Dago Pena (full first name is Dagoberto) chose to play in Conference USA at Marshall, picking the Thundering Herd over the Southeastern Conference's Gamecocks of South Carolina. Other schools who were in the running for the 6-foot-6, 200-pound Pena included George Mason and South Florida. Anthony Grant of VCU, a former assistant coach with Donnie Jones at Marshall and Florida, was another school who recruited Pena out of high school. Others the first time around included Ole Miss, Michigan and Xavier.
Pena originally signed with Florida Atlantic back in November of 2007 prior to his senior season, but asked for, and received, his release after head coach Rex Walters left to head up the Dons of San Francisco. Pena visited Marshall July 1, meeting the players and coaching staff. It seemed apparent to many national experts that South Carolina would win the battle for the re-recruited Pena, but in the end, Pena was impressed with Marshall, Huntington and especially the head coach and Donnie Jones' staff with the MU basketball program.
Pena was ranked as the No. 37-ranked small forward in the nation by Scout.com (and No. 24 by Rivals.com), and was a three-star player. He played high school basketball at Charlotte H.S. in Punta Gorda, Florida and is a native of the Dominican Republic. Pena averaged 21 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals as a senior (according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper) for the Class 5A-Region 3 runner-up Tarpons (24-7) of Charlotte last season as a senior. He was No. 144 on Rivals.com's list of top seniors nationally when he signed with FAU. Scout.com said of Pena, "Solid prospect who has made strides with his game...Love his perimeter ability and his passion...Mid-level at least." The web site also raved about his three-point shooting, and the player can help Marshall at three positions: small forward, shooting guard and even point guard if needed.
A Sarasota Herald-Tribune.com article, published last fall when Pena signed at FAU, included some background on the player. Pena's parents - his mother played center for the Dominican Republic's national team for 12 years - sent Dago to (the) now-defunct Florida Prep as a freshman. He transferred to Charlotte in February 2006 and scored 30 points in his first game against nationally ranked Jacksonville Arlington Country Day. He survived a mid-season eligibility inquiry before leading the Tarpons to 14 consecutive victories, the 5A-District 12 title, and two wins in the regionals. "I think his teammates have noticed how hard he works, and it's very easy to sell the rest of your program when you have a great player who does that," said Charlotte coach Tom Massolio told the Herald-Tribune.com.
Pena talked to Evan Daniels of ScoutHoops.com earlier today. "I felt comfortable with the coaching staff and with coach [Donnie] Jones and they have a great staff," Pena said. "I really feel comfortable with all the guys there and I feel like I've known them for a long time. [Coach Jones] has a really good system and it's wide open ad you can play your game," he continued. Pena, who is ranked No. 37 at his position, said he'll head to Marshall to begin taking classes early next week. "I'm really excited about starting summer school," Pena said. "I'm leaving in the morning. I'll be there on Monday."