Freshman signee Nick Ongenda released from Hilltoppers

WKU head coach Rick Stansbury gives commands during his team’s 77-76 loss at Florida International on Jan. 17 in Diddle Arena.

Drake Kizer

The WKU men’s basketball team lost an incoming freshman recruit Monday afternoon, as three-star center Nick Ongenda was released from the Hilltopper program without ever making it to the Hill.

Associate Director of Athletic Media Relations Zach Greenwell confirmed that Ongenda had been released from his signed letter of intent “recently” and “had not joined the team on campus this summer.”

“I would love to thank all the support and love the WKU fans have given me on my journey to a better college experience,” Ongenda wrote in the caption for a photo posted to his Instagram account. “I am truly happy that I got to meet a wonderful staff, coaches and potential teammates. Unfortunately, After a lot of thought, I have decided to commit to Depaul for 2019. Go Blue Demons.”

According to a tweet posted by Kevin McPherson on Monday, former WKU assistant Marc Hsu — who was replaced with two new hires July 2 — will be an assistant at DePaul this fall. Hsu reportedly played a role in Ongenda’s commitment to WKU, which is why the big man decided to follow his recruiter to Chicago.

Ongenda was set to join the Hilltoppers from Southwest Christian Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. Standing 6-foot-10 and possessing a 7-foot-4-inch wingspan, the South Africa native was ranked as the 286th best player in the 2019 class and the 51st best center by 247Sports Composite.

“Nick brings great potential with his ability to run and block shots,” head coach Rick Stansbury said in a press release last fall. “His defense is ahead of his offense, but no question he has a tremendous upside as he continues to get stronger. He’s one of those players that it’s not what he is now, but what he can become that excites you. We’re happy to have him as part of our program.”

Ongenda originally committed to play for Stansbury on Oct. 15 last year. At the time, Ongenda was a four-star prospect ranked as a top-60 player in the Class of 2020 by ESPN and 247Sports.

Ongenda officially signed with the Hilltoppers on Nov. 18 last year, when it was revealed the big man had elected to reclassify up to the Class of 2019. Ongenda dropped to a three-star prospect after reclassifying, but the big man was still a consensus top-300 player among major recruiting services.

Stansbury’s 2019 recruiting class shrinks down to just three signees after Ongenda’s departure, but fellow freshmen Jackson Harlan, Isaiah Cozart and recently reclassified four-star Jordan Rawls are already on campus and practicing as part of the 2019-20 Hilltoppers.

Ongenda was expected to bring immediate length to the Hilltopper frontcourt, but due to the return of freshman phenom Charles Bassey, Ongenda would’ve had to earn minutes in a stacked frontcourt rotation that still features Marek Nelson, Tolu Smith and Carson Williams in addition to Cozart.

Sports Editor Drake Kizer can be reached at 270-745-2653 and [email protected]. Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.