The Wittenberg Tigers men’s basketball team grew in a figurative sense last season, returning to national prominence with its best performance in 12 years. Now the team is growing in a literal sense.
The eight-man recruiting class coach Matt Croci announced Wednesday includes two 6-foot-11 players and four other players who stand 6-6 or taller. All the new players can move well and play fast, Croci said. That will allow the Tigers to continue to play their up-tempo style.
“Graduating Chad (Roy) and Chris (Sloneker), both of whom were impact players for us, we felt we needed some size and some depth with our size,” Croci said, “so not just guys who could play right away but guys who can also provide depth in practice and also develop over the next couple years.”
Roy led the Tigers with 16.0 points per game. Sloneker came off the bench and averaged 2.8.
The Tigers finished 27-3, won the North Coast Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championships and were tied with Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the eventual national runner-up, in the final two minutes before losing 68-60 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The new recruits join a team that returns four starters and seven of the nine players who saw action against Oshkosh. Here’s a glance at the group:
Levi Boettcher: 6-6 wing/forward, Urbana High School
Croci has known Boettcher since he was 10 or 11 years old because he has been coming to Wittenberg basketball camps since the fourth grade. Last season, he averaged 15.4 points and 7.7 rebounds.
“He’s a really skilled face-up forward,” Croci said. “He plays a little bit like our rising sophomore, James Johnson. He can shoot from the 3. He can rebound and dunk it really well.”
Adam Calhoun, 6-11 post, Greensboro Day School (N.C.)
Former Wittenberg coach Larry Hunter, who died in May, helped connect Calhoun with Wittenberg last season while he was coaching at Western Carolina.
“Adam’s dad had grown up in Bexley going to Larry’s camps,” Croci said. “Coach Hunter got in touch with me last fall and helped us get the process rolling.”
Calhoun didn’t play as a senior because of a foot injury, but he’s back to running and shooting and is on schedule to be 100 percent when he arrives on campus.
Joseph Fontanella, 6-5 forward, Lawrence Academy (Groton, Mass.)
Fontanella’s older brother, Nick, was a freshman at Ohio Wesleyan last season.
“His older brother wanted to get out of New England and was looking at small schools,” Croci said. “Joe wanted to do the same thing He visited a lot of D-IIIs in Ohio and felt comfortable with us.”
Harrison Gough, 6-9 forward, Lima Bath High School
Gough was the first member of the class to commit to Wittenberg. He was a four-year starter in high school who can play all five positions.
» 2017 CLASS: Looking back at last year’s recruits
“He’s got a lot of family in Urbana, so there was a really strong pull to Witt,” Croci said. “I think he saw how we played and how his skill set fit. His ceiling is extremely high.”
Kaleb Phillips, 6-6 forward, Highland High School
Phillips averaged 11.9 points per game and earned second team honors in the Knox Morrow Athletic Conference.
Garrett Pumphrey, 6-11 post, Lincoln High School (Cambridge City, Ind.)
Pumphrey’s high school is just across the Indiana border, a 78-mile drive from Springfield. He finished his career as the state’s all-time leader in blocked shots (562) and the school’s all-time leading in rebounds (904). He also set school records for blocks in a season (154) and points in a game (47). He scored 1,154 points in his career.
Will Swartz, 6-2 point guard, Rittman High School
Swartz averaged 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game and earned an All-Ohio honorable mention.
Ridge Young, 6-1 point guard, Logan Elm High School, Marietta College transfer
Young finished his high school career as Logan Elm’s all-time leading scorer (1,798). Wittenberg recruited Young a year ago, but he went to Marietta, where his brother Dillon was a senior starter. He played in 25 games as a freshman, averaging 7.4 minutes.
“He played in all their games and had an impact,” Croci said. “He was kind of looking for a change of scenery.”