On the largest men’s basketball team in more than 15 years, new faces comprise nearly half of the roster.
Five freshmen and a trio of transfers make up the Colonials’ eight new additions. Head coach Jamion Christian said all players have a chance to earn minutes on the floor, which will be a competitive battle for a spot in his rotation.
Guards Shawn Walker Jr. and Jameer Nelson Jr. and forwards Chase Paar, Miles Gally and Jamison Battle compose the incoming freshman class. The three transfers consist of junior forward Ace Stallings, sophomore guard Amir Harris and sophomore forward Sloan Seymour.
Christian said the freshmen have acclimated well to the program and are lucky to have a group of seven returners with experience under their belts to guide them. He said he and his coaching staff have worked to foster a positive environment in practice to avoid unhealthy competition between younger and older players.
“We’ve tried to build a system of love and accountability where the upperclassmen don’t feel threatened by the younger guys but feel like they’re bringing them along,” Christian said. “Our upperclassmen have done an excellent job of that.”
Christian added that he is willing to give freshmen minutes on the floor, which he has also offered at his previous schools and still earned a 118–111 win record.
“Sometimes there’s an understanding that you get your young kids in and you’re going to benefit from it later, but I think if you do a great job, we’ll benefit from it now and later,” Christian said. “That’s our goal.”
Nelson Jr., the son of former NBA All-Star Jameer Nelson, saw time at the point guard position in practice. He said his ability to score on his own distinguishes his play from his father’s, but he wants to improve his shot from long range – a key facet of GW’s offense.
“I want to be a knock-down three-point shooter, and I feel like I just need to finish better,” Nelson Jr. said.
Christian coached Stallings in his freshman year at Mount St. Mary’s. Christian was in his sixth and final year with the program, and the culture of support he aimed to build was thriving, which Stallings has helped to pass down to his new teammates, Christian said.
“He’s doing a great job helping these guys understand me, understand the intensity I have and the passion I have for them, understanding that it’s real and that it’s not going to waver no matter what happens,” Christian said. “It’s been really important. He’s been really key in helping us turn this into our culture.”
Stallings, who made the move to GW from Mount St. Mary’s, said the transition onto the team was seamless.
“I got here and easily got close with a lot of my teammates,” Stallings said. “A lot of us are buddies already and it’s only been four months. It feels like it’s been four years already. We’re all really close.”
At Mount St. Mary’s, Stallings grabbed 17 boards in 16 games and averaged one point per game.
He said his enthusiasm on the court and the bench will allow him to energize the team both on and off the court. He said Harris, the sophomore guard who transferred into the program from Nebraska, brings a well-rounded skillset to Foggy Bottom.
“Amir is a freak athlete,” Stallings said. “He’s a guy who can do everything on the floor. He’s long, he’s athletic, he’s fast. He has a good IQ and is a great passer. He’s going to do well and bond with our team.”
Injury plagued Harris’ time as a Husker. Mono coupled with a meniscus tear benched him for 13 games during the 2018-19 season. Per NCAA transfer rules, Harris will need to sit out a year, but officials said the team requested that the NCAA waive the restriction.
Stallings added that sophomore forward Sloan Seymour, who came with Christian from Sienna, brings a consistent shot from behind the arc, which will be an asset in the team’s new offense focused on three-point shooting.
“Sloan is the guy, even though he’s only been on the team this year, he might be the best shooter I’ve seen in my life,” Stallings said. “He can shoot the ball. He made 94 threes last year as a freshman, which is incredible. He’s a guy who can shoot the lights out for sure.”