August 29, 2011 at 2:05 AM CDT - Updated June 25 at 7:14 AM
Midwestern State's Nelson Haggerty will enter his first season as a head coach this fall and he couldn't be more excited as unveiled his first recruiting class Saturday.
And with an addition of eight players, it is quite possibly the deepest class the program has seen.
"I'm really excited about this team," Haggerty said. "We really filled the needs as added a combo guard, got bigger on the perimeter and added some forwards who are not only tough and athletic but are also skilled."
The class consists of six transfers including guards Kevin Grayer (Oakland (Mich.) CC), JaMichael Rivers (Snead (Ala.) State), DeJuan Plummer (Frank Phillips) and Jay Gould (Western Oklahoma) and forwards Jeff Grayer (Oakland CC), Anthony Harris (Northeastern (Colo.) CC) and RiTea Acosta (Labette (Kan.) CC). Freshman Derrell Gibbs rounds out the class.
"I want guys here that want to win national championships," Haggerty said. "It is important when they are on visits that our guys like them and they want to be a part of the team. The chemistry is the key from the start. These guys won a lot of games where they were."
The class bolsters a group of 10 returners including seven seniors from a program which advanced to the NCAA Division Elite Eight in each of the last two seasons.
"This is the most returners I've ever had coming from any other Elite Eight team," Haggerty said. "They've worked all summer preparing for the chance to win the national championship... All of these guys complement each other and are able to play in multitude of ways. Our returners are just as excited about our new guys."
Haggerty served as the top assistant at MSU the last two seasons helping guide the Mustangs to 56 wins, two South Central Region championships and a Lone Star Conference title. Prior to his arrival at MSU, he helped coach Central Missouri to Elite Eight showings in 2007 and 2009.
Kevin Grayer (6-3, 190) averaged over 18 points a game in each of his seasons at Oakland Community College where he was a two-time NJCAA Division II All-America selection. A multi-talented athlete, he recorded seven point/rebound and five point/assist double-doubles over his two junior college campaigns.
"For two years, Kevin was the best player in the Michigan JuCo ranks," Haggerty said. "Kevin can play four positions, has a well-rounded game and really knows how to score the ball. He's just a winner."
JaMichael Rivers (6-3, 185) was a dynamic scorer at Snead State where he led the Alabama Community College Conference and was second in NJCAA Division I with a 19.6 points per game scoring average as a sophomore last season. He ranked as the 46th best prospect in the nation by JuCo Junction.
"JaMichael is long and athletic and was one of the best players in Alabama this past season," Haggerty said. "He's just a ball player and loves to play. He plays with a lot of intensity and while he scores it very well, he is also a top level passer and loves to distribute the ball. He is also very skilled defensively."
DeJuan Plummer (5-10, 175) earned All-NJCAA Region V honors in his final junior college season in 2009-10 when he averaged 15.7 points while knocking down two 3-pointers a game at Frank Phillips College and was originally committed to MSU prior to last season.
"DeJuan is a combo guard that was a prolific scorer in high school, and then had two great years at Frank Phillips," Haggerty said. "He really worked hard academically to be eligible and really wanted to play here at Midwestern State as much as we wanted to have him. He scores it well, is a good passer and has a good feel for the game. We are looking forward to having him in a Mustangs uniform."
Jay Gould (6-1, 205) makes his return to Wichita Falls after spending last season at Western Oklahoma State where he averaged 3.1 points and 1.7 assists in 15 games in 2010-11. The point guard enjoyed a stellar career at Burkburnett High School as he helped the Bulldogs to 102 wins and graduated as the school's all-time leader in assists.
"Jay is a super tough ball player," Haggerty said. "He can play both point guard and off the ball. Jay knows how to play and compete and is a very improved shooter. He is just another Burkburnett kid who has been well coached by Danny Nix. We are looking forward to having him as a part of our program."
Derrell Gibbs (6-3, 200) is the lone prep signee of the class and the first freshman to sign a letter of intent for Midwestern since Charlie Logan inked in 2007.
Gibbs is a proven winner and former teammate of Gould at Burkburnett High. He helped the Bulldogs to 122 victories over the past four seasons including a pair of Texas Class 3A state runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2011. He earned Times Record News Red River 22 MVP honors following his senior season averaging 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds a game.
"I don't ever remember being this excited about a freshman coming in to play," Haggerty said. "He's very unselfish and he's a guy that plays four different positions on the floor. Derrell has great size and athleticism; he's been well coached and knows how to win. I'm looking forward to him helping us win a lot of games at MSU for years to come."
Anthony Harris (6-7, 230) tallied 17.8 points and 7.4 rebounds a game during his junior college career which included stops at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo. and Dodge City (Kan.) Community College.
The 6-7, 230-pound athlete was the 13th-ranked prospect in the nation according to JuCo Junction and was the 12th-best prospect in Texas out of O.D. Wyatt High School in 2007. Harris committed to Nebraska out of high school above offers from Houston, North Carolina-Wilmington, North Texas, Oklahoma State and Utah.
"Anthony is skilled and athletic forward," Haggerty said. "He was one of the best JuCo forwards in the nation as a sophomore. He gives us the added dimension we didn't have at his position last season. He shoots the ball well and really runs the floor. We are very excited to have him back in Texas."
Jeff Grayer (6-5, 215) flashed his all-around game as a teammate to brother, Kevin, at Oakland Community College from 2008-10. He earned All-Michigan Community College Athletic Association Eastern Conference honorable mention as a freshman averaging 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds a game.
"Jeff is a combo forward who really knows how to play and is a big time winner," Haggerty said. "He can defend on the perimeter and at the basket. Jeff makes all the right plays."
Ri'Tea Acosta (6-6, 205) makes the move to Midwestern after earning Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Eastern Division honorable mention last season. The lanky forward paced Labette CC with 15.5 points while pulling down 9.1 rebounds in 31 games.
"RiTea is a big time athlete as a combo forward," Haggerty said. "He runs the floor and can do a little bit of everything. RiTea is really bouncy and can get to the rim and finish. He's got a great upside to his game."