Rick Broering

Could Nojel Eastern be XU's next 6-foot-6 lead guard?

Nojel Eastern talks about what he's looking for in his future school.

Nojel Eastern is looking for a future college program that is willing to give a big, versatile guard plenty of freedom to make plays within its offense.

In that regard, the leash given to Xavier freshman point guard Edmond Sumner caught Eastern's eye last year.

Head coach Chris Mack and assistant Luke Murray drove that point home last week when they visited with Eastern. 

"I watched a lot of Xavier's offense this year," Eastern said. "Coach Mack brought that up in the meeting that he let (Edmond) play a lot and create for others. That's what I'm looking to do as well."

"I just want a program that lets their guards have freedom. I'm a playmaker, but I like to pass first. I like to get my teammates involved, so I want a team that lets their point guards play." 

At 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, Eastern describes himself as a "versatile point guard," and says that "about 95 percent" of schools are recruiting him to play the point guard position. He prides himself on doing a little bit of everything and being productive in areas where other guards typically aren't, such as rebounding.

Xavier Illinois, Seton Hall, Michigan State, Ohio State, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt all made it in to visit with Eastern last week. And currently, he's in no rush to speed along his recruiting process.

"It's just been a steady process," he said. "It's not one school in particular, it's about 15 or 20, so I'm just taking my time with the whole recruitment. I'm just trying to finish this AAU season out, see how things go from there, build relationships with coaches, and around the end of the summer cut my list down to about five." 

Eastern has been a priority recruit for the Musketeers since early in the high school season when they extended him a scholarship offer, and he said that it was good to catch up with the coaching staff when they visited with him last week.

"Coach Mack and Coach Murray are great. It was amazing," he said. "The presentation they showed me… Xavier is a great school. It's amazing the education and the environment despite being such a small school. There aren't a lot of distractions there, which is perfect for basketball." 

Living in Evanston, Illinois, Eastern has also received a lot of interest from the nearby state schools recently.

"The opportunity to stay close to home would be awesome," he said. "Northwestern has never been to the NCAA tournament. If I were to choose a school like that and get them to the NCAA tournament, that's a legacy to my own. Illinois is the school around that a lot of people know, so it's going to be a hard decision for me. Illinois had a great presentation. It got me thinking about them a lot. Coach Groce has been keeping in contact with me a lot more."

Despite that, Eastern said that location or fandom won't play much of a role in his decision process. He came into the process with a completely open mind.

"I'm an open guy," he said. "I never grew up with a college favorite or as a fan of a college. This is a hard recruitment process for me. It's going to be a long road." 

As for what he's looking for in his future school, there are only a few key aspects right now.

"Education, of course, is important," he said. "And the consistency with communication (from the staff) and the relationship we build - that's very important to me." 

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