The GW men’s basketball team will add six new faces to its roster next year and all are expected to be immediate contributors, head coach Karl Hobbs said.
The Colonials have received letters of intent from guards Ricky Lucas and Carl Elliot and verbal commitments from J.R. Pinnock and Jaaron Greene. Transfers LaFonte Johnson and Rock Battistoni will become eligible after sitting out this season because of NCAA transfer rules.
“I expect all of our new guys to contribute to the success of our team next year,” Hobbs said. “One of our biggest challenges is going to be creating both fluidity and cohesiveness and hopefully we’ll gel quickly. The challenge is to find the right combination of guys to put on the floor.”
Lucas, who signed with GW in January, was named the Northern Region Player of the Year this season while playing for Herndon High School in nearby Herndon, Va. The 6-foot-5 swingman averaged 24 points and seven rebounds per game.
Lucas makes many analysts’ lists of the top high school players in the country, including FoxSports.com, which ranked Lucas 44th and called him “one of the most underrated prospects in the national class of 2003.”
“I believe that Ricky is one of the best shooters in this year’s recruit class,” he said. “He understands the game and has a real feel of how to play. He will probably be one of our most skilled players.”
Elliot, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound point guard from Brooklyn, N.Y., initially signed with GW last spring but was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA when he arrived at GW in September. Elliot spent the year at a prep school.
Playing for Worcester Academy, he helped the team win the New England Prep School Athletic Association Championship and earned tournament MVP honors. During the season, he averaged more than 17 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals per game.
“Carl is as good a passer as I’ve seen on the high-school level in a long time,” Hobbs said. “He understands the position and we expect him to come in and help us right away.”
Hobbs declined to comment on Pinnock and Green because they have not yet officially signed with GW.
Pinnock, a six-foot-five swingman at Virginia Beach Coastal Christian Academy, also makes many lists of top recruits. He averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds in his senior year. Green is a 6-foot-10, 270-pound center from Durham, N.C. who is expected to be a strong inside presence for the Colonials.
Johnson, who is attending GW without a scholarship, transferred from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas after his sophomore season when his playing time diminished under a new coach. The 5-foot-10 point guard from Baltimore played in 29 games in 2001-02 and averaged 1.5 points in 8.3 minutes per game. During his freshman season, Johnson averaged 4.4 points, 1.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 18 minutes per game.
“LaFonte will add stability and depth to our backcourt,” Hobbs said. “He paid his own way to GW and we are happy to have him.”
Battistoni, another walk-on, came to GW last year from Division III St. Lawrence University. Hobbs said Battistoni caught his attention when a friend called and asked him to look at the Morris, Conn. native. In his sophomore season at St. Lawrence, Battistoni averaged nearly 12 points, six rebounds and one block per game.
“It’s rare that you get a player of Rock’s caliber to just show up on campus,” Hobbs said. “He’s physically mature and understands how to play the game. He’ll bring experience and has the potential to be a leader for us.”
Hobbs said his current players, such as sophomore T.J. Thompson and freshmen Mike Hall and Pops Mensah-Bonsu, have gained valuable experience this year but that the team will still have to overcome its youth.
“We’re still going to be young,” he said. “So we expect all the new guys to come in and contribute in some way immediately.”