Nov. 10, 2004
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
With a sharp eye on the future, University of Wyoming head basketball coach Steve McClain announced the signing of four high school players to national letters of intent Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period.
McClain said the Cowboy program had signed four freshman to national letters of intent: Travis Nelson (6-10, 225), from Linn-Mar Marion High School in Marion, Iowa; Ike Okoye (6-8, 210) from Woodcreek High School in Roseville, Calif.; Ross Forman (6-7, 190) from Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, Minn.; and Brandon Ewing (6-1, 190), from Julian High School in Chicago, Ill.
"There's no question we wanted to get some young, big kids," McClain said. "In Travis and Ike we believe we have done that. They are a couple of guys with outstanding futures. I think they will come in, and with the development of (current Cowboys) Derek Wabbington and Justin Williams, be able to learn and adjust to this level as freshmen.
"In Brandon we have a point guard who can be the future of this program for the next four years. He comes out of a great high school, and a winning program. He's a gym rat. He's the kind of player I really like. Ross comes out of a program in Minneapolis, Patrick Henry, that has produced all kinds of Division I players. He's used to winning on and off the floor. He is a very good student. So we've added inside young guys, and perimeter young guys. They will be a big part of the future of our program. We have definitely helped ourselves in that regard.
"The nice part is with our returnees, for the first time in awhile, I didn't have to look at the junior college ranks so hard. We could go with four high school guys, and really bring some guys in and develop them."
Okoye, who will play the four spot, was a first-team all-league performer at Woodcreek High School in Roseville, Calif., for coach Burnel Pinkerton. As a junior he averaged 11 points and 9 rebounds per game during the 2003-2004 season. He was recruited by Minnesota, Penn State, Colgate and New Mexico.
"Ike is a young guy who is not done growing physically or as a player. He popped on the scene this summer, and Silvey (assistant coach Dominguez) did a great job of evaluating him. He's a young, big guy whose potential is unbelievable. He will have to get bigger and stronger, but has the frame to do that. He plays so hard. He's long and can score around the goal. We also see him as a very good rebounder."
Nelson is projected as both a four and five player in the Cowboy program. He averaged 8 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks per game during the 2003-04 season at Linn-Mar Marion HighSchool which won the Iowa 4A State Championship. His coach is Mark Hutcheson. He was ranked as the number two prep prospect in Iowa by Iowa Preps.com behind Ross Marsden of Ames, who committed to Iowa State. This past summer, he averaged a double-double for the Martin Brothers AAU team, coached by Hank Huddleson. Cowboys David Rottinghaus, Alex Dunn and James Ebert also played for that team. He was recuited by Dayton, St. John's, Nebraska, Kansas State and Iowa State.
"Travis has a big frame, and does a good job of using it to score. He will probably add 15 to 20 pounds by next season, giving him legitimate size. He can shoot it out to 15 feet, and he's going to be a load inside by the time he's done at Wyoming. He runs the floor very well. He's the kind of kid who really wants to be a good player, and has the work ethic to get that done."
Forman is a wing player who starred at Patrick Henry, a program that has won three of the past four Minnesota State titles. He helped his team to a 21-8 record last year. He is ranked as one of the top ten prospects out of Minnesota by Minnesota Preps.com. As a junior, he averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds per game. He shot 43 percent from the three-point line, and hit three game-winning shots. He was recruited by Wisconsin, Tulsa, Iowa and Southern Illinois.
"Ross brings a 6-7 perimeter player who can shoot the three. He is working hard on his ball-handling to improve that part of his game. He is a legitimate three at that size, and has played there most of his high school career. He comes from a winning program, and is a good student. He's another guy with a great work ethic, and a desire to become a better player."
Ewing is an outstanding player at Julian High School in Chicago. He averaged 18 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 5 steals as a junior. He was All Red-South Conference, and All-City for coach Loren Jackson. Last summer he averaged 23 points a game for the Meanstreets AAU team which was ranked fourth in the nation. He was recruited by Southern Illinois, DePaul, Ole Miss, Bradley, Ball State, and Illinois State.
"We were looking for a point guard who could be the future of this program," McClain said. "I think we found him in Brandon. A very talented young player, he is in a great high school program for one of the best high school coaches in Chicago. He's a guy who loves to compete, and has great offensive skills. The thing that impressed me the most is his ability to get other players involved in the game. He is an outstanding passer. He has good size for a point guard. He will get bigger and stronger as he gets in our weight program."
McClain said that he and his staff will now have one more spot to fill, and that signing could come during the early signing period. "We are definitely moving on to the next class," he said. "With the guys we have signed early, we believe we have filled our needs. We are in a position, at worst, to recruit one more. That's a good position to be in this time of year."