NACOGDOCHES, Texas — The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack basketball team announced Wednesday a four-man early signing class that includes two of the best prep players in the Houston area. Darius Gardner, Amos Alatayo, J.J. Thomas and Antonio Bostic all signed national letters of intent to play for head coach Danny Kaspar's Lumberjacks starting with the 2010-11 season.
Gardner, Alatayo and Thomas are all prep signees, while Bostic is a transfer from Neosho County Community College in Kansas. Gardner and Alatayo are both in-state recruits and have been hailed as two of the top players in the Houston area. Thomas, a Louisiana native, is among the top six prospects in the Baton Rouge area, and Bostic is the latest in a series of talented SFA signees from Kansas' Jayhawk League.
"We're very excited that these four young men have decided to come play for us," Kaspar said Wednesday. "Darius and Amos are among the top 25 or 30 recruits in the state. J.J. is someone who impressed me a great deal during summer evaluations, and Antonio is a good shooter who knows how to play the game. All four of these young men have the type of personality and character we look for in our players. With Corey Garrett's redshirt, I think this sets up a very solid freshman class for the 2010-11 season."
Gardner is a 5-9, 160-pound point guard from Yates High School in Houston. After an outstanding junior season, he was recently named to the Houston Chronicle's First-Team, Pre-Season, All-Greater Houston Area squad. Gardner is ranked the No. 31 recruit in the state according to TexasHoops.com. RCSSports.com and HoustonPreps.net both tout him as the No. 10 prospect in the Houston area, and Clark Francis, of Hoop Scoop, lists Gardner as No. 61 in the country among point guards in the class of 2010.
He helped guide a talented Yates squad to a 34-1 record and the Class 4A state championship last season. Gardner was a first-team all-district selection as a junior after averaging 16.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 9.7 assists and 5.7 steals per game. His team began the 2009-10 season ranked among the nation's top 25 teams, according to a USA Today/ESPN preseason poll.
Gardner plays club basketball on the AAU summer circuit with the Houston Hoops. He was also pursued by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Southeastern Louisiana, Missouri State, UT Arlington and Texas State.
"Darius is an excellent point guard who has great leadership, ball-handling and passing skills," Kaspar said. "He's also a very good shooter."
Olatayo is a 6-4, 190-pound wing from Elsik High in Alief. He joined Gardner on the Chronicle's All-Greater Houston Area team, earning a second-team honor. TexasHoops.com ranks him No. 20 in the state, while TexasRoundball.com has him pegged as the No. 7 prep player in Texas. RCSSports.com touts Olatayo as the No. 8 player in the Houston area, while Houston Preps.net ranks him No. 13 in the city. Hoop Scoop's Clark Francis lists Olatayo among the country's top 70 small forwards.
Olatayo was named first-team all-district as a junior after averaging 17.1 points and six rebounds per game. He plays AAU ball with the Houston Lynx Blue squad. Olatayo was also recruited by Sam Houston State, UT Arlington, Arkansas-Little Rock, The Citadel and Air Force.
"Amos is a very athletic swing man who has an uncanny knack for getting the ball to the rim," Kaspar said.
Thomas is a 6-5, 220-pound forward from Baton Rouge. The Gerald Snider Basketball Report lists him No. 23 in the state, and Baton Rouge Hoop Report ranks him the No. 6 prospect in the area. Thomas has earned a top 85 rating among the nation's forwards, according to Clark Francis of Hoop Scoop.
Thomas took first-team all-district and first-team all-metro honors as a junior. He averaged 18.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Thomas plays club basketball for Brandon Bass Elite and was courted by Sam Houston State, Southeastern Louisiana, McNeese State, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe, Wagner and UTSA.
"J.J. is a versatile player who can play both forward spots," Kaspar said. "He has a nice outside shot and is a fearless rebounder."
Bostic is a 6-3, 185-pound guard from Shawnee, Kan. He played his high school basketball at Mission West High before beginning his collegiate career at Neosho County. Bostic redshirted last season, so will have three years of eligibility remaining when he joins the 'Jacks for the 2010-11 campaign.
Through five games at Neosho this season, Bostic is averaging 11.8 points and 4.2 rebounds and is third on the team with nine steals.
"In addition to his shooting ability, Antonio is one of Neosho County's best defenders," Kaspar said.
"I personally like all four of those young men," the coach continued, "and I am confident that they can help us continue our winning ways."