Mike Carpenter quickly put together a roster after being named Wabash Valley College head basketball coach in June. But he left a couple of spots open for two big men he had his eyes on. Then he worked the recruits and waited. And waited.
The effort paid off over the weekend when Carpenter landed the first big man he wanted - four-star talent Sidiki Johnson, a 6-foot-10 power forward out of Brooklyn, N.Y. Monday afternoon, the other name he had penciled in turned to ink when 6-foot-8 Wesley Afolayan of Houston, Tex. signed a national letter-of-intent to play for the Warriors.
“We were in a unique situation starting on June 2, getting the job and being in the position where we didn’t have as much time,” Carpenter said. “But these were the big guys we targeted from Day One. We were patient.”
Johnson, out of Wadleigh H.S. in Brooklyn after spending his junior season at a private school in Newark, N.J., was ranked in the ESPN Top 100, eighth among power forwards in high school.
He signed to play at Arizona, but broke his foot after three games with the Wildcats. He returned home and signed at Providence for the second semester with a medical redshirt. He played 11 games for the Friars but did not finish the season.
Johnson had plenty of options in search of a new home for his sophomore season. UConn, St. John’s and Rutgers, among others, recruited him, but transferring to another Division I school meant a one-year wait. So, he opted for junior college instead and chose WVC over Indian Hills, Iowa.
“He is very skilled with a good post game. He can also step out and shoot,” Carpenter said.
Johnson is the third signee from NYC. It began with 6-foot-1 scoring guard JaQuan Lynch, the first player Carpenter signed. That led to Nate Williams, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound combo guard, like Lynch considered among the 20 players in the city by scouting services.
The dominos fell again when they both talked Johnson into joining them in Mt. Carmel.
“Getting JaQuan really opened the door to getting these other guys,” said Carpenter of the recruiting effort that began as soon as he was selected at WVC. “He was my first call” even before his hire was made official by the IECC District 529 Board. Carpenter was on the Mt. Carmel golf course at the Warrior golf outing, his first function as WVC head coach, when Lynch called with a commitment.
Johnson and Lynch were friends, having played on the same AAU team together. “We’re a firm believer that players recruit players,” Carpenter said. “We try to recruit guys who have some familiarity with each other because of the team chemistry and togetherness we preach.”
Lynch, from Coney Island, N.Y. had signed at Florida International to play for Rick Pitino’s son, Richard, but left after the younger Pitino’s departure for Minnesota.
Afolayan is a sophomore transfer from Division I Prairie View A & M. “Wesley is an explosive athlete who runs the floor very well. He is an aggressive rebounder who dunks everything around the basket.”
“Getting the big fellows was a key to our recruiting because we feel good about our perimeter players from a talent standpoint,” Carpenter said. “But, if you don’t have an inside presence, it doesn’t matter.”
WVC opens the season on Friday, Nov. 1 at home against Lindsey-Wilson.