With the regular signing period officially getting underway Wednesday, Green Bay finds itself with one scholarship available thanks to TJ Parham’s decision to transfer.
Despite the losses of Parham and Jevon Smith the Phoenix have so far been able to avoid the kind of season-changing turmoil going on at other places across the league such as impact player defections at Oakland and IUPUI or a coaching change at Northern Kentucky.
So with nearly 78% of its scoring coming back next season, Green Bay can afford to use the open scholarship in a few different ways.
The Phoenix can choose to go after a high school prospect to add on to an already solid two-person 2019 recruiting class that includes Japannah Kellogg and Amari Davis. Green Bay could also choose to pick someone off the transfer market that may have to sit out one season in order to play two or three seasons. Or they can return to the JUCO ranks and look for another instant impact player that will have two years left much like they successfully were able to find last year with JayQuan McCloud, Tank Hemphill, and Josh McNair.
A fourth option could be a graduate transfer that is eligible to play immediately, though that doesn’t seem likely for a team that will already have five seniors on the roster next season.
The option most Green Bay fans are likely hoping for would be to land Waupun’s Marcus Domask. The 6’6” wing originally committed to fellow Horizon League foe Northern Kentucky but recently re-opened his recruitment after the Norse lost their head coach to the University of Cincinnati.
Phoenix head coach Linc Darner was the first to offer Domask a scholarship back in October of 2016 and seemed to make him a priority throughout the recruiting process. Eventually a total of 13 schools offered Domask a scholarship including Indiana State, Wright State, Northern Kentucky, and Milwaukee among others according to VerbalCommits.com.
Green Bay did not make the cut to the final two, however, with Domask ultimately choosing NKU over Milwaukee according to the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen.
The Fond du Lac Reporter said on Tuesday that he has received interest from 10 to 12 teams since re-opening his recruitment and that there “are no favorites” at this time. A 3-star recruit, Domask is the top ranked 2019 prospect in the state according to Prep Hoops Wisconsin and WisSports.net and was named Mr. Basketball this season after averaging 26.1 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game while shooting 46.2% from beyond the arc. With his dad as the head coach, he led Waupun to a 26-2 record and a runner-up finish at the WIAA State Tournament last month.
Another in-state high school senior the Phoenix have been linked to is 6’5” wing Xzavier Jones. His Greendale Martin Luther team knocked off Domask’s Waupun team twice this season, including in the state championship game, and finished 25-3 overall.
Jones is an interesting prospect with wildly different opinions depending on where you look. ESPN, which has fairly unreliable state-by-state prospect rankings, lists Jones as the #1 recruit the state’s 2019 class (and doesn’t list Domask at all). 247Sports has him as the third best recruit in the state. Both recruiting services, as well as Rivals.com, list him as a 3-star prospect.
A better barometer is probably Mark Miller’s prospect rankings at WisSports.net. Miller had Jones as high as #4 on his 2019 state rankings in January of 2017 but lists him at #12 now behind several players who have committed to Division II schools.
He may be flying a bit under the radar due to being part of a three-headed monster at Martin Luther which resulted in his offensive numbers not being as eye-popping as other potential prospects. He was the team’s third leading scorer at 11.3 points per game, but it is the other aspects of his game – the rebounding, the passing, and especially the defense – that have caught coaches’ eyes. He led his team in rebounding this season at 8.2 per game and chipped in over 3 assists per game as well.
He can guard all five positions on defense. He is athletic enough to defend guards but also has enough length and versatility to defend in the post. He also can handle the ball and is explosive enough to get to the rim and score on offense.
Jones has scholarship offers from Green Bay, Saint Louis, Bradley, and IUPUI though all four schools offered scholarships nearly two years ago and he hasn’t added any since then. He could see his recruiting pick up again this spring and summer with solid play on the AAU circuit, however he told WisSports in September that prep school may also be an option.
The Phoenix have also shown interest in various other high school recruits over the past couple of years.
But beyond Domask or even Jones, Green Bay could possibly take a look into the vast NCAA transfer portal for a Division I transfer.
There are nearly 700 Division I players that have announced they are transferring so far this offseason. Green Bay has recruited several of them in the past prior to their commitment to their current school and could be interested in using the final scholarship on a transfer that would have to sit out a season before playing for the Phoenix in 2020/2021.
Using the scholarship on a transfer player could help bring some roster balance as the Phoenix currently only have one player that will be a sophomore next season, Will Chevalier. There are several players that would sit next season and still have two seasons to play meaning they would join Chevalier as a junior in 2020/2021. Here are a few options:
Nana Akenten | Nebraska | 6’6” wing | Sit one season, play two seasons
Green Bay was one of nearly 20 schools to offer Akenten a scholarship out of Bolingbrook (IL) High School. He was a 3-star recruit and chose Nebraska over a host of other mid-major offers. He appeared in just 7 games as a true freshman last season but played significant minutes as a sophomore this season before being suspended March 5 for academic issues. He missed the team’s final six games but played in 28 games overall this past season, including 2 starts, and averaged 4.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game.
After a season off to get stronger and work on his outside shot he could be the kind of impact transfer similar to Sandy Cohen a couple of seasons ago.
Teyvion Kirk | Ohio | 6’4” PG | Sit one season, play two seasons
Kirk entered the NCAA transfer portal after a coaching change at Ohio last month. He was high school teammates with current Green Bay player Trevian Bell at Joliet West and the Phoenix were one of the first schools to offer him a scholarship back in July of 2016. He has had two incredibly productive seasons at Ohio and is likely looking to transfer to a Power 5 school, though it is also possible that he could return to Ohio. But hey, you never know. Maybe he would like a reunion with his high school teammate.
In two seasons with the Bobcats Kirk has played in all 62 of their games making 61 starts and averaged 14.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 31.3 minutes per game.
Luke Loewe | William & Mary | 6’4” PG | Sit one season, play two seasons
Another player Green Bay recruited pretty hard as a high schooler was Wisconsin native Luke Loewe. The 6’4” point guard played the previous two seasons at the College of William & Mary in Virginia but announced his intent to transfer. The Phoenix offered Loewe a scholarship back in April of 2015 prior to his junior season at Ripon High School. He played his final season at Fond du Lac and ultimately chose William & Mary over offers from about a dozen other mid-majors.
He appeared in 27 games as a true freshman, though only playing about 5 minutes per game. He joined the starting lineup this past season as a sophomore but saw limited usage averaging 3.9 points and 1.8 assists in 24.2 minutes per game over 31 appearances.
Darner has had success in getting Wisconsin natives to transfer to Green Bay after playing at a different Division I school, most notably Cohen. But he also was able to successful lure David Jesperson and Cody Schwartz back to the state to play for Green Bay.
Carlos Curtis | East Tennessee State | 6’2” PG | Sit one season, play three seasons
One player that could be interested in returning to his home state is Milwaukee native Carlos Curtis. The 6’2” point guard just finished his freshman season at East Tennessee State and played in just 10 games scoring 23 total points in 69 minutes of action. He was diagnosed with mono late in the season which kept him out of action for most of the second half of the season but had playing sparingly up to that point.
As a high schooler he starred at Milwaukee Riverside and garnered scholarship offers from several solid mid-major programs before whittling down his choices to three schools and ultimately chose ETSU over Green Bay and Wright State. He was a 3-star prospect according to ESPN.
It remains to be seen how much eligibility Curtis would actually have after his transfer. Conventional wisdom would say he would redshirt and sit out next season and be eligible to play three more starting as a redshirt sophomore in 2020/2021. But several tweets, including one from Curtis announcing his decision to transfer, indicate he will have four years remaining. He could seek a waiver to gain a season of eligibility back after only playing 69 minutes over 10 games this season.
John Diener | DePaul | 6’4″ SG | Sit one season, play three seasons
Another player that could be interested in returning to play in Wisconsin is John Diener. The 6’4″ shooting guard from Cedarburg committed to DePaul early in the recruiting process with his only two other offers coming from Green Bay and Milwaukee before committing to the Blue Demons.
He sat out this past season at DePaul as a redshirt and would have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out another season due to transfer rules. A prolific scorer, he averaged 22.9 points per game as a senior at Cedarburg including scoring a state tournament record 46 points in the semifinals against Milwaukee Washington.
His father, Tom, starred for two seasons at Green Bay from 1979-1981 and was inducted into the Phoenix Hall of Fame in 2004.
Ryan Kreuger, a 6’6” wing from nearby New London, is another local option. He is transferring from South Dakota State after two seasons, though he sat out the first year as a redshirt. He would have two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out next season.
After starring at Hortonville High School, Krueger chose SDSU over offers from Green Bay, Milwaukee, and Lafayette. He then sat out last season but played a limited role this season as redshirt freshman for a Jackrabbits team that finished 24-9 and won the regular season Summit League title. In 22 appearances he averaged 2.0 points and 1.0 rebounds in 7.6 minutes per game. He was solid from behind the arc making 11 of 25 three-point attempts (44.0%) this season including going 4 for 6 during a breakout game against Colorado State on November 21 when he put up a career high 16 points in 20 minutes.
An interesting option is Goodnews Kpegeol, a 2019 prospect who enrolled early at Kansas State this past December after playing at TaylorMade Academy, a prep school in Florida.
A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Kpegeol could’ve played this past second semester but opted to use a redshirt instead. Now he is transferring from Kansas State and will likely need a waiver to be eligible to play immediately and for all four years. But he will be in high demand as he chose KSU over offers from nearly a dozen mid-major schools. The 6’5” shooting guard is a 3-star prospect according to Rivals and 247 Sports.
The Phoenix never offered a scholarship but Kpegeol did take an unofficial visit to the UWGB campus back in August of 2017 while still at North St. Paul High School.
One other local product that is in the transfer portal and could join the Phoenix as a walk-on is Oshkosh native Philip Flory.
He played 57 total minutes as a true freshman walk-on at Seton Hall before transferring to Albany this past season. However, two separate foot injuries hampered his season and he only played in 6 games for the Great Danes. He spent in the second semester back at home in Oshkosh rehabbing and taking classes online, according to the Albany Times Union.
Flory averaged 13.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting 40.0% (32/80) from behind the arc as a senior at Oshkosh North.
But assuming Domask or one of the high-demand transfers is not in the cards a more likely option, based on recent history, is that the Phoenix will return to the junior college ranks to fill the final scholarship. Darner has had success in recruiting JUCO players starting with Charles Cooper and Jamar Hurdle in his first season and now with the current roster of McCloud, Hemphill, and McNair.
While a junior college transfer won’t help balance the roster classes as much as a high school senior or a Division I transfer, they do have the added benefit of likely making an instant impact. There are still several of JucoRecruiting.com’s Top 100 still available and Darner and his staff clearly have strong contacts in the junior college ranks.
With a solid roster returning next season the final open scholarship could be the missing piece for a championship run. Or it could be a building block for a strong future. Either way, there are plenty of options available as the off-season is in full swing.