By Brian McInnis
One out of four isn't bad, if it's the one you had your eye on all along.
The UH men's basketball team secured a commitment from only Indian Hills CC combo guard Brandon Spearman among the four recruits who visited the islands over the weekend. Indications are that two of the others — ex-Texas Tech guard Cameron Forte and Pasadena City College guard Givon Crump — are no longer in UH's sights. (Crump is believed to be bound for future Big West opponent Cal State Fullerton.)
The player believed to be UH's primary target at this point is Bullard High (Fresno, Calif.) 6-4 shooting guard Aaric Armstead. Armstead, another Chicago native, is on good terms with Spearman, and is a strong candidate to take a visit during the remaining weeks of the signing period.
The final player who visited, Pasadena High swingman Blake Hamilton, is apparently still a possibility to end up at UH. However, he also has Cal State Northridge and Northern Arizona as suitors, schools that likely offer a greater opportunity to play right away.
But, as UH coach Gib Arnold says below, Spearman was the primary target all along. He was the fourth UH signee overall for the 2012-13 season, and fifth new player if you include San Jose State guard Keith Shamburger, who is transferring and must redshirt a year. UH has one or two more scholarships to hand out for next year, depending on how Arnold assigns them to returning players.
Here's what Arnold had to say once Spearman's paperwork came through:
Q: Coach, what can you say in general about adding Brandon?
A: Brandon, with that group that came in last week, was our top choice there. We were pretty happy with when he told us he wanted to come. I just felt that he's a combo guard, he gives us a lot in that position. He gives us great leadership, great character, and the kid can play. He's athletic, and he brings a lot to the table. So we were really pleased.
Q: What was it like having Spearman and the other recruits work out with the team during their visit?
A: There's a new NCAA rule that allows us to work them out, so we (did). All the (visiting) guys were able to play with our team. We got great feedback from all the guys, but it was unanimous that they felt that Brandon could help us the most. And we (the coaches) definitely listened.
We got a couple scholarships left, and the group of guys we have right now are high-character guys, hard-working guys. We want to make sure we bring in those caliber players, and we got one of those. ... The feedback was unanimous that Brandon was a great fit. It solidified what we thought coming in, and after those two days there was no doubt that he was the right one. When he told us he wanted to come, that was great news for us.
Q: What are your remaining needs for next season?
A: I still think ... there's a couple guys that we're still involved with who we really like, who fit that mold of being athletic shooters. I think Brandon's a guy who can play 2-1, and we're involved with a couple players who can move up the chain a little bit, to 2-3-4. Those are the guys we're involved with now, who can really shoot it and also have a little more size than Brandon at that guard spot. That's something I want to get deeper at the wing position. Brandon obviously really helps us with that.
Q: Coach, a lot of guys put up big numbers at the JUCO level. As for Brandon (JUCO statistics: 11.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.1 spg) no one thing jumps out. Was that a product of him being on a winning/championship-level team (33-4)?
A: The one stat that blew me away was 33 wins and 4 losses, which is the best stat you can have. He was a leader on the team that was ranked No. 1 in the country for three months. Was the leader and best player. You can go to any JUCO and put up big numbers, but I want guys who come out of programs that win, and (he played for) the No. 1 team in the country. That's the most important stat to me. He won a state championship in Chicago, kid played on a big (Simeon) team that was really good. ... To me, if you're trying to build championship teams, then you'd better have guys who've won championships, that know how to do that. We've had a few guys here who've been able to put up numbers, and there are times where you bring in guys like that. But you also need to look at guys who know how to win. So, you say he doesn't have any stats that stand out? I beg to differ. ... I think (33) speaks for itself.
Q: Will more recruits visit this weekend?
A: Not this weekend, we're not going to have any guys in this weekend. But we do have a couple other guys who we've been involved with for quite some time. And we're working on having them come out in the next little while. And then I was involved with some kids overseas as well, kind of waiting on academics and stuff with that too.
Q: Anything else you can add about the recruiting outlook?
A: The guys we're still involved with have great range and are all very good athletes.
And those are guys, if we do feel we need to use that last scholarship, and if not, if we don't find the right, perfect fit, we'll save it for next year or later on in the summer or something.
One of the main, main focuses is that we bring in high-character guys that fit into where we want to go with this group. And so we're going to be very, very specific in that and really take a look at that when we make a final decision on the use of this last scholarship.
Oh, don't forget those of you who bought tickets, the UH basketball banquet is Wednesday starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Ballroom.