WKU head men's basketball coach Ken McDonald announced Wednesday the signings of five high school seniors to National Letters of Intent in the NCAA's early signing period for the Class of 2011.
Making up the WKU basketball signees for 2011 in the early signing period are George Fant (F, 6-6, 220, Bowling Green, Ky.), Derrick Gordon (G, 6-3, 185, Plainfield, N.J.), Deng Leek (C, 6-11, 230, Greensboro, N.C.), Nigel Snipes (F, 6-5, 185, Marietta, Ga.) and Vinny Zollo (F, 6-8, 230, Winchester, Ky.).
All five are rated as three-star recruits by Rivals.com. In addition, Gordon is ranked among Rivals' top 150 recruits nationally. Rivals places him as the nation's 135th-best high school senior.
"Our class addresses all of our needs after the departure of our four seniors from this year's team," McDonald said. "We were able to get commitments from each position, and I think our staff did an incredible job covering from coast to coast. We have some very good athleticism and skill levels at each position, and I love the fact that many of them can play a lot of different positions. I'm excited about each and every player, and there's a lot of potential for these guys to have great four-year careers on the Hill."
ESPN lists WKU's 2011 recruiting class as being "on the cusp" of its ranking of the nation's top 25 classes, and various other national outlets have recognized WKU's recruiting efforts for the Class of 2011.
"[WKU] sliced off a few players from the top of our mid-major best players list," ESPN.com's senior basketball recruiting analyst Dave Telep said. "A few of them could easily have signed in bigger leagues, and that's a testament to the work of this staff. This is the kind of class with talent and depth that is a foundation for multiple title runs in the Sun Belt and future NCAA runs. They have diversity, size, talent and swagger. Love this group."
Fant, a 6-6 forward from nearby Warren Central High School in Bowling Green, is already a 1,000-point scorer for the Dragons after starting nearly his entire high school career. He earned second-team all-state honors as a junior in 2009-10 after averaging 15 points and eight rebounds per game. For two-straight years Fant has been an All-4th Region player, with his junior season bringing first-team honors after earning second-team acclaim as a sophomore.
Also a three-time All-14th District performer, Fant has strong ties to WKU. His cousin, Jim McDaniels, is the school's co-career scoring champion and a three-time All-American, and his number 44 hangs from the rafters at E.A. Diddle Arena. Fant's mother, Kim (Norman) Fant played basketball at WKU under Coach Paul Sanderford, and his father, George, was a manager on men's basketball teams coached by Clem Haskins and Murray Arnold.
McDonald on Fant: "George is a talented, mis-match kind of guy who is a great kid. We've known him since the day we took the job. We love him and his family, and I think he has a ton of potential to really do whatever he wants on the Hill. He could have a great career here, and I know he's excited that his family has the chance to see him play here."
Derrick Gordon will look to contribute at the guard position for WKU when he arrives on the Hill from St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J. The Celtics are one of the premiere high school basketball teams in the nation, having spent time ranked number-one nationally and winning multiple state championships. Gordon competed on the 2009 NJSIAA State Tournament championship team, which was St. Patrick's third title in four seasons. St. Patrick finished the 2009-10 season with a 26-3 record.
ESPN's recruiting profile of Gordon describes him as "a strong, physical shooting guard that will not back down to any challenge" and that he "has a quick first step and fundamentally sound footwork from the wing position."
McDonald on Gordon: "He has been rock-solid from day one and is a Hilltopper at heart. He's a tough kid, a great kid who is serious about the game of basketball and serious about being a student. I think he's going to be a favorite of Hilltopper nation."
Deng Leek will be playing at Veritas Sports Academy in Greensboro, N.C., in 2010-11, and the center is regarded as having tremendous upside. ESPN writes that Leek "runs the floor extremely well and can finish above the rim with a clear path." Leek is a native of the Sudan along with current Hilltopper Teeng Akol.
McDonald on Leek: "Deng has a load of potential, and he's a big kid. We're excited to work with him on his skill level, and his best days are ahead of him. He's an excellent defender right now and a shot-blocker. The tools on the offensive end will come with time and experience."
Snipes averaged 18.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game as a junior in 2009-10 at Paideia High School in Atlanta, Ga., and will be playing at Wheeler High School in Marietta, Ga., in 2010-11. At Paideia High School, Snipes was named the Atlanta Class 1A Player of the Year as a junior and was a participant in the Atlanta North-South All-Star Game. His Paideia High School team advanced to the Sweet 16 in both 2008-09 and 2009-10. Snipes recorded career-highs of 41 points and 19 rebounds while at Paideia High School.
McDonald on Snipes: "Nigel came into the picture late and has a great skill-level. He is a very good athlete who can really stroke the ball. He has a good handle as well and can make plays off the dribble. He is a great kid who reminds me a little personality-wise of [former Hilltopper standout] Jeremy Evans. I think the fans are really going to like him."
Zollo hails from Winchester, Ky., where he has been a All-10th Region player the past two seasons at George Rogers Clark High School. The 6-8 forward averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds as a junior in 2009-10 and picked up second-team all-state honors after the season for his efforts. He was also named to the King of the Bluegrass All-Tournament Team in 2009.
McDonald on Zollo: "Vinny can shoot the ball from deep, and he has a great body and a lot of tools. He's another great kid and a serious student, and he comes from a great family. He's a Kentucky kid, who I think is going to do really well in his time on the Hill."
The regular signing period for the class of 2011 begins April 13, 2011 and lasts until May 18.