Green Bay’s new head coach Will Ryan and his staff have made landing in-state talent one of their goals on the recruiting trail and so far the results could not be better.
The Phoenix have landed three top tier players so far for their 2021 recruiting class, all three of which are Wisconsin natives. Cade Meyer, a 6’8” forward from Monroe, was the first to commit back on August 19th while 6’6” wing Brayden Dailey from Cuba City gave his verbal commitment to the Phoenix on September 7th. Racine native Kamari McGee, a 6’0” point guard who plays at St. Catherine’s High School, was the latest to give a verbal commitment to Green Bay on Monday night.
All three prospects rank in the top ten in the state’s impressive 2021 class according to Mark Miller of the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook and WisSports.net. McGee ranks as the top mid-major player in the state and the 6th best prospect overall behind five high major players while Meyer ranks one spot below as the 7th best prospect. Dailey is also a top ten talent ranking as the 10th best player in the state according to Miller’s most recent rankings.
“The state of Wisconsin is obviously very near and dear to me,” Ryan said during his introductory press conference back on June 11th. “There’s a lot of good basketball players in this state, a lot of hungry basketball players. Great high school coaches that have developed these kids, very good AAU coaches.”
The renewed emphasis on homegrown players is a welcome sight for some Phoenix fans that have been clamoring for the program to add more local talent. Ironically, one of former head coach Linc Darner’s first recruits that he landed back in 2015 was Trevor Anderson – the state’s 2016 co-Mr. Basketball at Stevens Point – who eventually left his scholarship at Green Bay to join the Wisconsin Badgers as a walk-on after just one season. Will Chevalier was the only other Wisconsin high school product to commit to Green Bay straight out of high school during the 5-year Darner era until this past year when the former staff was able to land both Ryan Claflin and Terrance Thompson.
Obviously being from Wisconsin is not an indicator of how successful a player’s college career will be. Two of the program’s three greatest players of all-time came from Minnesota (Jeff Nordgaard) and Illinois (Keifer Sykes), respectively, and the current faces of the program are fan favorites from Illinois (PJ Pipes) and Ohio (Amari Davis).
Two players that Ryan and his staff brought in this offseason to fill open scholarships due to outgoing transfers include New Jersey native Manny Ansong – who will sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules – and Cem Kirciman, a big man from Turkey by way of prep school in New Hampshire.
“Everybody says you’ve got to put a fence around the state, well that’s the goal,” Ryan said back in June. “But you also have to have a gate too. You’ve got to welcome in other kids from different areas.”
Landing in-state talent is one of many ways that could help rebuild fan interest in a program that has seen nearly a 50% decline in attendance over the past five years. It’s easier to follow prospects that are close to home and potentially within driving range of attending games to watch future Phoenix players. Casual basketball fans across the state also become more invested in the program when they see familiar names on the roster.
But Green Bay’s trio of 2021 commitments were recruited for more than just being hometown kids. All three held scholarship offers from several mid-major programs from across the country and each represents a significant recruiting victory in their own right.
At 6’8”, Meyer should be able to contribute almost immediately as a freshman next season. He’s an “athletic, skilled player who can finish above the rim, take defenders off the dribble, and make mid-range jump shots,” according to Miller and he can also step outside and knock down the outside shot, hitting 24-three pointers as a junior for Monroe last season. He averaged 18.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game a season ago and chose Green Bay over scholarship offers from UW-Milwaukee, Valparaiso, South Dakota State, Rice, Western Illinois, Holy Cross, and Stetson according to VerbalCommits.com.
Dailey, meanwhile, has great size for a wing at 6’6” and should have no trouble making the transition to Division I basketball thanks to his versatility and athleticism. A natural scorer, he’s averaged 20+ points per game in each of his first three high school seasons including an impressive 23.2 points and 9.6 rebounds this past season for a Cuba City team that was undefeated and destined to make the state tournament in Madison before the Covid-19 pandemic cancelled the rest of the WIAA basketball season.
He chose the Phoenix over scholarship offers from UW-Milwaukee, Missouri State, Western Illinois, and Toledo.
McGee announced his commitment via Twitter on Monday night and will give Green Bay a true point guard when he joins the program next year. Despite sharing the floor with Iowa State commit Tyrese Hunter, he averaged 11.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game last season for a stacked Racine St. Catherine’s team that was 25-0 and also heading towards a state championship when the pandemic brought things to a halt.
According to the Racine Journal Times, he dished out 96 assists last season while only committing 17 turnovers and shot over 40% (25/62) on three pointers. He is also an excellent defender which could be vital in Will Ryan’s man-to-man defense, especially against opposition in a guard-heavy Horizon League. He committed to Green Bay over scholarship offers from Western Illinois, South Dakota State, Grambling State, and Colgate.
On paper it appears that Ryan and his staff’s first recruiting class is one of the most impressive recruiting classes the program has seen in several years. All three players should be able to make an immediate impact and the fact that all three are local is an added bonus that could help re-engage fans and help build the program back up to the levels of years gone by.
“There’s really good players out there, do they fit what we’re trying to do? That’s the biggest key,” Ryan said back in June.
“I just think Wisconsin kids, tough-nosed, Midwest blue collar mentality, they would fit in well with us. But obviously you have to always be recruiting and always keeping your options open.”