Latest talent has Hilltoppers traveling back toward ‘the map’

Evan Heichelbech is the College Heights Herald Editor-in-Chief for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019.

Evan Heichelbech

The Walkthrough

It’s not uncommon for coaches to come to introductory press conferences equipped with fodder for fans and media to grab onto and blow out of proportion.

This fodder can come in the form of promotions and promises to fan bases and athletic departments, and a lot of times it comes in the form of a corny slogan about as believable as a dinky startup organization’s mission statement.

And unless it’s Notre Dame football or Kentucky basketball, anyone outside the school’s state — and in some cases, the city — would be lucky to hear a five-second snippet of the press conference and catch wind of said slogan or motto.

Judging by the way things are falling into place now, there’s no blowing Rick Stansbury’s year-old visionary prospectus out of proportion, and there’s a chance its effects could start causing ripples on a national level.

When Stansbury was hired last March, he made one overarching goal of his strikingly clear: he wanted to put Western Kentucky Basketball back on the map. Quickly.

Heading into his second year, Stansbury’s latest recruiting coup came on Saturday when highly touted junior college prospect Jordan Brangers announced on Twitter that he had committed to join the Hilltoppers’ roster for the 2017-2018 season.

Brangers, a 6-2 guard oozing with athleticism, will be the ninth newcomer on Stansbury’s second team at WKU and fills yet another need for an interesting collection of talent that will make up next season’s squad.

Shortly after arriving in Bowling Green last spring, Stansbury worked the transfer market tirelessly, filling the glaring voids present in the backcourt at the time. And throughout the season, names seemingly never stopped filtering in and out of the program. As the Tops struggled on the court and players Willie Carmichael, Marko Stajkovski, Marty Leahy exited the program, attention started to shift toward next season.

The buzz around names like Moustapha Diagne, Robsinson Idehen and Taveion Hollingsworth grew while others including Lamonte Bearden, Mitchell Robinson and Josh Anderson kept the backburner warm with hype for next season.

Now, with Brangers, transfer walk-on guard Miles Weber and in-state recruit Jake Ohmer also on board for the fall, Stansbury is pacing increasingly faster toward pegging WKU as a nationally ranked team in the preseason.

It’s been nearly a decade since the Hilltoppers landed a top-25 spot in the national rankings. 

That stretches back to the days of guys with their numbers and plaques hung around Diddle Arena (see: Lee, Courtney; Mendez-Valdez, Orlando; Slaughter, A.J. and Evans, Jeremy).

Of course, nothing is guaranteed, and Stansbury won’t be able to just “roll the balls out and let them play,” but this is a group of athletic talent that WKU basketball hasn’t seen in quite some time.

It may be too early to tell if Stansbury is going to put WKU back on “the map” to stay, but he’s already got the Hilltoppers trending toward a bigger map than the one they were on when he arrived a year ago. A map much longer than Kentucky’s third most populous city.

Sports Editor Evan Heichelbech can be reached at 502-415-1817 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @evanheich.