At the tail end of Colorado State’s miraculous run through the Mountain West this past season, one thing became very apparent: the Rams seriously lacked depth at the forward positions.
Outside of Nico Carvacho and Emmanuel Omogbo, CSU had no real depth at the ‘4’ and and ‘5’ positions, and it showed against Nevada, CSU’s opponent in their regular season finale and the Mountain West championship game. The Wolf Pack’s duo of Cameron Oliver, who recently signed with an agent and will likely hear his name called in the NBA Draft, and Jordan Caroline, was too much for even Gian Clavell’s incredible scoring performances to overcome.
In an effort to bolster their frontline depth, and overall team depth, CSU heavily targeted forwards this spring, signing four of them of to their 2017 class, in addition to South Plains Junior College guard Raquan Mitchell, who inked with the Rams in November.
CSU’s returning trio of combo guards (Prentiss Nixon, Jeremiah Paige and Devocio Butler) should give them one of the better backcourts in the league, but to compete at the top of the Mountain West again, they’ll need a big jump from Carvacho, Anthony Bonner, and Che Bob as well.
Here’s a breakdown of CSU’s incoming class and what we expect to see from them in 2017-18.
Raquan Mitchell, 6’3, G, RS So., South Plains Junior College
In his year of playing time at South Plains, the former Memphis signee was nothing short of a human highlight reel. Mitchell has off-the-charts athleticism, throwing down vicious dunks and swatting shots you’d expect only a big man to get to. His offensive game is still relatively raw, but his defensive ability will be a huge asset for the Rams after losing stalwart Gian Clavell.
Mitchell will have some serious competition for playing time at the guard spots though, with Prentiss Nixon, Jeremiah Paige likely occupying the starting spots, and Kevin Little, Devocio Butler, Anthony Bonner and Robbie Berwick competing for playing time behind them. Butler will also see some time at the 3-spot, so it could open up some minutes for Mitchell as a change-of-pace guard and defensive stopper off the bench.
Kris Martin, 6-6, G/F, RS So., Oral Roberts
Unfortunately for CSU’s staff and its fans, Martin will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer rules. And I say unfortunately because this guy can play. At a legitimate 6-foot-6, Martin has tremendous slashing ability, getting to the basket with relative ease the last two years at ORU. He can also step out and shoot from behind the arc (he hit 41% from behind the arc last season), and has a nice mid-range game as well. The closest player comparison I could come up with is former CSU forward Greg Smith. He was a bit more of a bruiser down low than Martin is, but both had a lot of versatility of both ends of the floor, and could score from just about anywhere.
Logan Ryan, 6-9, F, Fr. International Sports Academy
Ryan is an intriguing prospect in that there’s a lot of potential when you look at his highlight tapes, but there also really isn’t much known about him. He was a standout forward at Canton (Mich.) HS, averaging more than 13 points and seven rebounds per game as a senior, but he didn’t draw much Division I interest. This past year, he enrolled the International Sports Academy in Naples, Florida to play prep school ball for a year in hopes of increasing his recruiting exposure. St. Bonaventure was his only other reported offer, but he has an interesting skill set as a stretch ‘4’ that CSU hasn’t had recently. He has some ability to slash and get to the basketball from the free throw line area, and with some development and added muscle, he could be a nice addition for this class down the road.
Zo Tyson, 6’9, F, Jr., Cape Fear (NC) Community College
Maybe the most intriguing player in CSU’s 2017 class is Zo Tyson, a long, rangy forward from Cape Fear, North Carolina. Tyson was a double-double machine last season at Cape Fear, averaging 14 points and eight rebounds per game while shooting 65.2 percent from the field, good for third-best in the entire NJCAA. Most of his highlights are him throwing down alley-oops or putbacks — likely the reason for such a high shooting percentage — but Tyson is also a force on the offensive and defensive glass. Throw in his length and shot-blocking ability (47 in 31 games), and could be the paint protector CSU has been looking for in recent years.
He stands 6’9 or 6’10 depending on who you ask, but he also only weighs about 195 pounds. This summer will be key for him, as he probably needs to put on 10-15 pounds in CSU’s offseason weights and condition program to really be able to compete inside in the Mountain West. It’ll be tough for him to push Nico Carvacho out of a starting role, but Tyson could see quality minutes as a rim defender and high-energy offensive player off the bench next year.
Deion James, 6-8, F, Jr., Pima (Az.) Community College
The gem of this year’s class for CSU is James, the NJCAA’s Division II Player of the Year. James did a little (or a lot) of everything for Pima, averaging 20.6 points and 9.6 rebounds a game while shooting 44 percent from the field and 38 percent from behind the arc. James began his career at North Carolina A&T, but transferred after just one season. This past year, he became Pima’s first NJCAA First-Team All-American, and was heavily pursued and offered by Southern Utah, Washington State, Boise State and others.
James will likely compete for the starting forward spot vacated by Emmanuel Omogbo, leaving some pretty big shoes for him to fill. James isn’t as bouncy as Omogbo, but brings a more refined offensive skill set and the ability to score at all three levels. He won’t be able to dominate the way he did at the junior college level, but James projects to be a player who could be close to a double-double each night.
The five additions in CSU’s 2017 class do leave the Rams two scholarships over the NCAA limit of 13 though, meaning there will be at least two players exiting the program this summer. Stay tuned to InsideTheRams.com for news regarding any departures over the next few months.