 2021 recruiting class by signing three players from New York to National Letters of Intent in November. After multiple subpar seasons, Ruechel and the softball program hope to turn things around with an exciting 2021 recruiting class.
Pitcher and third baseman Marissa Calloway highlights the Bulls’ 2021 class. In her first three seasons at Eden High School, Calloway recorded a school-record .579 batting average, 140 hits, 99 RBI and nine home runs. She was also named ECIC-4 Pitcher of the Year as well as First-Team All-ECIC, First-Team All-Western New York and First-Team All-State. Calloway isn’t only an exceptional individual talent, but also a proven winner. She has led the Raiders to four ECIC-4 division championships, two Section 6 B2 championships, an ECIC Class B championship and an appearance in the New York State Championship semifinals.
Buffalo native Aly Wasielewski has excelled during her time at City Honors prep school. Showcasing the ability to hit for both average and power, Wasielewski plays shortstop and second base for both City Honors and her club team, the TC Tremors.
Outfielder Ella Rivera rounds out the class, bringing her perfect 1.000 fielding percentage with her to UB. Rivera also batted for a .291 average, scored five runs and tacked on 3 RBI in 24 at-bats as a junior at Hauppauge High School. In addition to playing for Hauppauge, Rivera also plays club ball for Team Long Island Demarini.
Wrestling recruits elite group of grapplers with a 774-111 combined record
Over the last few years, head coach John Stutzman has rebuilt the wrestling program brick by brick. Stutzman was able to produce a conference champion and two national qualifiers during the shortened 2019-20 campaign.
So far, the wrestling program has brought in four recruits, three of whom are from New York.
Twins Mason and Marek Bush have both committed to UB; they are the second pair of twins to commit to UB during the 2021 recruiting period. Mason committed to UB during the early signing period in November while Marek declared to be a Bull in January. Both wrestle at Central Valley Academy in Lion, NY where they had tremendous success. Mason is a three-time sectional champion who has finished third at the state championships twice. Overall, he is a four-time top-five state placer with a career record of 239-31. He is projected to wrestle at 133 lbs.
Marek is a four-time state qualifier who was a state champion at 133 lbs. as a freshman. He has finished in third place each of the last two seasons and is a three-time section champion as well as a three-time Eastern States placer. Marek has a career record of 222-34 and is projected to wrestle at either 133 or 141 lbs. for the Bulls.
Stutzman was also able to land Andy Lucinski, a three-time sectional champion and three-time state placer from local Newfane High School. In addition to his 197-25 career record, Lucinski is a two-time New York State freestyle champion and a member of the NYS freestyle Greco Roman national dual team. A finalist at the Eastern States Classic, Lucinski is projected to wrestle at 125 lbs. for UB.
Cole Minnick is the only member of the 2021 recruiting class not from New York, as the 126 lb. grappler wrestles at Tompkins High School in Katy, TX. A two-time state and three-time regional qualifier, Minnick already holds the Thompkins record for career wins, boasting a 116-21 record. He is also a two-time district champion and a regional champion.
Women’s soccer finds talent in the northeast
After the 2020 season was cut short due to COVID-19, head coach Shawn Burke and the women’s soccer team have wasted no time securing its 2021 recruiting class.
The initial 2021 signing class consisted of three players from the northeast: Kaya Schultz from West Orange, NJ, Kaylin Ricci from Massapequa, NY and Arianna Zumpano from nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario, Canada.
Schultz has recorded 17 career goals and 22 assists in her first three seasons at West Orange High School and earned herself a first-team All-Conference honor as a junior. Ricci led Massapequa High School to the 2019 Section VIII and Class AA Long Island Championship while also being named to the All-Section team. Zumpano was named U16 Ohio Valley Player of the Year and led the WNY Flash to three appearances in the ECNL National Playoffs.
Soon after the initial class was announced, Burke was able to secure three more recruits from the northeast.
Toronto native Alya Ruken comes to UB as a two-time OPDL Cup winner and 2019 Ontario Summer Games Champion as a product of her career with the North Toronto Nitros.
Ashleigh Fortunate from Briarcliff Manor, NY and Emma Anderson from Niskayuna, NY were also added to the class shortly after. Anderson won a state championship with the Albany Alleycats in 2019 and was named New York State Girls Soccer Player of the Year by Positive Athlete.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m.