Continuity the goal for upcoming basketball season

WKU sophomore forward Ben Lawson slams the ball home against Conference USA opponent Rice Feb. 7, 2015 at E.A. Diddle Arena. The Hilltoppers would go on to lose to the Owls 72-68 in only their third home loss of the season. (Luke Franke/Herald)

Jonah Phillips

Three Hilltopper basketball graduations accompanied by a hand full of transfers has left Head Coach Ray Harper and the WKU basketball team searching for depth to add to the 2015-2016 roster.

Graduates George Fant, T.J. Price, and Trency Jackson played out their final years of basketball eligibility last season, but the premature departures of D.J. Clayton, Brandon Price, Rob Marberry and Avery Patterson have tested the recruitment abilities of the Hilltopper basketball administration this off-season.

“I think there is a variety of reasons, I don’t think you can point to any single one,” Athletic Director Todd Stewart said in regards to the recent transfers and departures from the program.

“It is a national trend—it is not just a Western Kentucky problem,” Stewart said. “When you look nation wide you have a lot of transfers, and you have a lot of people leaving.

“My own personal feeling is I think that there are a lot of people in these kid’s ears, and a generation ago I think that parents and high school coaches would tell kids to stick it out, and fight through adversity at a much greater rate than they do now,” Stewart said. “I think now, instead of fighting adversity and pushing through it, they just decide to quit and go somewhere else… not for everybody, but that seems to be the general mentality.”

The massive shift throughout the Hilltopper roster is still a work in progress—the Hilltoppers will enter next season with just five players from last year’s roster in Ben Lawson, Aleksej Rostov, Nigel Snipes, Justin Johnson, and Chris Harrison-Docks.   

The main goal of the WKU athletic administration is to find continuity.

“I wish we did have continuity—we have a higher turnover rate than what the national average has been and when you have four-year seniors like George Fant and T.J. Price, that’s a good thing,” Stewart said. “When they get to play with each other and get to know each other over multiple years, I think you just have a stronger unit—hopefully that is what we are going to have.”

The Hilltoppers are expecting 11 new players for the upcoming campaign, one of which (Willie Carmichael, transfer from Tennessee) will have to sit out a season before acquiring eligibility.

Illinois graduate transfer Aaron Cosby will join the Hilltoppers after graduating this summer.  Nathan Smith, Phabian Glasco, Anton Waters, Kristaps Gluditis, Chris McNeal, Marlon Hunter, and Fredrick Edmond have all signed on for the Hilltoppers, with in-state high school prospects Keifer Dalton and Dylan Sanford expected to walk on this fall.

With the addition of Kristaps Gluditis of Latvia and Nathan Smith of England, the Hilltopper roster now boasts four players of international descent.  These channels of international recruitment are something Harper has had to utilize even more in the past months.

“Certainly there is a connection (in Europe) that has proved to be helpful for us,” Stewart said. “With the two ‘7-footers from England’ so to speak, the British twin towers I think is what some people are calling them, we certainly are happy to have them and are excited to see them grow.”

Nathan Smith will join fellow England product Ben Lawson for the upcoming season, and Kristaps Gluditis will join fellow Latvian international Aleksej Rostov for the 2015-2016 season.