MU Signs Three, Has Five New Players For 2008

Marshall basketball head coach Donnie Jones announced on April 16 the kind of return on investments, these in recruiting, that the IRS was not promising anyone just the day before on April 15. Five days later, Jones got his "return" early when a third hooper committed to the Herd. The Herd added Nigel Spikes of Dillard on April 21, in addition to high school teammate Kore White, plus Shaq Johnson.

The day after Tax Day 2008, Marshall added two more recruits to Jones' second recruiting class, cashing in on Floridians Shaquille Johnson, a 6-foot-3 combo guard and Kore White, a 6-foot-8 shot blocker and rebounder. On April 21, Nigel Spikes, a 6-foot-10 teammate of White at Dillard, signed on the Herd's green dotted line.

Johnson, from Jacksonville, Fla., is the reigning two-time Class 5A Florida Player of the Year out of Robert E. Lee High School. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound combo guard averaged 22 points, 8.7 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 3.5 steals per game as a senior in leading the Generals to a 21-5 mark. "Shaquille brings great versatility and great passion to our basketball program," Jones said. "He is a player whom we feel has a chance to play several different positions in our style of play." Johnson talked with Herd Insider when he committed back in early March. "I have known Coach Jones for three years, since he was at Florida," said Johnson. "I also have known (Marshall assistant coach) Brett Nelson for a couple of years. They were recruiting me at VCU when he was there. The relationship with both of those coaches had a lot to do with committing to Marshall. I also like the style of offense Marshall is playing, up-tempo like here at Lee, using three guards. I think the Marshall coaches can help me to develop my game on the court, and off the court in school as well."

Johnson was also pleasantly surprised by the Marshall crowds when he visited Huntington for the Feb. 23 win over Central Florida, one of a large group of schools who lost out to Marshall on getting Johnson. "So many fans came up to welcome me, it was a big surprise," said Johnson. "It was a great crowd."Johnson netted 2,205 points during his illustrious prep career and shot 46 percent from the 3-point line as a senior. Johnson can play either point guard or shooting guard for Marshall. He was ranked as the 32nd best available guard in the nation by Scout.com and chose Marshall over several other schools, including Minnesota of the Big Ten, where former MU head coach Ron Jirsa is an assistant; VCU, where former Marshall and Florida assistant Anthony Grant is the head coach; Tulane and UCF, Marshall Conference USA opponents; and his hometown college, Jacksonville, of the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Dave Telep, Scout.com's (Herd Insider is a member of Scout.com at marshall.scout.com) National Recruiting Director is high on Johnson. "'Shaq' gives Coach Jones a versatile backcourt player," said Telep. "Johnson will be able to fluxuate back and forth from the wing and play some point in a pinch. A prideful kid, he'll find his way on the floor early at Marshall."

White, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was a three-year starter for Dillard High School and led the Panthers to a 29-2 record and the Class 5A Florida state title as a senior. He averaged a double-double last season (12 points, 11 rebounds per game) along with six blocks per game. White also posted four straight games with at least 10 blocks. Herd Insider talked with White on Christmas Day when he gave the MU staff a late afternoon present by committing on the holiday. "I was going back and forth all month," said White on Christmas break, back in Dec. of 2007. "When I met the players, now my teammates, in Huntington, I felt it was right at Marshall. Huntington's a little different from Boca Raton, Florida (where White grew up), but I had a friend who signed out of (town) and got homesick in a month. "Huntington's a great small town, where violence is rare. Coach Jones and his staff just moved there to Marshall, trying to make a difference. I hope I can make a difference for Marshall, too."

His new coach is just as enthused as White is about heading to Marshall. "Kore is a terrific athlete that will be great in the up-tempo style we play with his ability to block shots and run the floor," Jones said. "He comes from a traditional powerhouse high school program that is coming off a state championship, experience that will pay dividends during his career." A first team All-State and All-County selection, White recorded six points, nine rebounds, eight blocks and three steals in Dillard's come-from-behind win in the state championship game. He was named to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel "Fab Five" team White also received interest from programs such as the Mountain West Conference's UNLV, plus state schools like the ACC's Miami Hurricanes and South Florida of the Big East.

Five days following the announcement on White and Johnson, on April 21, Jones announced the signing of a National Letter of Intent by Nigel Spikes, a forward out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Spikes, who is 6-foot-10, will join Dillard H.S. teammate White at Marshall. Spikes averaged 10 points, nine rebounds and three blocks as a senior, and he and White were starters for the Florida Class 5A state champions at Dillard.

"Nigel is a long, athletic face-up player with a tremendous upside," Jones said. "He will be very good for our program as he adds strength and experience." Spikes was an All-Broward County selection on the team named by the Miami Herald, and the forward was also receiving interest from Kansas State and Missouri of the Big XII. He scored eight points in the state championship game, making 6-of-6 at the free throw line after averaging only 50.6 percent on the season from the line. Dillard finished ranked 15th in the nation the the National Prep Poll by PrepNation.com and raned 21st nationally in the Rivals.com Top 50 poll. Also on that Dillard team was 6-foot-7 Bo Reiford who has offers in both football and basketball but has not committed.

Spikes, Johnson and White join point guard Damier Pitts as the Herd's signees to date for the class of 2008. Pitts, from Charlotte, N.C., inked with Marshall during the early signing period back in November. "Damier has an exceptional basketball mind and a great feel for how to lead and run a basketball team," Jones told Herd Insider magazine. "He will give us instant help in the back court and have the opportunity to play major minutes next season with our need of a point guard."

Also joining the incoming class is Marcus Goode, a 6-foot-10, 300-pound power forward/center from The Patterson School (N.C.), who enrolled at MU last year, sitting out as a prop, and who will be academically eligible to compete in the fall. Goode was recruited by the University of South Carolina in high school, played on the S.C. Ravens in AAU basketball team and attended Mid-Carolina High School in Prosperity, S.C., before spending a year at The Patterson School. Marshall's Tirrell Baines, a 2008 selection on the All-Conference USA Freshman Team, also came to the Herd from The Patterson School and averaged double-digits in scoring as well as leading the Herd in offensive rebounding.

"We're excited to have signed these three young men this year and (look forward to having) them, and Marcus, in our lineup for the upcoming season," Jones said. Marshall lost four seniors from Jones' first MU team: point guard Taurean Marshall, center Jean Francois Bro Grebe, small forward/guard Mark Dorris and point guard Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes from last year's team while junior to be Robbie Jackson and senior to be Jesse Oglesby decided to transfer from Marshall for next season.

Transfers who sat out this year for the Herd include Chris Lutz, a 6-foot-2 junior to be shooting guard from Purdue; Brandon Powell, a 6-foot-3 sophomore to be shooting guard from Florida; and Octavius Spann, brother of Herd football senior receiver Emmanuel Spann, who is a 6-foot-6, 210-pound sophomore to be who joined the Herd from Georgetown University. All three practiced every day against the 2007-08 starters and will be immediate impact players for the Herd in the 2008-09 season. Pitts maybe has the best chance among the four newcomers to start, as MU lost two point guards in Marshall and P-Mac, while White, Johnson and Goode will also hope to play more as the season unfolds.

Marshall finished with its first winning season in five years by finishing 16-14 last season, with a C-USA 8-8 mark in league play, and won three league road games for the first time since joining C-USA in 2005-06.


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