By Mike Meiler
Niagara Gazette —
First-year Niagara University men's basketball coach Chris Casey commented on his inaugural recruiting class for the first time on Thursday.
Despite getting a relatively-late start to the recruiting process, Casey brought in high schoolers Karonn Davis and Dominique Reid, prep schooler Aaron Bodie and transfer Emile Blackman to replace Juan'ya Green, Ameen Tanksley and T.J. Cline, who transfered following the departure of long-time head coach Joe Mihalich.
Casey said that each of the players — outside of Blackman, who will need to sit out a season per NCAA rules — has the ability to come in and contribute right away, but added that minutes will be determined more after the team has a chance to practice together.
"That kind of thing will play out later in the year," Casey said. "That's something guys will have to earn in practice."
Casey described each member of his class as flexible and athletic, with the ability to play inside and out and guard multiple positions. That fits the up-and-down, man-to-man style Casey said he preferred during his introductory press conference.
Davis, listed at 6-foot-2 at NU's website, played at Friends' Central High School in Philadelphia last season. He's a guard with the ability to play with or without the ball, Casey said, and can guard three positions at the defensive end.
"He's a very physical guard," Casey said. "The best thing he does is he competes very hard, and that's something you always want in your program. ... He shoots well enough, and he can get to the basket and distribute."
Blackman, 6-foot-4, played guard for Casey at Division II LIU Post last season. After playing sparingly for most of the season, he averaged 16.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting over 50 percent on 3-pointers and from the field in his last six games, during which he played close to 26 minutes per game. His uncle, Mark Jackson, is a former NBA player and currently coaches the Golden State Warriors.
"He played very well toward the end of the season, earned more minutes and became a more experienced player," Casey said. "He's very athletic, very good in transition, and can play guard or forward."
Bodie and Reid will provide much needed size to the guard-heavy Purple Eagles, who had just one player (junior forward Joe Thomas) listed at over 6-foot-5 before the signings.
The 6-foot-7 Bodie, a 2012 graduate of East Side High School in Newark, N.J., played prep ball for CJEOTO Academy last season, and Casey expects him to provide an edge on the interior.
"He's very athletic and helps you get up and down the floor in transitions," Casey said. "He's a good rebounder, and we anticipate him doing a good job defensively. He's really a guy we hope can be a physical presence for us."
Reid, the most recent signee, stands 6-foot-8 and comes out of Timber Creek High School in Erial, N.J. Casey said he brings a physical side and the ability to stretch the floor.
"He can step out on the perimeter, has a good mid-range and can get to the basket," Casey said.
Blackman and Bodie will join the team for its first summer practice session this Monday at the Gallagher Center. Davis and Reid will be unavailable while they finish their high school careers.
Casey added that there may be more signings on the way. The Purple Eagles still have four scholarships open, and while coaches aren't permitted to visit recruits after April 28, they can still contact recruits and offer scholarships.
"We're going to continue to work to bring in guys who can help our team," Casey said.Follow Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.