By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (June 27, 2017) — Tarleton State went fishing and caught a couple whales named Clashon Gaffney and Preston Enloe.
But even if Texan coaches had not signed Gaffney, the first 3-star Rivals recruit to sign with Tarleton out of high school, or Enloe, a 6A district MVP, they would still label this class a solid one with three other players ranked in the top 100 of graduating projects and another at No. 120 who associate head coach Chris Reisman calls a sleeper.
In fact, Texas Hoops even rates Sam Marshall from Coppell and Devyn Brewton of Killeen Shoemaker ahead of Gaffney. Marshall is No. 72 in the website’s rankings, Brewton is No. 74 and Gaffney No. 75. Preston Enloe is the highest rated Texan by the website at No. 49. Tarleton also has the Texas Hoops No. 97 prospect in Plano West product Ryan Birt and No. 120 in Dexter Johnson from Duncanville. The other incoming freshman to sign a national letter of intent is Jalin Brown of Denton.
Of course, Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder guard just named NBA MVP following 42 triple-doubles, was relatively unknown with no major offers entering his senior year of high school and was even temporarily denied access to a camp for top recruits.
So not every report or ranking generated by a scouting service hits the nail on the head, but the odds of six being wrong and all six signing at a single school are too low to calculate.
In short, coaches are justified in their confidence of signing a good class. And if the top end potential of half the high school signees reaches fruition for the Texans, it could very well be the best group of freshmen Tarleton has signed in 30 recruiting classes under head coach Lonn Reisman.
“We have outstanding freshmen coming in, good enough that I think it’s the best freshman class we’ve ever had,” the veteran said himself.
And he’s had some good ones, including just two years ago, when not every freshman panned out or is still with the program, yet the class still brought in two bona fide power forwards. Anthony Davis was Lone Star Conference Freshman of the Year last season. His biggest competition for that honor was likely teammate Josh Hawley. They were virtually splitting minutes and their stats were comparable until Hawley suffered a season-ending injury that has since recovered.
And the 30th year head coach doesn’t just feel like it’s the best group of incoming freshmen at Tarleton, but with four talented transfers – some of them well tested and proven – also added to the mix, he believes it’s the best overall class of new recruits that the Texan men’s basketball program has ever had.
“The transfers along with some of the good players we have returning will take this team to another level,” he said. “We have something special brewing here at Tarleton, for this next year and for years down the road.”
And a significant portion of ingredients in Reisman’s purple brew have the full four years ahead.
After more than 20 years playing and coaching at Tarleton, associate head coach Chris Reisman is excited about a number of incoming freshmen in addition to Gaffney and Enloe (For more on those two and the transfers, see links at bottom of article).
“We signed four of the top 75 high school players in the state (as rated by TexasHoops.com) and we really feel like we got six of the top 100,” said Chris Reisman. “Every player on the list has a strong upside that we like. As long as they come in and buy into what we’re doing and show the work ethic it takes to succeed, this is going to be special group of players for us.”
Marshall is a lumbering 6-6 and 220 pounds who averaged double figures each of his last two years against tough suburban Dallas 6A competition. He’s versatile enough to train at guard and forward to begin his college career with his senior season highlight videos online full of spot-up 3-pointers and crafty put backs where he finds space, comes seemingly out of nowhere and finishes with ease after an offensive rebound.
Chris Reisman says Marshall reminds him of Dan Eichel, the LSC Freshman of the Year in 2006-07 before losing a lot of minutes in the spring semester of 2007-08 to Eric Williams, who has since become a pro star in Australia. Marshall also has a strong touch of Wes Dipprey in his game. Dipprey was another of those stretch-4 power forwards Tarleton has employed successfully for years.
“Sam Marshall is the epitome of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ because he may not have the appearance of a dominant athlete, but he reminds me of a hybrid between (Eichel and Dipprey),” Chris Reisman said. “He’s that guy with a lot of intangibles and makes everyone around him better. He has a super high IQ and a great feel for the game.”
Johnson comes from the old stomping grounds of Davene Carter, and says he has even texted back and forth with Carter, who was happy to see his fellow Duncanville product following his footsteps to Tarleton.
“I texted with him some before the dunk show (Dunk Kings, a reality TV production), and he was excited for me,” said Johnson, when The Flash Today caught up with him for a phone interview Tuesday. “He has been to open gym at our school, so I’ve known him for a while.”
Johnson averaged 13.2 points this past high school season and remembers his first conversation concerning the possibility of playing at Tarleton.
“I was very excited when they noticed me. They talked to me after a game and right then I already had good feeling about it,” Johnson said.
Johnson was recruited by several Division I mid-majors – mostly through his AAU competition – and was also in talks with junior colleges before his official visit to Tarleton sealed the deal.
“My visit went great. The campus is good, and while I was there I got to meet the team and that was cool, getting to know them and play with them,” he said. “The whole process was good. I’m coming back in a few weeks and really looking forward to getting to know everyone better and get in the gym with them.”
Johnson echoed the words of new teammate Preston Enloe, who said on Monday that he was already familiar with a handful of the incoming Texans.
“I played against Corinthian Ramsey (Angelina College JUCO point gaud transferring to Tarleton) and I know Clashon (Gaffney) and Preston (Enloe) from the AAU circuit,” he said. “It’s a good feeling to kind of already know some guys, it just makes me more comfortable going into it.”
Johnson played for a Nike Pro Skills AAU team that traveled out of state for several tournament appearances.
“We played a lot of good competition with high-level players going to to big schools all over the place,” Johnson said. “Playing against competition like that made me a better player, so hopefully I’ll be ready when I get to Tarleton.”
Johnson says he’s defensive-minded but is also a shooter who likes to play hard and facilitate for his teammates.
“Dexter will turn some heads, I think,” said Chris Reisman. “We’re talking about a kid who played on a big-time AAU team in addition to playing for Duncanville. He had eight mid-major schools interested in him at one time.”
Five the seven incoming freshman are from the DFW Metroplex, which is no surprise with its proximity to Stephenville and Tarleton’s successful track record recruiting there. Enloe, Johnson and Marshall are joined from the Metroplex area by 6A Plano West point guard Ryan Birt, who averaged 14.5 points this past season, and Denton forward Jalin Brown, who scored 11.3 points while collecting 6.5 boards per game at 5A Denton.
There is one central Texas standout in the mix in Killeen Shoemaker product Devyn Brewton. Another player with a high rating from Texas Hoops, Brewton is versatile enough at 6-6 that, like Marshall, he is considered a prospect to play guard or forward.
Lonn Reisman offered the ideal conclusion to this series before it ever began, while having an idle conversation that happened to circle back to basketball and recruiting. He knows well from 30 long years on the recruiting trail that 11 new faces is a lot, and that seven new high school kids is a lot in Division II, which typically feeds more off transfers. But three decades in the coaching business have given him a pretty good idea what makes up a successful class, and four regional championships and 635 wins say his thinking is usually along the right path. It’s a quote about this class of new Texans that was published to end the first installment of this series, but some things from a veteran coach who has seen it all are worth repeating.
“I mean it when I say special things are brewing here, and that doesn’t happen by accident. You don’t find this many exceptional student-athletes and high quality young men by mistake,” said Lonn Reisman. “Our coaching staff, all of them, have traveled and worked many long hours to find talented athletes who understand the responsibilities of being good students, contributing members of our community and good ambassadors of this university. I believe this class will take pride those things as much as they take pride in carrying our basketball program to another level.”
High School Signees:
Clashon Gaffney (Clarksville High School) (Rivals 3-star; TexasHoops.com #75)
Freshman | Power Forward | 6-7, 210
2016-17 at Clarksville – 19.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg
Preston Enloe (Lewisville Hebron High School) (TexasHoops.com #49)
Freshman | Shooting Guard | 6-3, 185
2016-17 at Hebron – 16.0 ppt, 2.4 3FG made/game
Devyn Brewton (Killeen Shoemaker) (TexasHoops.com #74)
Freshman | Guard/Forward | 6-6, 190
Sam Marshall (Coppell) (Texas Hoops.com #72)
Freshman | Guard/Forward | 6-6, 220
Dexter Johnson (Duncanville) (TexasHoops.com #120)
Freshman | Shooting Guard | 6-2, 170
2016-17 at Duncanville – 13.2 ppg
Ryan Birt (Plano West) (TexasHoops.com #97)
Freshman | Point Guard | 6-2, 155
2016-17 at Plano West – 14.5 ppg
Jalin Brown (Denton)
Freshman | Forward | 6-5, 200
2016-17 at Denton – 11.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg
The Flash Today Tarleton Men’s Basketball Recruiting Series (Click title to view article):
Jesse Hill: Tarleton can help make my dreams come true
Corinthian Ramsey: Past Rivals 3-star PG brings unique talent to Tarleton
Brandon Johnson: JUCO transfer sees Tarleton basketball as opportunity of a lifetime
Clashon Gaffney & Preston Enloe: Tarleton expecting immediate contributions from highly-touted Gaffney, Enloe
Sam Marshall, Dexter Johnson, Ryan Birt, Devyn Brewton, Jalin Brown: Reisman confident Texans have signed best-ever freshman class