Explorer recruiting history 1985-1989

Part IV of a multi-part series focusing on the recruiting history of La Salle University basketball looks at an era that ushered out the Left Ervin era and ushered in the Speedy Morris era. Morris would go on to be one of La Salle's most successful coaches due in part to bringing in one of La Salle's all-time great players in Lionel Simmons.

The year was 1985 and La Salle was a .500 team looking for a new direction. They would finish the 1985-1986 season with a 14-14 season and Ervin was fired. Enter Speedy Morris, the Catholic League high school coaching legend. Morris would begin as coach of La Salle in the midst of one the biggest recruiting battles for the Explorers since Dallas Comegys. When Ervin was fired, assistant coaches Joe Mihalich and Fran Dunphy were recruiting Lionel Simmons for La Salle and going head to head with St. Joseph's for the city of Philadelphia's best high school basketball player. Morris would seal the deal and land Simmons for the Explorers. This signing would be the catalyst to 6 consecutive fairytale seasons for the Explorers built with the foundation of Simmons but decorated with the players from the following recruiting classes and lead to a 30-2 1989-1990 season and the 11th ranked team in the nation.

1989 Class: Recruited by Speedy Morris
Bron Holland 6"8 F – Transfer from St. Bonaventure.
Mike Stock 6"4 G – Transfer Trenton State
Jeff Neubauer 6"4 G – Slidell HS, Slidell, LA.

Class Notes:
Holland was heavily recruited by La Salle in high school but opted for St. Bonaventure. He lasted one semester there before transferring into La Salle where he was a terrific role player. Extremely good hands and footwork overcame a lack of athleticism. Stock was a role player who played sparingly. Neubauer was a heady player who played the good soldier role for Morris and did everything asked of him. One could see him becoming the coach that he is today just by watching his play on the court.

1988 Class: Recruited by Speedy Morris
Jack Hurd 6"6 F – Warwick HS, Litiz, PA
Donnie Shelton 6"8 F – Trenton Central HS
Randy Woods 5"11 G – Ben Franklin HS
Steve Wreidt 6"11 C – Columbia HS, Columbia, NJ
Nate Williams 6"9 F – Transfer from George Washington

Class Notes:
The studs in the glass were Woods and Hurd. Randy Woods was a terrific scorer and defender. The best on the ball defender La Salle has ever had since I have been watching the program. Also the most mentally tough player La Salle has had in the past 20 years. Hurd was a perfect complimentary player for Simmons, Overton, and Woods. He was also tough as nails and would scrape his elbows for a loose ball at any given moment. Described as a poor man Larry Bird, he lived up to that description perfectly. Wreidt would have a solid freshman campaign getting some minutes off the bench but would transfer to Monmouth after his freshman season. Shelton was one of the very few recruits La Salle has beaten Temple out for. He was highly regarded coming out of high school but was a role player for the Explorers during his career. Nate Williams would transfer in but never play a minute for the school becoming an academic casualty almost as soon as he arrived on campus..

1987 Class: Recruited by Speedy Morris
Dave Gavin 6"7 F – Boston College Prep
Milko Lieverst 6"8 C – Holland
Doug Overton 6"3 G – Dobbins Tech HS
Ralph Flowers 5"11 G – Transfer Trenton State
Frank Giunta 6"0 G – Transfer from Siena

Class Notes:
The gem of this class was Doug Overton who would go and be the career leader in assists for La Salle. He would quarterback the Explorers to over 100 wins in his career and have a long career in the NBA. Lieverst would go on and be the symbol of hard nosed tough basketball and end being a solid rebounder and defender while getting key baskets cleaning up after Simmons, Overton, and others in the program. Dave Gavin was one the Morris' first recruits but would leave La Salle after only attending school for two weeks. Flowers was a bench player while at La Salle. Giunta never played while at La Salle.

1986 Class: Recruited by Speedy Morris and Lefty Ervin
Lionel Simmons 6"7 F – Southern HS
Bobby Johnson 6"4 G/F – Southern HS
Marvin Woods 6"3 G – Transfer from DePaul

Class Notes:
Morris hit the jackpot when he landed Simmons. He was an all-time great for the Explorers and last of the 3,000 point scorers. Humble and classy he would represent La Salle on and off the court with class and dignity. He was named the 1990 Wooden award winner as the nation's best college basketball player. He would lead La Salle to 3 NCAA tournament appearances and a NIT final. Johnson was an unknown commodity when he signed with La Salle. Many people believed La Salle only recruited him to get Simmons who was his teammate and friend at Southern High School. However, Johnson was much better than advertised and was La Salle's clutch 6th man for most of his tenure while at 20th and Olney. A good shooter with athleticism he was a definite asset in the Explorers run to 3 NCAA appearances. Woods was a Top 50 player while at Alliqujippa High School. He signed with national power De Paul at the time and would transfer to La Salle after not playing often. He would leave La Salle with academic troubles and never make an impact to the Explorer program.

1985 Class: Recruited by Lefty Ervin
Ron Barnes 6"8 F – Independence JC, Independence MO.
Craig Conlin 6"6 F – La Salle HS
Leonard Robinson 6"1 G – Upper Dublin HS

Class Notes:
Ervin's last recruiting class was a solid effort. Conlin would develop into a solid undersized low post player who guarded much bigger players in his career. Despite his height disadvantage he would have success on both sides of the floor during his career. Barnes was a shot-blocker supreme and defensive specialist for the Explorers. Robinson was a talented lead guard who ran into trouble academically and socially during his sophomore season and left La Salle shortly after.

In our next edition we will look at the Lefty Ervin era. It was a time of success and pitfalls for the program. It would feature some great players and bad luck for the program, which would never let the program grab the success it could have possibly had.

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