Midwestern State announced the addition of seven transfers Friday as the Mustangs reload another championship run in 2014-15.
The Mustangs added four guards in senior Thad Rideau (UAB) and juniors Danny Lawhorn (Washington State), Bretson McNeal (North Dakota Science) and Hershell Grant (Clarendon College) and three forwards including juniors Khapri Alston (Northeast CC (Neb.)) and Alassane Ka (Hillsborough CC (Fla.)) as well as sophomore Trevor Fuller (San Diego).
"Coming back from losing five of our top six scorers and four of them being from the perimeter, we had to bring in a group that would come in and help immediately," MSU coach Nelson Haggerty said. "They will also fill some needs where we felt we could get better as a basketball team."
Haggerty enters his fourth season at the helm with an impressive 75-21 record (.781) while leading the Mustangs to Lone Star Conference championships in each of his three seasons as head coach including NCAA Division II playoff showings and a run to the Elite Eight in 2012.
Overall, Haggerty has been a part of three Elite Eight coaching staffs serving as the top assistant for Grant McCasland in 2010 and 2011.
Rideau comes to Midwestern after playing 10 games at Alabama-Birmingham a season ago, but enjoyed a stellar junior college career at Brown Mackie (Kan.) where earned NJCAA All-America honors after averaging 19.8 points per game.
"Thad is a long, athletic wing who is a very good shooter and perimeter scorer. He has won a lot of games and played on the big stage at the national level during his career," Haggerty said. "He has great energy and enthusiasm and will provide great leadership and maturity for this ball club."
Lawhorn signed with PAC-12 Washington State prior to last season, but left the team prior to the season.
The 6-foot pure point guard led the nation in assists as a freshman at San Jacinto CC (Texas) and was second in NJCAA as a sophomore. The much heralded guard received interest from many big time Division I programs including Baylor, UCLA and connected during a stellar prep career at South Kent High School and Hartford Public School in Connecticut.
He averaged 9.9 points and 8.5 assists as a sophomore at San Jacinto after going for 9.2 points and 9.5 assists per game as a frosh. Lawhorn stands second on the Ravens all-time assists list which includes former NBA standouts Sam Cassell and Steve Francis.
"Danny is a prolific passer and playmaker. He has great quickness and floor vision," Haggerty said. "He is a much underrated scorer. Although he is small in stature, he is tough, competitive and has a strong drive to win."
McNeal earned NJCAA All-America mention while leading North Dakota State Science to a 25-6 mark last season. The 6-2 guard averaged 17.7 points and 4.5 rebounds a game while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from the arc.
McNeal played 26 games as a true frosh at Sioux Falls in 2010-11 helping the Cougars to a perfect home mark on the way to 20-9 overall records. Playing primarily against NCAA Division II competition, he averaged 6.5 points and shot 40.8 percent from the arc in just 13.4 minutes per game.
"Bretson is a high IQ player and an exceptional shooter with a skill level," Haggerty said. "He is a good athlete who can rebound and be one of our top perimeter defenders. He has won at every level of basketball to this point."
Grant earned All-Western Junior College Athletic Conference first-team honors last season at Clarendon College. The 6-3 guard poured in 18.9 points per game to go along with 5.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists a contest.
Grant was a consistent scorer for the Bulldogs boasting two 30-point performances while scoring at least 20 points in 12 games, but can also provide a spark on the defensive end of the floor.
"Hershell is an explosive, strong athlete. He is a quick and aggressive driver to the basket and he can finish in many ways at the rim, on the glass in the paint," Haggerty said. "He is very unselfish and team driven, but has proven to be one of the top scorers in Region V which some considered the best junior college region in the country. We are also looking for him to be one of the better defenders and rebounders from the perimeter."
Alston proved to be a double-double machine at Northeast CC (Neb.) scoring at least 10 points and grabbing 10 bounds on 16 occasions over the past two seasons.
The 6-5 forward from Chicago averaged 15.9 points and 8.9 rebounds a game as a sophomore and was a 13.7-point, 7.2-rebound performer as a freshman while earning NJCAA All-Region 11 and Iowa Community College Athletic Conference honors following both campaigns.
"Khapri is a very strong and physical athlete and he loves physicality and contact," Haggerty said. "He is slightly undersized, but his toughness, athleticism and deceptive length allow him to be very productive. He can score with his back to the basket and finish strong and can also make some plays on the perimeter."
Ka brings more size, strength and athleticism to the paint for Midwestern State after competing in 38 games at Hillsborough Community College in Plant City, Fla.
"Alassane is a strong, physical post player coming off of a knee injury," Haggerty said. "He has been making strides to get back to his old form. He is a good athlete that finishes well around the basket. We are looking for him to be one of our best post defenders and rebounders."
The ultra-athletic Fuller makes his return to basketball after enjoying a successful season on the court for Division I San Diego in 2010-11 when he averaged 3.2 points and 2.0 rebounds a contest. He played in 22 games making two starts at the forward position for the Toreros in 2010-11.
Fuller was a McDonald's All-America nominee as a prep at the Episcopal School of Dallas earning SPC first-team all-state honors and was a player of the year candidate by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
Fuller is the son of former San Francisco 49ers Jeff Fuller (1984-89) and brother of Jeff Fuller, Jr. who enjoyed a standout collegiate career as a wide receiver at Texas A&M and currently plays for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.
"Trevor is a big time athlete. He runs the floor and finishes strong around the basket," Haggerty said. "He has the ability to rebound and block shots at a high level. He has experience playing at the Division I level and has played against great talent. Trevor has a high basketball IQ and also has the ability to score the ball some from the perimeter."
The Mustangs return eight letter winners highlighted by All-Lone Star Conference performer Xavier Blackburn, who averaged 11.5 points and 7.7 rebounds a game while leading MSU to a its fourth South Central Region championship game appearance in five seasons.
"Xavier is one of the top forwards returning in the country. He had a great breakout year for us last year and we're looking forward to him building on the year he had last year," Haggerty said. "He will be playing a bigger role with his ability to move around and play different positions on the floor."
Senior Derrell Gibbs returns for his fourth season giving the Mustangs his usual tough minded defensive skill and athleticism on the offensive end of the floor.
"Derrell has not only played in, but won in some of the bigger ball games in our university's history," Haggerty said. "His will to win and overall toughness has been one of the major reasons for our success over the years. We're looking forward to his senior year being the best of his college career."
The Mustangs also return senior Kevin Wagner and sophomore Patrick Smith as well as redshirt-freshman Devante Pullum at the guard position.
"We have a solid group of guards coming back in Kevin Wagner, Pat Smith," Haggerty said. "Those two were both able to play solid minutes for us last season. We're looking for them to play increased roles. Devante Pullum had a great redshirt year for us. He is definitely looking to compete at the both guard positions."
Midwestern State saw strength in numbers at the forward position a year ago and will be that much more deep and seasoned a year of success for seniors Abiodun Adegoke, Tavarion Nix and DeVaughn Jones, who all made significant contributions in 2013-14.
"This group of forwards had great offseasons," Haggerty said. "They have shown as a unit they can compete with the best in the country. Those guys are also looking forward to building on the solid year they had for us last season."
Sophomore Nick Powell saw action in 18 games last season, but provides a different wrinkle for the Mustangs.
"Although he played sparingly last year, he has had a great offseason. He gives something from the forward spot from the perimeter that this group needs if we're going to be successful," Haggerty said.
Midwestern State opens the regular season at the Colorado State-Pueblo Al Kaly Shrine Classic on Nov. 14 and 15 before returning to D.L. Ligon Coliseum for its home opener on Nov. 19 against Science & Arts (Okla.).
"With the experience in our group of returners combined with the talented group we've brought it, we are excited about the potential of this year's team," Haggerty said. "We not only feel we have talented, athletic athletes but we also have high character guys that are focused on not only winning a national championship but representing this program, our community and our university in a positive light."