June 1, 2004
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
University of Wyoming head basketball coach Steve McClain announced on Tuesday the signing of three student-athletes to national letters of intent. James Ebert of Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Kevin Lewis of Compton Community College in Compton, Calif.; and Steve Neal of Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, Minn.; all signed with Wyoming.
James Ebert is a 6' 2", 195-pound guard from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Ebert was named a Second Team National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-American in Division II. The native of Iowa City, Iowa, also earned First Team All-Region honors and was named the Region 11 Most Valuable Player. He averaged 17.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game during his sophomore season. An outstanding outside shooter, Ebert converted 40.9 percent of his three-point field goals, and hit 79.1 percent of his free throws.
His Kirkwood CC team concluded the regular-season ranked No. 8 in the nation in the final regular-season poll for NJCAA Division II teams. Kirkwood then went on to finish fourth in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament, and ended the season with a 28-9 record. The Eagles ranked No. 4 in the nation in team defense, allowing opponents only 62.8 points per game. Kirkwood was also one of the nation's top shooting teams, ranking No. 9 in team three-point percentage (39.8 percent) and No. 19 in team free-throw percentage (68.3 percent). Ebert was coached in junior college by Doug Wagemester.
Ebert played his high school basketball at Iowa City West High School, where he led his team to a 25-1 record his senior season and a third-place finish in the Iowa State Tournament. At the state tournament, Ebert was voted Co-Captain of the All-Tournament team. He was also named Class 4A Co-Player of the Year in the state as a senior. The other Co-Player of the Year was Jeff Horner, who now plays at the University of Iowa. A First Team All-State selection, as well, Ebert averaged 22 points per game, while shooting 55 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and set his school's single-game record for three-point field goals, making nine threes in one game. He was coached in high school by Steve Bergman.
The son of Margie and James Ebert, he was also recruited by Kent State, Pacific and Wichita State.
"I think when you look at James' (Ebert) background in Iowa high school and junior college basketball, he has always been a good scorer and a team leader," said McClain. "He is a hard-nosed kid, who loves to play the game."
Kevin Lewis is a 6' 6", 190-pound guard/forward from Compton Community College in Compton, Calif. Lewis completed his final year in junior-college playing the best basketball of his career. He led Compton CC to the 2004 California State Junior College Championship, and he was named the State Tournament Most Valuable Player. Lewis averaged 14.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game his sophomore season at Compton, while shooting 48 percent from the field and 41 percent from three-point range.
Compton finished the season with a 17-8 record. It became only the third team in California Community College history to win three regional playoff games on the road to earn a spot in the state tournament, and was the first of those three teams to go on to win the state title. The Compton Tartars trailed by five points (33-38) at halftime of the state championship game, but turned up the defensive pressure in the second half, out-scoring American River Community College 49 to 39 in the final period on way to an 82-77 victory.
In the state championship game, Lewis scored a team high 18 points, and grabbed a team best six rebounds. He shot 63.6 percent from the field (7 of 11) and hit an amazing 66.7 percent from three-point range (4 of 6). Lewis was coached in junior college by Damaine Powell.
The son of Paulette Lewis, he was also recruited by Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton and UNLV.
"I love Kevin's (Lewis) length, when he came in here for his visit we measured his wingspan at over seven feet," said McClain. "He's a three-man (small forward) who can shoot the three-point shot effectively, but can also put it on the floor and take it to the rim, just as effectively. He will remind our fans a lot of Romel Beck of UNLV."
Steve Neal is a 6' 5", 180-pound guard out of Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, Minn. Neal was ranked among the Top 100 college prospects in the nation his senior season. Dave Telep of Insiders.com ranked him as the No. 76 best senior, while Bob Gibbons recruiting service ranked him No. 91.
Neal averaged 18.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game his senior season, while shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 78.5 percent from the free-throw line. Among the honors he earned as a high school senior were: conference Most Valuable Player; First Team All-Conference; and conference Defensive Player of the Year. He attended the Adidas All-America Camp , as well.
His junior season, Neal averaged 17.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game, shooting 52.3 percent from the field and 75.0 percent from the free-throw line. He was a First Team All-Conference selection as a junior, and was invited to the Nike All-America Camp.
Neal played on three Minnesota Class AAA State Championship teams at Patrick Henry High School -- his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. Neal's senior year, Patrick Henry was upset in the regional finals after compiling a 21-8 overall record, 10-2 in the Minneapolis City League -- good for second place. During his four years at Patrick Henry High School, his teams posted a 107-21 (.836) record. Neal was coached in high school by Larry McKenzie, who has led Patrick Henry High to four of the last five Class AAA state titles in Minnesota. Two of Neal's former teammates went on to play at Oklahoma, and a third went to Wichita State.
The son of Cynthia Williams, he was also recruited by LSU, Michigan State, Minnesota and Purdue.
"Steve (Neal) is an explosive athlete, who can play the three (small forward) and two spots (shooting guard)," said McClain. "This past year, he even played the point guard position for his high school team. Steve still has to qualify academically. He is a multi-talented young man and a big-time athlete.
"His high school program is one of the most successful in the state of Minnesota. They have seven or eight guys playing Division I basketball right now, including the starting point guard at Oklahoma."
Ebert, Lewis and Neal join three other student-athletes who signed with the UW Basketball program during the early signing period in November. The three early signees were: Chris Anderson of the College of Eastern Utah in Price, Utah; Derek Wabbington of Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo.; and Justin Williams of Colby Community College in Colby, Kan.
Overall, McClain feels he has a group of recruits in the 2003-04 class that can come into the Wyoming Basketball program and make an immediate impact.
"I believe that the young men we signed in this class will not only have a chance to come in and contribute right away, but they will also have a chance to come in and challenge for starting positions right away."