Depth has been a troublesome issue for the California University men’s basketball program for several years, dating back to before the arrival of current head coach Danny Sancomb, who will be entering his third year with the Vulcans next season.
The Vulcans had only seven players who averaged nine or more minutes per game last season, when they went 19-11 and earned the program’s first postseason victory in more than a decade by advancing to the PSAC tournament quarterfinals. With no seniors among those top seven players, the future looked bright for Cal, especially if it could land some promising recruits for 2020-21.
However, the Vulcans’ depth took a big hit in the offseason as three players, including forward Luke House, who averaged 13.1 points and 38 minutes of playing time per game as a freshman last season, have transferred. Also gone are forwards Babatunde Ajike and Philip Alexander, the first two players off the bench last season.
So Sancomb has brought in 11 recruits, some of whom will be asked to play more than casual roles for the Vulcans next season. If nothing else it’s one of the largest recruiting classes ever for Cal basketball. The class includes four players each from Pennsylvania and Virginia, plus one from Maryland, West Virginia and Sweden. Two of the players are from the Mon Valley and eight are listed as guards.
“I’m very excited about this year’s class, as we have players who can do a lot of things,” Sancomb said. “The class has players who can score, rebound and defend. Their attitudes will also fit with the players we already have in the program.”
The newcomer who is most familiar to Sancomb is 6-2 guard Preston Boswell, who played two seasons at Wheeling Jesuit when Sancomb was the head coach there. Boswell averaged 13.5 points per game for the Cardinals as a freshman and was named second team All-Mountain East Conference as a sophomore, when he averaged 17.3 points per game and had 12 games of at least 20 points.
Last season, Boswell played at West Liberty and started 21 games, averaging 11.3 points per game.
In high school, Boswell scored more than 2,500 points and led Magnolia to a West Virginia state championship.
The Vulcans picked up a pair of guards from the Mon Valley in Chris Peccon of Ringgold and Cam Nusser of Belle Vernon.
Peccon was a four-year starter for the Rams and scored more than 1,000 career points. He shares Ringgold’s single-game scoring record with a 42-point performance.
Nusser is an excellent long-range shooter and holds Belle Vernon’s single-game and career records for three-pointers.
Another potential impact freshman is 5-10 guard Daniel Whitehead of Hermitage. He finished second in school history with 1,837 points and was a first team all-state pick as a senior. He led Hickory High School to a pair of District 10 championships.
The other recruit from Pennsylvania is Xavier Lyons, a 6-4 guard from The Kiski School.
Sancomb has recruited Virginia well during his time at California and he brought in four players from there in this class, including a brother combination, 6-4 guard Chris Whippen and 6-6 forward Kyle Whippen, who played at Westfield High School in Centreville, Va.
The Vulcans also landed Gabe Jimerson, a 6-7 forward who led The Miller School in Richmond to the state quarterfinals, and 6-0 guard D.J. Slaughter, who was a second team all-state player in Virginia.
Cal added Eric Bass Jr., a 6-2 forward out of Baltimore, and Andrew Mork, a 6-4 guard from Arvika, Sweden, and Las Positas (Calif.) Junior College, where he averaged 12.6 points per game last season.
The Vulcans finished last season with a 19-11 overall record and earned their first postseason victory in over a decade by advancing to the quarterfinals of the PSAC Tournament.