Three talented high school seniors, two point guards and a wing player, have signed National Letters of Intent to play basketball at Lamar University for the 2012-13 season, announced head coach Pat Knight on Friday.
Knight returned to his Indiana roots as two of the players prepped in the state. Donnell Minton and Jason Smith, both of Indianapolis, and Kielan Blanks of Spring Hill, Tenn., will join the Cardinals for next season. While Texas remains the top state for Lamar to recruit, Knight was happy to make inroads in other states.
“These were all our first choices that we wanted,” said Knight. “We went after them and got them, and got two from Indiana which is huge from my standpoint because I haven’t been able to get back up to Indiana for the last 10 years. I love Indiana high school players, and to get back up there to open that avenue up is great.
“Getting a kid out of Nashville is just another avenue. As many places as you can open up besides Texas. Texas will always be your base, but I don’t think you want to limit yourself.”
Smith is a 6-foot-4 wing player at Emmerich Manual High School who earned first-team all-city honors as a junior after averaging 19.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. He connected on 40.0 percent of his 3-point attempts, and was an 80.0 percent shooter from the free throw line on his way to being named fourth-team all-state.
Smith averaged 11.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore.
“Jason is a very good shooter,” said Knight. “He reminds me a lot of Rex Chapman who played at Kentucky. He gets up really high on his jump shot, very good athlete and can really drive the ball. With what we’re losing, we really need some perimeter shooters to come in.”
Minton played on the same AAU team as Smith, and is heading into his final season at Indianapolis Northwest High School. A 6-foot point guard, Minton averaged 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game as a junior.
Minton was selected second-team all-city as a junior. Both Minton and Smith have been named preseason all-city for their senior seasons, with the other three first-team selections heading to Indiana University.
“Minton is another ball handler, long-armed kid,” said Knight. “He’s a rangy kid who can really defend. He’s good with the ball. He can shoot it from the outside, but he can really get to the hole.”
Blanks is a 5-foot-10 point guard out of Spring Hill High School who posted averaged of 13.8 points, 6.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game as a junior. He was second on the team in scoring, and led the Raiders to a 24-7 overall record and 15-4 district mark.
As a sophomore, Blanks helped SHHS to a 23-9 record. Over the summer, he averaged 20 points and five assists per game at the AAU National Tournament for Nashville Stars Elite.
“Blanks is a great ball handler who really reminds me of Jarius Jackson we had at Texas Tech,” said Knight. “He’s a small guard, super quick, really good with the ball who can break down a defense and then he can guard you all over the court. He can pick you up full court and really cause you problems.”
The Cardinals have six seniors on this year’s team that will need to be replaced. Lamar currently has 13 players on its roster which includes freshman Rhon Mitchell who will redshirt this year.
“With what we’re losing, we need big-time perimeter players who can come in and help us,” said Knight. “We’re trying to replace a lot of firepower we’re losing from a ball handling and scoring standpoint on the perimeter. I think these three can do it, and we aren’t bringing them in to redshirt or sit the bench, but these are kids who we think can play right away.”