New coach Mike Carpenter certainly isn’t wasting any time in recruiting his first Wabash Valley College basketball team. He even landed a recruit while on the golf course Friday at the annual Warrior golf outing.
“One of the top players in New York City has committed to us,” Carpenter said. “We’ve got a couple more on the horizon, so we’re off to a good start. We need to make sure we don’t hurry anything.”
That brought to seven the number of commits attained by Carpenter, the former Danville Area coach hired in May by IECC District 529 to replace Hall of Fame coach Dan Sparks, who announced his retirement in March.
“We’ll do two things. We’ll play extremely hard, and we’ll play together,” said Carpenter of the type of team Warrior fans can expect to see under his guidance. “Those are the two things I will preach and demand.”
Carpenter is not worried about the late recruiting start. He said there is still plenty of talent to recruit from.
“A lot of talent is still available. You’ve just got to be selective on who you take,” he said. “We do a lot of background checking to make sure we get the right people. “It’s not all about how fast they can run or how high they can jump. They have to live in this community and represent our school in the right way.”
In addition to recruiting, Carpenter is in the process of forming his coaching staff. He has aleady hired Dodie Dunson, a former Vincennes and Iowa State player who for the last three years has been an assistant at Bradley, where he graduated Magna Cume Laude.
The brother of former WVC player Brandon Dunson, Dodie assists his family with the operation of a large AAU basketball program.
If you’re thinking that Dunson’s family connections will help pay dividends in the recruting process, you’re right. “It’s already helped,” said Carpenter, who is also hoping to talk Warrior assistant and former Lawrenceville and Princeton coach Brian Stilwell into staying at the school.
“I’m hoping (Stilwell) can help us out. He would be an excellent asset to have with his background and years of experience,” Carpenter said. “I know he has family and everything, but I’d love for him to help us.”
Stillwell returned to WVC in November to help assistant coach Eric Murphy after head coach Dan Sparks, who along with Stilwell coordinated the golf outing to help ease Carpener’s transition, was sidelined with a broken hip, missing several weeks of the season. Murphy has since been hired as an assistant coach at Northern Colorado.
Carpenter took note of the fact that Sparks and Stilwell, “didn’t have to” set up the golf fundraiser, “but they wanted to. It shows how special this place is. Dan’s been tremendous, giving me advice on the job and the town.”
One thing Carpenter has not done is pillage the Danville Area roster or recruiting list for players. “There were two or three players who could have played here,” he said. “I’m not in the business of stealing other people’s players. I was happy to hand the program over to my assistant and move on to the next chapter of my career.”
Danvlle was 28-4 last season, Carpenter’s seven as head coach. The Jaguars set a record for most wins, and Carpenter was named the NJCAA Region 24 Division II coach of the year.
Hired from an applicant pool of 30 and a finalist field of four, Carpenter already had family ties to WVC. His brother played baseball at the school, and his cousin played volleyball. “I’m very familiar with this community,” he said. “It’s a job I’ve kept my eye on throughout my career. The timing was right, and I’m really happy to be here.”