Spartans sign four for men's basketball on first day of spring NLI period
GREENSBORO, NC – UNC Greensboro men’s basketball coach Mike Dement announced Wednesday the receipt of four National Letter of Intent commitments on the first day of the spring signing period.
Dement announced the commitments of guards Omar Jones and Mikko Koivisto (pronounced MEE-coe COY-vis-TOE) and forwards Ben Stywall and Pete Brown. The quartet will join early period signee Kendall Toney.
“We’re very pleased with this group of recruits this spring,” said Dement. “We felt like we had to fill some immediate needs, while still coming away with a balanced class from a position standpoint to meet long-term goals. In this spring group, we signed a combo guard, a strong outside shooter and two solid post players. With that in mind, I think we accomplished both.
“They will join Kendall Toney, whom we signed in the early period last fall, for a group of five that is a good future lineup in itself,” said Dement. “We expect this class to come in and compete for starting positions and playing time against the returning core of players. That will strengthen our depth, which was something many other teams on our schedule enjoyed this past season.”
Jones, a 6-5 combo guard from North Lenoir, NC was a third-team all-state selection by Preps Plus this past season. He averaged 22 points, six rebounds and four assists per contest, also earning Conference Player of the Year and first-team all-conference honors. He scored 1,009 points during his career at North Lenoir HS and was a finalist for Kinston Free Press’ Player of the Year honors. Jones was also recruited by North Carolina A&T, Western Carolina, Appalachian State, Winthrop and Old Dominion.
“As a player, Omar will do anything a coach asks of him,” said North Lenoir coach Paul Dunn. He is eager to learn. Omar has been a great student both on and off the court and a pleasure to work with. He comes from a solid family background and is a good downhome country kid.”
“We were heavily involved with Omar in the fall, which was when he visited us,” said Dement. “He went on to have an excellent year, claiming Player of the Year honors in his conference. He is a versatile guard that can play all three positions in the backcourt. He was well schooled by his high school coach Paul Dunn. Omar is a good shooter and passer and, with added strength, will be a very good player in our league.”
Kovisto is an outstanding outsider shooter from Vantaa, Finland. The 6-4 guard played the last two seasons at Holy Cross HS in Lynchburg, VA, twice earning all-conference honors and earned Player of the Year honors as a junior. As a senior, he averaged 19 points per game and shot better than 40 percent from three-point range. Kovisto, who was also recruited by Arkansas-Little Rock, UNC Wilmington and Denver, knocked down 12 three-pointers in a game last season.
“He is probably the most fundamentally sound player I have had the pleasure of coaching in my 10 seasons,” said Holy Cross coach Roy Roberson. “His basketball IQ is outstanding. Mikko’s court intellect is off the charts. He is mature beyond his years, a 19-year-old playing like a 24-25 year old. He has a real understanding of the game in regards to spacing and time and score... the things you just can’t teach. He has been a delight to coach for the last two seasons and just has an incredible work ethic. I told Coach Dement that I think he is getting an outstanding basketball player.
“Mikko is a great shooter,” said Dement. “He is a big strong guard who shows toughness and can really score. He is a threat each time he touches the ball. Mikko played for an excellent coach in Roy Roberson. With Mikko’s ability to shoot, we expect him to compete immediately for playing time in the off guard and wing positions.”
Stywall is a 6-5 forward who has spent the last season at Fork Union Military Academy. He graduated in 2005 from North Mecklenburg HS in the Charlotte Area. Playing for coach Duane Lewis at North Mecklenburg, Stywall averaged 15.4 ppg and 10.9 rpg as a senior in leading his squad to the North Carolina 4A state title and a No. 16 national ranking. He earned honorable mention all-state honors from NCPreps.com.
At Fork Union this past season, Stywall is ranked among the Top 125 fifth-year players in the country by Hoop Scoop. He averaged 16 points and 10.5 rebounds per game at Fork Union and is one of six players from this year’s roster expected to play for Division I teams next year. Stywall was also recruited by Western Carolina, Wofford, Winthrop, LaSalle and East Carolina.
“Ben is an outstanding person and an outstanding player,” said Fork Union coach Fletcher Aritt. “He should be able to contribute almost immediately and is looking forward to coming to UNCG.”
“Ben is a winner,” said Dement. “He knows what it takes to win and is willing to do those things. He is an excellent rebounder at both ends of the floor and can play both the wing and forward positions. He won a state championship for a nationally-ranked team at North Mecklenburg under Coach Lewis, and has continued to improve with the competition he faced and the outstanding tutelage that he received under Coach Arritt at Fork Union Military Academy. He will bring a competitive approach and some valuable experience to this freshman class.”
Brown, is a 6-7 post player from Don Bosco Prep in Central New Jersey. After spending the last two seasons alongside John Oates (now a sophomore at Boston College) and Tyrell Biggs (now a freshman at Pittsburgh), Brown emerged into a force down low this season. He averaged 14 points and 12 rebounds per game for coach Kevin Diverio and led the team to the sectional semifinals despite entering the tournament with a No. 7 seed. Brown, who was also recruited by Delaware and Rider, earned second-team all-county honors for his performance this past season.
“I think Pete has a huge upside,” said Diverio. “He stands at 6-7 with the wingspan of someone who is about 7-3. As a person, he is top notch. Pete’s quiet, but a great teammate. He isn’t a kid who causes problems. He is serious about his studies. He does whatever a coach asks of him on the court. Pete Brown has only just started to realize how good he could be.”
Dement remarked that Brown’s game resembles that of Eric Cuthrell, who played at UNCG’s during Dement’s first stint as coach. Cuthrell was a force down low for UNCG from 1992-96, scoring 983 points and grabbing 859 rebounds, which still ranks second all-time at UNCG.
“Pete played for the famed Don Bosco HS in New Jersey that has produced excellent college prospects over the years under Coach Diverio leadership,” said Dement. “We saw Pete play in late February and really liked his ability to block shots, rebound and score with his back to the basket. He reminds me a lot of Eric, who had a great career at UNCG.”
The foursome joins Toney, who was one of three Division I recruits off the Gaston Day School roster this season. His team advanced to the semifinal round of the NC Independent Schools state tournament and finished with a 23-10 mark. He earns NCISAA 1A All-State honors.
UNCG finished 12-19 last season in the first season of Dement’s return to UNCG. Having previously served as UNCG’s head coach from 1991-95, including as its first head coach in the institution’s Division I era, Dement returned to UNCG last April 8. The Spartans return all five starters from last season’s squad, including all-conference honorees Ricky Hickman and Kyle Hines.
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