When Kirby Dean first took the men’s basketball coaching job at Eastern Mennonite University in 2003, he didn’t spend much time recruiting transfer players. Nine years later, that hasn’t changed.
The difference is that now, transfers are coming to him.
Division III EMU will debut at least two and possibly three transfers this season, including power forward Dorian Valentine, who came from Division II Davis & Elkins. Valentine will be joined by Hesston (Junior) College transfer Jordan King, and Dean said he has a verbal commitment from Chris Yoder, a transfer from D-III Messiah College.
Another potential point guard transfer from a D-II school will be visiting EMU today. Dean did not disclose his name, but noted that he played 25 minutes per game at his old school and is “seriously considering” the Royals.
“We didn’t used to have people beating down the door to come to Eastern Mennonite,” Dean said Tuesday.
Could the influx of transfers be because of the Royals’ success the last few years, including a trip to the D-III national quarterfinals in 2010?
“Yeah,” said Dean, who has guided EMU to its first two 20-plus win seasons in the program’s 46-year history. “I don’t know what else it could be.”
Dean’s most prized transfer is Valentine, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound, rising junior power forward. Valentine transferred from D&E in 2011 and was required to sit out last season.
“I think Dorian has a chance to help right away, because he played two years in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and that’s not a crummy Division II league,” Dean said. “That’s a really good league.”
Yoder, a 6-4, 180-pound guard from Manheim, Pa., was a full-time starter at Messiah his freshman year, when he averaged 9.6 points per game. He saw his minutes drop as a sophomore last season, when he averaged 5.6 points per game.
Dean said he has never seen King play, but that Hesston coach Dustin Galyon – a former EMU player under Dean – recommended King, a 6-4, 200-pound forward, as a “great fit” for EMU.
In general, Dean said he doesn’t pursue transfers because it’s more difficult for them to receive financial aid than true freshmen. But, when players show “so much interest in our school, I’d be crazy not to,” he said.
Dean is just as excited about the four incoming freshmen he’s recruited so far, three of whom are at least 6-4 – including 6-4, 180-pound swingman Mike Richardson of Broadway High School.
Richardson, who committed to EMU in early April, averaged 20.9 points and 11.9 rebounds for the Gobblers this season.
“He was as good as any wing player I saw that we had a chance to get involved with anywhere,” Dean said of Richardson. “It just so happens that he only lives a few miles from campus.”
Joining Richardson will be 6-7, 210-pound forward Rashad Chambers of Covington; 6-5, 210-pound forward Justin Glenn of Arlington; and 6-2, 165-pound guard Donte Harris of Winchester.
Dean said Chambers is likely to make an immediate impact simply because of his size and enormous wingspan, noting that Chambers can “stand up straight and scratch his knees without bending his back.”
“I think Rashad’s going to help us right away because he’s so tall and athletic, but his ceiling is so stinking high that he’s nowhere close to being as good as he can be,” Dean said. “I mean, wait ’til you see the frame on this kid.”
Dean also said that Harris could bring outside shooting to a Royals team that shot just 28.3 percent from 3-point range last season. Glenn is the most likely to need some time to develop.
The 2011-12 campaign was a rebuilding one for EMU, which returned no starters and only three players with any significant experience from the previous year. The Royals finished 12-15 overall but played their best basketball at the end of the season, winning three games in a row before falling to Randolph-Macon in overtime in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference quarterfinals.
But with his incoming recruiting class joining a more experienced group, Dean is expecting much more this year.
“I felt like if we could bridge from [last year's] team to the future without having to go all the way to the back of the ODAC – without feeling like we had to start over – that we’d be in good shape,” Dean said. “We were really able to do that.
“Now, it’s time to step up, it’s time to realize that we can jump right back into the fray and be a contender.”
Courtesy Daily News Record, May 16, 2012