McDonald talks about new WKU signees Price, Kaspar

Men’s basketball Head Coach Ken McDonald, left, listens Monday as Athletics Director Ross Bjork announces the university’s decision to keep McDonald as head coach after a tumultuous 16-16 season.

Cole Claybourn

WKU’s 2011 recruiting class added two more names during the NCAA’s Regular Signing Period this spring.

T.J. Price, a 6-foot-3 guard from Salmen High School in Slidell, La., and Kevin Kaspar, a 6-foot-1 guard from Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., signed letters of intent to play for the Toppers next season.

The two new additions bring this year’s signing class total to seven players — all high school seniors.

Head Coach Ken McDonald, talking to the media about the players for the first time Tuesday, said both are “quality players” who will add a lot to “an already exciting recruiting class.” McDonald also signed two Rivals top 150 players — St. Patrick, N.J., guard Derrick Gordon and Warren Central’s George Fant last November.

WKU’s search for a point guard for the 2011 class finally came to an end with the signing of Kaspar. McDonald called Kaspar a “great fit” for WKU and said he added much needed quality to the point guard position.

Kaspar played on Turkey’s under-18 national team and is a former AAU teammate of fellow WKU signee Derrick Gordon.

“Kevin has a lot of international experience — a lot of toughness,” McDonald said. “I like his savvy and what he brings to the table as a point guard. He’s coming from one of the top high school programs in the nation.

“Not just on the court in game situations, but also in practice, he’s gone against some of the best guards in the country.”

McDonald said WKU was late in recruiting Price, who was the 2011 Louisiana Class 4-A Player of the Year.

Price was also a decorated football player in high school and garnered offers from several Division I schools. McDonald said WKU didn’t pursue him as hard early on because coaches weren’t sure whether he’d play football or basketball in college.

McDonald said once it became clear that Price — who averaged 17.6 points per game during his senior year — was going to play basketball, WKU began pursuing him hard.

“It’s a little bit late in the game, but we’ve know about him for a while,” McDonald said. “A lot had to shake its way out as far as our point situation — who we were recruiting, who we were going to get on campus. The timing of all of that was something we had to manage.

“He can flat out shoot the ball and stretch the defense,” McDonald said. “Once we got him on campus, he really fell in love with the situation.”

Price is listed at 225 pounds, and McDonald drew physical comparisons to him and former Topper Steffphon Pettigrew, saying he’s the guard version of him.

He added that Price is physically a “college-ready guy.”

But McDonald said he can see some of Pettigrew’s personality traits in Price as well.

“He’s very quiet,” McDonald said. “He’s a very soft-spoken guy. He’s a very physically imposing kid, too. He’s genetically very gifted and a good athlete.

“You almost have to force him to come out of his personality off the court. But he really competes on the court.”

Peters’ return questionable for next season

WKU has 14 players that will be listed on scholarship next season — seven returning plus the seven incoming freshmen.

That puts McDonald at risk of over-signing the allotted 13 scholarships for a men’s basketball program.

But McDonald said that’s typical of most college basketball programs, given that there are uncertainties as far as players’ eligibilities.

One of those uncertainties for WKU is guard Brandon Peters, who sat out the second half of his freshman season after failing to qualify academically.

McDonald said coaches and the team’s academic staff has been monitoring Peters’ progress throughout the semester. He said WKU remains hopeful that Peters will be eligible in the fall.

“The best way to put it is that he’s worked extremely hard to put himself in a position to do much better in school,” McDonald said.

McDonald said Peters’ situation is two-fold. First, Peters has to pass the courses he’s enrolled in this spring. On top of that, there’s a grade point average requirement that has to be met.

McDonald said there could be a situation where Peters would have to take summer classes in order to meet the requirements to become eligible for next season.

McDonald talks youth, adding players from winning programs

Next season will be the first year under McDonald that the roster won’t include a player recruited by former coach Darrin Horn.

With seven incoming freshmen and only one senior on next year’s roster, McDonald said WKU’s essentially starting from square one.

“We’re starting from scratch in terms of fundamentals and making sure that we understand what our identity is going to be to start,” he said. “This will be an exciting group, but it will have its challenges.”

One of those challenges will be youth.

“These guys are young,” McDonald said. “I hate that word, because I think people use it as an excuse. But the truth is, this will be a bunch of 18-year-olds on campus for the first time.

“This won’t be a team where you have a 20-point scorer, or even a 15 or 16-point scorer. Our strength will come in numbers.”

McDonald said he likes the fact that the class as a whole is confident, and said a lot of that confidence can be attributed to where these recruits are coming from.

Many of them are coming from schools where winning is a tradition.

Gordon’s St. Patrick team was ranked No. 1 in the country for nearly the entire season, and he often said that his practices were conducted like college practices.

Kaspar’s Findlay Prep team finished the season ranked No. 14 in the country, while Fant’s Warren Central team made it to the KHSAA Sweet 16.

“We talk about culture that we want in our program,” McDonald said. “It takes a while to build that. I think when you’re bringing players in who are used to winning, and know what goes into winning, you have a little bit of a foundation.”