With coaching vacancy, AU men’s basketball recruits unsure of comittment
When AU men’s basketball head coach Jeff Jones departed for Old Dominion, his current players weren’t the only people he left in a tough situation.
The Eagles’ recruiting class, the prospects that will shape the future of the program, are also enduring the consequences of Jones’ decision. One of those players is Jalen Rhea, a shooting guard who attends New Albany High School in Ohio and is the second best player in AU’s class, according to recruiting services.
“I’m still in shock a little bit; it hasn’t set in that he’s gone,” Rhea said of men’s basketball coach Jeff Jones’ departure.
The Eagles boasted a recruiting class with four players who signed letters of intent. But after Jones left, one prospect decided to ask out of the signed agreement, which AU obliged April 10. That player is Dallas Cameron, a Florida point guard out of Blanche Ely High School.
“Coach Jones contacted him [to inform him of his departure],” said Melvin Randall, Cameron’s head coach at Blanche Ely. “It didn’t really go too well. He was a little disappointed. It’s tough when you expect to go to a school and play for a certain coach and then you go and he’s not there anymore.”
Randall also said that the status of Cameron’s recruitment is unknown outside of the fact that “it’s open.” Cameron currently isn’t focusing on any schools and will have a clearer picture of his recruitment at some point next week.
Despite the uncertainty of who the next coach at AU will be, Kade Kager, the younger brother of sophomore small forward Kyle Kager, remains firm in his commitment.
“As of right now, I’m 100 percent with AU,” Kager, a Texas shooting guard who attends Taft School in Connecticut, said. “It was shocking news, but I feel that the program is still in good shape.”
The future of the fourth player in AU’s recruiting class, Yilret Yiljep, who is rated by recruiting services as the best prospect in the class, remains a mystery. Neither the Nigerian power forward nor his coach responded to emails inquiring about how the coaching change affects him.
Before Jones left, Yiljep said, “I chose AU because it provides me with the opportunity to challenge myself both in the classroom and on the basketball court. On my official visit, the coaches and players did a good job of making me feel welcome, which made my decision easier.”
Since Jones left and assistant coach Eddie Jackson was fired a couple of days prior to Jones’ departure, associate head coach Kieran Donohue and Assistant Coach Lamar Barrett are left to pick up the pieces. Both Donohue and Barrett have attempted to build relationships with the recruits with whim they previously had little contact.
“Honestly, it’s kind of like starting recruiting all over again because I’ve only talked to them three or four times,” said Rhea, who added that he’ll wait until a new coach is named to determine whether he’ll remain with AU or not. “I’m trying to get to know coach Barrett and Donohue and where they’ve been and what they’ve done.”