BASKETBALL: Recruits plan on staying

J. Michael Moore

At least one Western recruit won’t change his plans with Dennis Felton’s departure from Hilltopper basketball.

Josh Higgins, a seven-footer from Dayton, Ohio, said yesterday he will attend Western next fall, even though Felton is leaving the Hill to fill the coaching vacancy at Georgia.

“I’m definitely still excited about coming to Western,” Higgins said in a phone interview. “I’m not worried about Coach leaving.”

Higgins said he spoke to Felton before the Final Four last week.

He said Felton told him to relax and that, though he was being pursued by other schools, Felton was not actively looking to leave Western.

Higgins added that he always knew of the possibility of Felton leaving sometime during his college career.

“Felton is a real hot commodity,” he said. “He’s a good coach. That has always been something I had in the back of my mind.”

Higgins averaged 14 points a game in 2001, leading Vandalia-Butler High School to a 21-4 record.

The Hilltoppers’ other commitment, Nick Hill, a 6-foot-4 guard from DuQuoin, Ill. could not be reached for comment.

But his high school coach, Wendell Wheeler, said he would likely keep his allegiance to Western.

“He really likes Western,” Wheeler said. “He’s a great player but a better kid.”

Western has four scholarships to give next season. Hill and Higgins have two, with a third likely going to Florida State transfer Nigel Dixon.

Dixon sat out this season.

The final scholarship is being reserved for a verbal commitment.

Damion Staple, a 6-foot-8 forward at Southeastern Illinois College told the Hilltoppers in September he would sign with Western.

He was unavailable for comment yesterday but Southern Illinois assistant coach Greg Franklin said Staple would probably examine his situation given Felton’s departure.

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