Recruiting can change on the drop of a hat, especially with the prevalence of transfers in today’s game.
Last week, the prospectus for the 2020-21 version of the Rhode Island men’s basketball team looked more ominous than expected as news came that Tyrese Martin would enter his name into the transfer portal and Fatts Russell would explore the NBA Draft.
The reality though is that the news about Russell shouldn’t have surprised anyone. As a rising senior, he has nothing to lose by exploring the process and was clear from the get-go that he would maintain his eligibility.
Given that there might not be an NBA Draft Combine or even team workouts due to the coronavirus, there’s reason to be optimistic about his return for his senior year.
The Rams got some good news on Friday when Scotland Campus unsigned big man Abou Ousmane announced his verbal commitment, giving the Rams the type of offensive anchor and low-post scorer, they don’t otherwise have on their roster.
Monday though, was full of great news.
Maryland basketball transfers Makhi Mitchell and Makhel Mitchell have committed to Rhode Island, per Makhel’s Instagram page.
The twins left Mark Turgeon’s program in the middle of the 2019-20 season (their freshman campaign) and will be major additions to the Rams’ frontcourt. pic.twitter.com/QEvICtWvwz
— Matt Levine (@MattLevine__) March 30, 2020
By the end of the day it was Charlotte transfer Malik Martin, Hassan Martin’s younger brother, who was announcing his commitment.
I would like to thank all of the coaches who have recruited me throughout this process, after talking with my family I would like to announce that I will be attending the University of Rhode Island 💙🐏 pic.twitter.com/syjbdUiPD6
— Malik Martin (@TheProdigy__) March 30, 2020
With three transfers and three high school players now included in Rhody’s recruiting class, we have a very good idea of what the Rams’ roster will look like, and consequently what we can expect from their style of play.
The biggest question mark is when those transfers will be eligible. The NCAA has yet to determine the fate of a proposal that would allow all transfers to be immediately eligible upon their first move.
Even if that proposal fails for the coming year, the twins should be cleared by the second semester and while Martin may presumably have to sit a year, immediate eligibility isn’t out of the realm of possibility given the NCAA’s inconsistencies ruling on appeals in recent years.
Scouting the Mitchell Twins
In the Mitchells, Rhody is landing a pair of “twin towers” of sorts. Both were celebrated national prospects from the time they first debuted on the scene as high school underclassmen. They were huge physical presences, with massive long-arms to supplement their already imposing frames, and some budding touch to match.
Makhi trended upward at a more rapid rate, as he began to prioritize his conditioning in the second half of his high school career, became the more mobile of the two, and also the more offensively versatile. Conversely, Makhel was still a massive interior presence, but heavier and less efficient as he strayed away from the basket, on both ends of the floor.
They also appeared to be a package deal at virtually every stop as they stayed together through multiple high schools, AAU programs, and now colleges. The only problem with that is they’re essentially both five-men or centers by most modern definitions. So, theoretically, they would compete with each other for minutes and rarely be on the floor together. That was a factor at Maryland, especially when Chol Marial, another center, got cleared.
When you look at the circumstances surrounding their departure from the Terps program and also start to project out how they’ll fit into Rhode Island’s rotation, a picture of a very big, very physical Rhody rotation starts to form.
Ousmane, like Jermaine Harris, is a true big who can only play the four or five. Add the Mitchells to that and it becomes clear that the forward trio of Antwan Walker, Jacob Toppin, and D.J. Johnson will need to provide minutes, not just at the four, but at the three as well.
In other words, Rhode Island might just have the biggest frontcourt in the entire Atlantic 10. In that type of line-up, where dual posts become common, the twins could very well have more of an opportunity to get on the floor together.
If the Rams’ future is one of size and physicality, Martin will be an ideal fit. He’s a power wing, perhaps generously listed at 6-foot-6, but known for the same aggression and competitiveness on both ends of the floor that his brother possessed.
He also has the ability to play multiple positions, potentially all three in the middle of the line-up. With this roster, he’ll likely see the majority of his time at the three or even as a big two, as the emphasis on size could potentially extend into the backcourt as well, if even just for certain line-ups.
In high school, he was a physical, drive first player on the offensive end and competitive defender. At Charlotte, he solidified his reputation as an elite defender as he was chosen to the All-Defensive team in Conference USA and ranked among the league leading perimeter players in both steals and blocks.
His offensive game continued to blossom as well, as he converted almost 38% of his three-point attempts this year and was a 75% career free-throw shooter.
Yes, the loss of Tyrese Martin was a blow, but one that was quickly absorbed as David Cox and his staff responded with remarkable speed to reshape a roster that looks now like one of the biggest and most physical in the Atlantic 10.
The Rams continue to be in very good shape moving forward and should one little guy decide to come back to hang out with these big guys, they may just be among the favorites heading into 2020-21.