Basketball teams ink eight new Colonials

Five players signed National Letters of Intent to join the men’s basketball program during the early signing period, and three did the same to join the women’s basketball team, both programs announced Wednesday.

Point guard Darnell Rogers, combo guard Jair Bolden and forwards Kevin Marfo, Collin Smith and Arnaldo Toro signed with men’s head coach Mike Lonergan while women’s head coach Jonathan Tsipis added shooting guards Harper Birdsong, wing Kendall Bresee and combo guard Kendra Van Leeuwen to the 2016-2017 class.

“I’m excited because five guys, I think they’re all quality young men and they’re all good basketball players,” Lonergan said of his signees. “I think we have all our needs kind of covered.”

Smith was the first to commit to join the Colonials, which he did at the end of last spring. Lonergan called him the best shot blocker he’s had since Isaiah Armwood and touted the 6-foot-10-inch center’s athleticism.

After getting Smith, Lonergan and his staff faced a dry spell until October, when an avalanche of recruiting news started to pour in. Rogers came first on Oct. 6, and Marfo and Bolden followed in quick succession in the month of October.

“All these guys have played high level AAU, and then obvioulsy Kevin Marfo is probably the most decorated, he’s probably the most decorated recruit we have and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t come in here and be a four year starter,” Lonergan said.

Lonergan praised the three-star recruit Marfo’s rebounding and said he was as highly recruited of a player as he has ever gone after. Marfo is rated 31st nationally at the power forward position.

He said that through the months when news was slow to come in, he told his staff that “the harder you work the luckier you get,” and that some players waited “on the Dukes and Kentuckys, and some of them just wanted to take their time and that’s understandable.”

Lonergan’s philosophy is that if he can get a recruit to take a visit, especially an official visit, he feels good about his chances. Finally, three-star prospect Toro, a versatile post with a nice outside shot who averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds per game last season for St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J., which was ranked in the national top 25 by USA Today, rounded out the group.

Tsipis and the women’s program, meanwhile, were busy bolstering their backcourt.

The 5-foot-10-inch Birdsong won back-to-back Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools (TCIS) regular-season titles and a tournament championship in 2014 with Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and was named the 2015 TCIS Player of the Year after averaging 19.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game her junior season.

In a release, Tsipis called her a “dynamic scorer” and compared her to former standout Megan Nipe (’14) because of her quick release.

Tsipis made another player comparison when he likened the 5-foot-11-inch Bresee to junior shooting guard Hannah Schaible. The Maryland product, Bresee, averaged 20.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game with Urbana High School in 2015, making it all the way to the Maryland 3A state finals.

“Kendall has the ability to attack the basket and shoot the three, and she rebounds the ball with an aggressive nature,” Tsipis said.

Van Leeuwen gives the team an experienced, athletic player who played for the Canadian Junior National Team at the 2014 U-17 FIBA World Championships and helped her St. John’s College team win four straight city and regional titles.

“Kendra is a skilled combo guard who can really stretch the defense with her 3-point shooting,” Tsipis said. “She can really create shots for others and will be very comfortable in our transition game.”

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