Bill Brown did not leave the cupboard bare for the Wittenberg Tigers when he resigned in June — just the opposite, in fact.
Brown’s successor in the Wittenberg men’s basketball program, Matt Croci, announced a 13-man recruiting class Friday. It’s heavy on local talent — 10 of the players attended high school within an hour’s drive of Springfield — but also features players from Los Angeles and Maine.
All the players knew Brown would step down at some point during their careers, and when the timeline changed and Brown surprised everyone by leaving in June, Croci worked to make sure the players were still happy with their decision.
“We are really excited about this class,” said Croci, who was named the new head coach on Tuesday. “There was a huge need not only for quality but for quantity. We have guys at every position, and most can play multiple positions on the floor. You never really know how a group is going to transition from high school to college basketball. It’s a different game, and the expectations can be challenging for some people. But this group has the potential to special.”
Among the recruits are four 1,000-point scorers from the Dayton-Springfield area:
• Southeastern point guard Jake Bertemes, who’s dad P.J. played with Croci at Wittenberg in the 1990s.
• Wing Ryan Boyd, the second-leading scorer (1,459 points) in Triad history
• Point guard Jordan Pumroy, who scored 1,199 points in his Fairborn career.
• Piqua’s all-time leading scorer, wing Colton Bachman (1,568 points).
The class also includes six players from the Columbus area. Croci lives in Upper Arlington and used to be the head coach at Kenyon, northeast of Columbus, and an assistant coach at Capital, so he knows the area well.
“We made a commitment in Columbus this year, and it paid off,” Croci said. “The quality and competition in Columbus makes it a must for us. In addition, so many alumni live there and it’s close to campus. That will remain a huge area for us in the future. We feel the same about Dayton and Cincinnati. There are so many quality kids in those areas.”
The player from Los Angeles is 6-foot-5 wing Joe Hace, who scored 37 points in the War on the Floor All-Star Game in April. Croci said Hace’s dad is from Cleveland and he still has family in the area.
“He’s a huge Cleveland sports fan living in L.A.,” Croci said. “Once he visited Witt, he clicked with our guys, the campus and the program.”
Trevor Guity, a 6-0 wing from Kents Hill School in Maine, met a Wittenberg admissions counselor at his school when he was a junior. After visiting Wittenberg, he fell in love with the school, Croci said.
The players join a team that returns its four top scorers and eight of its top 10 scorers.
“We do have the luxury of returning a number of players with lots of game experience,” Croci said. “However, the expectations of our program are greater than how we have performed recently. So this incoming class will provide instant competition in practice and hopefully push our returning guys. If they are good enough to play right away and help us win games, they’ll have an opportunity to do that.”