The Hood College Men's Basketball team lost significant firepower to graduation this past spring, as the Blazers' top three scorers all earned their degrees. However, head coach Chad Dickman is still very optimistic about the program's future. A big reason for that optimism is a 2017 recruiting class that he thinks will be one of the better Blazer classes in recent history.
"Our coaching staff, especially assistants Sean Westerlund and Chris Cook, spent a lot of time on the road and worked really hard for this group. It was great to have it pay off and get some of our top targets," said Dickman.
The group of six newcomers includes twins Mason and Evan Wang from Jamestown High School in Virginia to campus this fall. The duo, who shared the conference's player of the year award, was instrumental in Jamestown's 27-3 record and first ever appearance in the Virginia 4A state championship.
Mason, a 5-11 combo guard, averaged 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. He was named Rivals 4A All-State first team, district player of the year, first team all-district, first team Conference 18, and first team all-region.
Evan, also a 5-11 combo guard, sported averages of 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. He was named Rivals 4A 2nd team All-State,1st team All-Region, 1st team All-District, 1st team Conference 18, and Conference Co-player of the year.
"The twins are winners. They are really skilled, have a high basketball IQ, and are extremely competitive. I think they will evolve into fan favorites for years to come," Dickman exclaimed.
The Blazers stayed in-state to get their next recruit, Christian Evans, a 6-3 guard from Baltimore power Mt. Carmel. Evans started every game and averaged 11 points, five rebounds, and three assists while facing off against some of the best teams on the east coast. He was a vital part of the 29-11 Baltimore Catholic League runners-up. Mt. Carmel was also MIAA runner-up and had a third place finish in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational, one of the strongest high school tournaments in the country.
"Christian has an extremely high ceiling," Dickman stated. "He's a long, athletic guard that defends well, handles it, attacks the basket, and his shot is improving every day. His game really meshes well with our style of play."
Anthony Pearson, a 6-1 shooting guard, was the Blazers' fourth recruit. Pearson averaged 21 points, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals per game for Osbourne High School in Virginia while leading them to an 18-8 record. He shot 39 percent from the 3-point line and over 50 percent from the field. Pearson was a Virginia Coaches Association All-State (6A) first team selection, a Rivals All-State second team pick, the Virginia Conference 8 Player of the Year, 6A North Region first team (region player of the year runner-up), and All-Conference 8 first team.
"Ant is a strong guard with a great frame that knows how to play. He's tough, competitive, and he's a natural scorer. We think he has a chance to be really good here," said Dickman.
The Blazers added more firepower when they added 5-11 sharpshooter Brandon Howell from arguably Maryland's top team last season, Wise High School. Howell was the team's second leading scorer (15 ppg), while also averaging four rebounds, three assists, and two steals per game. Wise, ranked as high as No. 21 in the country by MaxPreps, ended the year with a 21-1 record after getting upset in the state semifinals. Howell was named All-Met Honorable Mention, 4A All-State Honorable Mention, 4A All-Prince George's County First Team, and a Hoop Culture Top 100 DMV player. Howell set two records in the Roundball Classic All-Star game this spring after hitting nine 3-pointers and finishing with 32 points.
"Brandon can really shoot the ball, but the great thing is, he's not pigeonholed as a shooter - he has a nice all-around game," said Dickman. "I'm excited to see everything he brings to the table these next four years."
Hood rounded out its recruiting class with the addition of Jacob Ezell, a 6-0 shooting guard from Colonial Heights High School in Virginia. Ezell averaged 14 points, four assists, and three rebounds per game his senior year. He was named first team all-conference and second team all-region.
"Jacob is already physically ready for the college game. He shoots the ball extremely well and sees the floor like a point guard. He'll bolster our guard play and add some always-important shooting ability to our team," stated Dickman.
The class will join a group of 10 returners from a team that finished 16-9 a year ago.
"I am extremely pleased with the new guys we have coming in this upcoming year. We lost a lot of offensive firepower and leadership, but I think we have a chance to really surprise some people this year. We return some key pieces from last year's squad and we have some younger guys who are chomping at the bit to make an impact this season. It'll be a difficult road, but we're ready to tackle the challenge," Dickman concluded.