GC seeks to strengthen frontcourt with incoming class

News Herald Assistant Sports Editor

Posted Jul 7, 2017 at 6:28 PM


PANAMA CITY — A 14-3 start to the 2016-17 season seemed to portend promising things for the Gulf Coast men’s basketball team, though a six-game losing streak early in Panhandle Conference play quickly quelled any notions of a postseason run.

The Commodores ended the league schedule with a record of 3-9 despite finishing in the top three in the conference in most offensive categories. Among Gulf Coast’s biggest issues in conference play was its poor rebounding, as the Commodores collected just 41 percent of available rebounds against league competition and were outrebounded by 11 per game.


Gulf Coast coach Jay Powell said those struggles informed much of his recruiting strategy for the 2018 class, which adds three new interior players that the coach said he hopes will help solidify the Commodores on the glass.


“We were in the middle of the pack or better in the state of Florida in most statistical categories except rebounding,” he said. “Without a doubt, we wanted to make sure we got guys with the correct size and athleticism and nose for the ball to make sure we have better rebounding numbers than we did last year.”


The biggest of Gulf Coast’s seven new signees, at least in physical stature, is 6-foot-11-inch Oscar Okeke of St. Anthony’s High School in Jersey City, N.J. The 225-pound Nigerian tore his ACL before the start of his senior season at St. Anthony’s, but Powell said he is back to 100 percent health and has the potential to be a major contributor on the inside.


“He has a tremendous upside because he is so tall and so long and he gets off the floor well,” he said. “He’s further along than what I traditionally would call a ‘raw’ post player, but he’s still getting a lot out of individual workouts with us every single day and getting better.”


Gulf Coast also adds Providence College transfer Quadree Smith, who averaged 1.7 points and 1.1 rebounds for the Friars as a freshman in 2015-16 before sitting out last season with a hand injury.


Powell said the 6-8, 255-pound big man will bring a much needed element of physicality to the Commodores’ frontcourt while

also providing some offensive versatility as well.


“He plays very physical, but he’s also really good from 15 feet and in and from the high post and short corner,” he said. “He has good back to the basket moves and he can shoot the 3-pointer as well.”


The Commodores add another Division-I transfer in 6-8, 225-pound power forward Ben Eke, who comes to Gulf Coast after one season at Miami (Ohio) in which he played just 14 games and averaged 0.6 points and 0.4 rebounds.


Powell said he hoped the trio of big men will strengthen the Commodores’ frontcourt and help alleviate some of their rebounding difficulties.


“I do believe those guys will make a very positive impact for us on the boards and around the bucket,” he said. “I do think they’re having a good summer in summer school and are working hard. They’re already good players, but they’re continuing to improve daily. We’re excited about having those guys in the program.”


A fourth addition to the frontcourt comes in the form of 6-7 Serbian combo forward Filip Markovic, who Powell said is a highly skilled player who still has work to do in order to handle the physical nature of the Panhandle Conference.


“He’s still getting adjusted to the American game,” he said. “He has very good ball skills, good passing and ball handling, and he’s still developing his jump shot. He’s not just real skinny, but he still needs time in the weight room to bulk up.”


Marlon Adams, a 6-6 transfer from Eastern Kentucky, gives Gulf Coast another physical presence that can play either forward spot. Adams averaged 4.5 points and 4.1 rebounds for the Colonels as a freshman last season.


“He’s very versatile,” Powell said of Adams. “He can play out on the floor or with his back to the basket. He can spot up catch and shoot pretty decent, but he’s more of an attack off the bounce and get to the rim type of guy.”


The Commodores add two new guards to the backcourt with 6-3 Presbyterian transfer Myles McGregor and 6-3 Frank Phillips College transfer Tyree Gibson. McGregor played just two games for Presbyterian before suffering a season-ending ankle injury, while Gibson put in 7.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game last season while shooting 47 percent from the field and 35 percent from the 3-point line for Frank Phillips.


Powell said that he believed both McGregor and Gibson have the potential to be double digit scorers for the Commodores next season.


″(McGregor) is a long guard that shoots it well, takes care of it, and is a pretty crafty player,” he said. “We’re expecting a lot out of him. He’s a nice playmaker who can shoot it well off the catch also. Ty is a very well built guard that can score it. He’s got a nice jump shot and can get to the rim. In about 18 minutes per game last year, he had pretty good numbers. We expect him to have similar numbers or even better this season.”


With the seven incoming players and the three returning players in Dyshane Murphy, Will Robinson, and Josh Wade, Gulf Coast still has two open spots to add on to the roster. Powell said he was hoping to add another big player and another guard with the remaining roster spots.


Of the seven new players already added in this class, five have at least some college experience. Powell said that is no coincidence, as he wants to bring in players with an extra year of physical and emotional maturity.


“Without a doubt,” he said. “We’re already seeing in summer school the advantage of having some maturity and guys who have been through the grind of lifting weights each day and being on time, going through individual and team workouts. It has already been beneficial.”


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